502 Getting it right!
I know I have said a lot of things already that seem over top, picky and unnecessary well... in this page, it's probably going to get worse for those who think re-enacting consists of putting a freshly washed and ironed M42 with shoulder holster, parachute silk scarf, sunglasses, cigar and late war googles.... prepare to throw the toys out the pram and go looking for a dressing up group instead; as this is living history...
If that first paragraph hasn't had you running off to find an easier more relaxed group, then great, we are a very relaxed bunch, but we still want to do it right; not just talking saying we'll do it right. Nothing about getting it spot on is difficult. Just don't start buying things from any vendor... 99% of the dealers just want to sell you crap, they don't care if they things they sell are fit for nothing.
Most things are not difficult in any way, the biggest thing is buying the right items from the right vendors the first time round, don't buy crap, then have to replace it... and some people have to then buy it again, because the first two times they didn't listen.
M1 Helmet Markings - Almost all M1 Helmets had the heart painted on the size, in Normandy it was fairly larger than in the later campaigns. However NO HASH marks, these appear after the Normandy campaign. Everyone will need to paint this.. PAINT IT BY HAND... don't buy a shitty stencil and spray it. Hand paint it yourself, don't get someone else to do it, if you think it will look crap. Great! This will probably surprise you, but not every GI was a trained artist!
M1 Helmet Nets - As much as I hate helmet nets, when you look at the photos of the 502 in Normandy and pre-invasion every single one has a helmet net. Usually the smaller net type... I guess that is something that I myself need to address with my own impression at time of writing this!
Scarfs - No I can only apologise for the confusion I have cause over scarfs and as lovely as they ones I have made are, we will pretty much be saving these for A-Class or when the public have gone. The white scarfs (or bandage) round the neck denote a different battalion, not the 2nd battalion. Also, please don't wear those camouflage scarfs, they are so ludicrous that no reenactor can take you seriously if you wear one, let alone any living historian. The only chance you would have to acquire one would be the moment you hit the ground in Normandy... do you think cutting a piece of your parachute off would be your number one priority at that moment. If anyone officer or NCO saw you, you'd most likely get a kick up the arse and be balled out. Yes.... I know... I saw a photo of one guy wearing it... and you saw Band of Brothers.... if you are going to say any statements like that, please go join one of those 'dressing up groups'...
Identifying tapes - On the shoulder of all 2nd Battalion members was a white cloth, usually a bandage. Tied around the arm and through the epaulette. Simple and easy, a lovely piece that shows attention to detail. We always have a roll of bandage to hand to do this and can be done at your first event.
M42 Jumpsuit CC2 treatment - Yes this will sound crazy! The easiest way to make your M42 look like it has just had its pre-invasion CC2 treatment (Anti-gas/chemical) is to get a bucket of decking oil, then dunk the jacket and trousers in it and if sodden, take it out, hang it up and then leave it to drip dry. I know that sounds insane. You'll not only get a better looking M42, but it will be water resistant and far warmer too!
M42 Chest Nametapes - when you look at the pre-invasion photos, a good number of the 502 have name tapes, not all, but a few do. However, this has to be kept to a correct ratio with the unit. So check to see how many members have this before you start adding 'extras' like this to your jacket.
Rigger Pouches vs M1 Ammo Pouches - Rigger pouches all the way, there is only 1 soldier that is wearing M1 ammo pouches in all the photographs and videos that I can see of the 502 pre-invasion. A normal rifleman seems to wear at least 3 or 4 of the small sized rigger pouch, check the photo under the video. If you don't believe anything I have said... just check the video below of the 502 heading to the planes 5th June. Also, see if you can spot the hard-shell Luger holster, Empty M43 shovel cover, gas brassard that is falling apart and British P37 holster! No you can't wear a German Luger holster, for obvious reasons. YOUR NOT GERMAN!
Black Tape - Tape up all those bags that could open during descent, even if you tape them in a way so that they look like you've since opened them. That adds even more realism and attention to detail. If you have multiple riggers with Garand clips in them, tape up some sealed and then have one that has been broken open. GP Ammo bags were also seen to be taped closed too. The GP bags were more commonly seen taped than the smaller rigger pouches. Not, that this is not shiny electrical tape, but the fabric tape. Ice hockey tape is perfect for this, in some photos you can even see white tape used, but not many use this for obvious reasons!
M1 Chemical Eye shields - A fairly unusual item to see popping up in both videos and photos are these odd little eye shields. They came in packs of 4 in with gasmasks. I have seen a few on helmets and a few round necks, due the straps being short I'm sure the latter wouldn't be too comfortable! However if these will be visible on you then they too need to be kept within ratio that is correct with the group. These 'extras' will be limited.
Rank - The topic that nobody likes to mention... well, after the group has reviewed this subject many times, we will be keeping it to the almost minimum. Everyone joining with be a rifleman with the rank of Private. If after your rifleman impression is complete, that you want to tailor your impression further into something else then great. Rank will match what ever that impression is. However, you will always need to be able to turn out at an event as a rifleman should that be needed. That rule applies to everyone. However, basically the group will consist of 1 Officer, 1 S/Sgt and then the rest being Pvts with a sprinkling of PFC's mixed in. Keeping the ratio sensible and realistic. If you dream of being a Captain like the rest of the promenaders, then this is NOT the group for you. If you want to portray an accurate and realistic unit then you might fit right in. One thing was decided that, who ever does have any rank will act accordingly For example, our S/Sgt performs duties both in the field and group duties as a Sgt would. Rallying the guys, getting people moving and sorted. When odd jobs need doing. The S/Sgt or the officer arranges who is doing what. No we don't bark orders at you like the gestapo, neither do we pussy-foot about. If the public is around, then you'll be spoken to like your rank requires. Don't think that you because your a private that an officer would talk down to you. Remember, ever officer, no matter how senior they are in rank and experience will always return they salute of the most fresh faced clueless private.
British Shell Dressing - The 502 PIR weirdly seems to have plenty of its own little quirks! Each member was issued with 1 or 2 British shell dressings, I can only assume that it was a good way of getting a decent supply of bandages into the field for the medical staff to gather up later on. As they requirements for items like this would be vast! These can be obtained easily, just make sure to check the dates and get them pre June 1944.