Sharpe's March
Marching for charity, England 25. September 2011
page 1

"Column mooove on!" A loud voice shouts and the men in green uniform start to march - The marching order is for the 95th Rifles. They leave the camp with the white tents in the greyness at the crack of dawn on an English Sunday morning.

It's nearly like a scene out of the legendary Sharpe-series. Only the cars and we, the camp followers, clad mainly in colourful modern clothes - disturb that picture. It would have been interesting, to be a field mouse on the last two days, when only the re-enactors in "full Napoleonic armour" so to say, were allowed in the group on their way through the lovely countryside here in the heart of England. 25 Miles the first day! 15 Miles the second day!! They have already done that, and - like their predecessors and shining examples of 200 years ago, they are still standing - or, to be more precise, still marching!  

 

Marching...

This march - Sharpe's March was organised by the "95th Rifles" in aid of the "Sharpe"-Charity - yes, Sharpe has now also its own Charity - called Sharpe's Children. They aim to rise 10 000 Pounds for "Sharpe's Children", and Evi and I joined the event at the last moment. We were recruited by Anne, a dear English friend, a fellow Bean- and Sharpe-Fan of long standing. Without her, we wouldn't - and couldn't have done it, so, this is also a fine example of the lasting effects of this legendary show about an English soldier during the Napoleonic wars.

 

       
  Anne: up before dawn to leave the house at 5.30am on Sunday morning. Renate had brought her Bavarian national costume to wear and she looked great and fitted in really well as a very smart camp follower. I wish you could all have seen her waiting in line for her coffee and croissant at Reading Services amongst all the bleary-eyed travellers and truck drivers!!  
   
    Evi: Since my Bavarian dress is of the fancy kind, I decided to leave it at home and attach a Bavarian flag to my backpack instead.
     
Oktoberfest time...
 

In the films and books they do all that walking around: The Riflemen are Infantry so that comes naturally, and we follow their example - modern "Camp Followers" - on this third and last day of the March - only 10 Miles for us - phew! What good luck! Preparation wasn't really possible, I only walked two days ago to the "Oktoberfest" and back - 6 km all in all, so... (counting...) about three times that, because 10 Miles translate to about 16 km for us Continental Europeans - yes, this can be done.

And if anybody is wondering - Evi and I come from M√ľnchen/Munich, Bayern/Bavaria and it is just Oktoberfest time. (The things we do for Sharpe!)

       
   

Anne: We followed the signs for the farm we had been told was where the campers would be but a very foreign sounding farmhand looked baffled until I said about men in uniform and then he excitedly pointed down the road and remembered the horses too. We found the weary group...chomping on bacon butties and amongst them was Daragh O'Malley who had stayed with them the night before and brought morale-boosting drink and chocolate gifts with him apparently.

 

 
   
     
   
 
   
 
  But now it is time also for us to move and we start to walk in the rear of the Column. Through Sonning Village we are followed by the red Landrover that acts as moveable transport support system (for sure there is a military term for that?) which is slightly irritating, because you always want to move aside! But after a short while we leave the street and come to a narrow path along the Thames.   No car can follow here, and after a little while you hear only the early birds, the murmur of the fast flowing river and the footsteps of the people in front of us. When the sun starts to rise the green of the meadows lights up. After a time the path goes slightly downwards and when looking to the Riflemen before us, whom you can see now in full splendour and with the English shouts now and then, suddenly it is as if this is the real thing. Is it past or present? English countryside or Spanish landscape? Are we before a camera in the Ukraine or between the two covers of a book? All seems possible, and the words "Time" or "Place" lose their significance. We are on the March - that's the time and that's the place.  
         
     
What Place?...
 
         
         
         
  What Time?...      
         
 

 

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Pretty fast conversations start between the different civilian participants that came for this third day. And it's amazing (really amazing): a friendly English couple reveals, when hearing that I come from Bavaria, that they know my home country - and when asking after the name of the very small village the woman once was, it comes out to be "Unterthingau" - nobody knows that village, naturally, apart from me - it's not 40 km away from the town I grew up!

Later, when our proud green soldiers have done with the strict marching order during a break I talk also with the (real) soldier who was stationed some time in Oberammergau, and this or that other titbit about German connections. And of course, there is the cavalry. It should have been a lot more horses, but as we hear, there was an unhappy accident on the road - nothing really bad thankfully, but the horses involved were too nervous to take part after that.

     
       
     
       


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photos: drawing of map: www.sharpesmarch.com
background-photo 1: rg
background-photo 2, photo 1, 2, 3: Anne K.
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by rg/ 12. Oktober 2011