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    OTAGO DAILY TIMES, Monday 23 June 2014

    Falling for history at full tilt

    Seven hundred years ago outnumbered Scots drove the English army into the Bannock Burn in Scotland.

    Yesterday, as enthusiasts re-enacted the battle in Central Otago, ODT reporter Leith Huffadine took up arms and embedded with the Scots:

    I lay in the mud, legs hacked by enemy swords. Howls of war swirled around me as I defended myself against the English horde. My foes overcame me, an axe swung down on my shoulder and I screamed my last as my fellow Scottish warriors charged past into the fray.
    All in all, death on a sunny June afternoon in Bannockburn, Central Otago, was not too bad.
    As a member of King Robert the Bruce's army I had been fighting the English forces of King Edward II during a re-enactment of the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn held yesterday for the 700th anniversary of the event.
    The conflict was a turning point for Scottish independence, as they defeated the far larger English army.
    Event organiser Terry Emmit said the re-enactment included about 120 combatants and 480 spectators.
    Members of the Waitati Militia Group played a large part, bringing battle experience, elaborate costumes and rousing speeches.
    I looked around the field as warriors from both sides died under the point of newspaper swords and foam battle-axes and (while not historically accurate, but entertaining) flour bombs sailed through the air, streaming white trails.
    Shortly I was revived, as per the pacifist warfare rules directing the re-enactment, by a nurse with magic potion.
    I had learned my lesson - charging head-first into a wall of English warriors was not a good idea.
    I regrouped with fellow Scots and we sallied forth for the glory of Scotland.
    "Freedom" was the cry resounding across the battlefield chaos as we engaged the enemy again.
    My tin-foil covered shield came in handy, sunlight glaring off it and blinding my opponents as I chopped them down.
    I saw an old school friend, fighting as an Englishman, lying on the ground after being killed in combat, so I poked him in the ribs with my by now rather bendy newspaper sword for good measure.
    Mr. Emmitt had previously described the loosely scripted battle as "disorganised theatre" so at "half-time" the armies met for tea, biscuits and some brief fraternisation.
    We retreated and took up positions, now muddy, covered in flour and splattered with porridge from an English ambush.
    This time, as in history, the Scots routed the English forces, pushing them back through the Bannock Burn, or in this case a few dirty, slippery puddles, before claiming their castle and their flag.
    One final attempt was mounted by the remaining Englishmen, but was quashed by a horde of Scots chanting "Wallace, Wallace, Wallace", for the dead Scottish national hero, Sir William Wallace.
    Afterwards, hands were shaken and laughs exchanged before the weary forces headed to the bar for whisky, beer and a bit of bragging.
    Mr. Emmiitt said he was "pretty pleased" with the event, which lasted for about an hour.
    "It looked a bit quiet for a start but I think there was a big crowd here. It was good."
    Gregor Campbell, of Dunedin, who acted the part of Robert the Bruce, said he had taken part in many re-enactments before, but the battle was still "really good."
    "For me the highlight was to be there and reciting one of the greatest poems in Scottish history at a place called Bannockburn on the 700th anniversary of the battle.
    "I was absolutely stoked to be doing it and to not mess it up".
    Celebrations for the anniversary continue in Bannockburn today and tomorrow, with events including music performances, history lessons and a formal dinner.

    Editor's note: No Englishmen were harmed in the making of this report.