So, you're new to re-enacting, probably feeling a little overwhelmed by the mountain of information in front of you and yet still feeling bewildered into what to do first and how to actually get into a the hobby... well hopefully this will help a little.
What to re-enact?
As you're on this website, I'm guessing that you've already chosen to re-enacting US WW2 and are looking at the 101st, if not more specifically the 502nd. If you stumble on us on a random Google search then I guess you'll need to work out what period you want to re-enact and which nation. This is usually something that interests you, so it shouldn't be too hard to pick, although I know people who do several different impressions.
Finding a group
No matter what you want you want to re-enact, there will almost certainly be more than 1 group that represents this. Some groups are very laid back and have almost no set rules or standards and there are others that will make you count the stiches in your trouser seams. Find a balance between these two that suits you. However, that isn't as easy as it sounds. Whilst the appeal of having a relaxed or no rules sounds appealing, just think of how the overall impression and accuracy of what they are re-enacting would be. There is a huge difference between playing 'dress up' and re-enacting.
All good groups have a presence online, they will have a guide to what they require in terms of kit, appearance and things like a minimum attendance to events. Sadly I see that mentioned a lot, as if they hobby isn't any fun, so they feel they have to make their members attend! So people of course work crazy shift patterns and ruling them out in joining your group because of things like that isn't fair. Hence we have no rule like that. Whilst at the same time we would love to see every member at an event, we certainly would ever create rules saying that they had to come.
Once you find some groups you're interested in, they should be asking you to make contact with them. Now sadly lots of group then crash and burn at this point in terms of recruiting, the average person who messages re-enacting groups has no idea what to do next and is mainly after help and guidance. I messaged dozens over the years and you usually find the same sort of response, it either directs you to their website or you'll be sent some forms to send back. Hardly a warm welcome to someone wanting to join the hobby. Most people of course have already seen the website and will hardly get excited about form filling! So you'll probably need to badger who ever you talk to into having a conversation with you, on the flip side of the coin I have lots of people contact myself about re-enacting and potentially joining who are totally inexperienced and I talk them through every single detail. Yet, they listen to nothing, buy no kit and show no dedication. Bare this in mind that some form of dedication is sought by groups who can spend many hours helping you and advising you in what to do, what you need, where to buy it and sometimes in sourcing items for you.
The best advice I can give is get talking to someone, ask if there is someone in the group local to where you live and if they could meet up and talk about re-enacting. I have invited dozens of people to come to mine, see my mountains of kit and have a chat over a cuppa and a game of pool whilst talking over what this crazy hobby entails.
We also have a Facebook messenger chat that is great for new people either looking; or thinking about joining the group. Should you ever want to talk to us, you can contact me through the website, or our facebook group "Miss Drop 44"
The biggest problem when facing anyone getting into the hobby is acquiring everything you need. Not only can it cost a bomb but making sure you don't buy the wrong items can be a minefield. Every group has different needs. The variances between different 101st re-enactment groups can be soooo vast its almost unimaginable! Just buying a China made jumpsuit might be acceptable to some groups and sure as hell wouldn't be for others.
So what ever you do, DO NOT GO ON A MAD SPENDING SPREE before you know what your group requires. The members of these groups have all had to buy their kit, so talk to them, find out where is best, who makes the best kit at the best prices. Does anyone have any unwanted kit that they can sell you, this happens all the time in this hobby. Is buying an original example of an items better than buying a reproduction, not always the case, but with some items its better too.
We have pages of information on kit on this website that you can look at later. Even that could benefit from extra attention and further things added.
Again, make sure to know what your group requires.
However, some groups have some kit they lend out to people want to get into the hobby as we all know how expensive it is on day one. We have a small stock of M42 jumpsuits and M1 helmets that we lend out, however even with those, you'll still need jump boots and a shirt as a minimum! That does get you out into the field at least though. There is usually webbing and weapons spare too, although not essential for a first turn out. Don't rely on there being an M42 jumpsuit available for you at every event or in your size. All groups have to acquire these things for their own inventory out of their own pocket. So message us if you want to reserve one for a particular event.
I want to be a Sergeant or a Captain...
Simply don't say anything like this... ever... this is not what re-enacting is. That is simply fancy dress and make believe non-sense, or at best your just be considered a 'promenader' (someone who dresses up to walk around a show as a member of the public who isn't even a re-enactor) and yes I do look down on them! Why are 99% of them Captains???
We all have to remember that what ever rank we have, is utterly meaningless! Sure it might make your uniform look more interesting, but its almost always self awarded, self purchased and gives you no power and for most groups it gives you lots more work to do and more responsibility.
However, there are exception to when you need to have rank. The rank needs to suit the role that you are performing. For example, there is always someone who looks after all the guys, makes sure they don't blow their fingers off in the battles at shows, the person who makes sure they have water in the canteens in the summer and tells them what they should be doing. He is clearly a leader and should be given. Note - Rank does not mean you should or can shout at anyone or tell them to do anything that is not within character, unless they are doing something dangerous of course. However, the safety of the guy next to you is also your responsibility, so don't think just because you don't have rank you don't have to ignore the stupid things people do around you! Some roles require you to have rank because of the nature of its role. The best example is myself, I have always been interested in the way the military collects information, digests it and then shares it. Including all aspects of the way Prisoners of War are treated and interrogated. This all lead to a fascination and a natural calling to re-enacting an intelligence officer. Whilst there are lower ranks than 2nd Lt who are in the intelligence field, they are nowhere near as in depth as to how I wanted my impression to be. So I am our sole officer, however, let me be very clear when I say this. It doesn't mean I'm 100% in charge of the group, I don't see this as 'my' group, as in as much as I don't expect all members to see the group as their group. I know I write the website and don't ask for everything I write to be agreed, I would expect anyone in the group to tell me if they didn't like something I wrote and wanted me to change it.
Does having rank mean you run the group? In most groups, yes! Weirdly it is always the most senior made up rank that runs the group. I asked myself why, and honestly I don't have a clue, there is no logic for this other than its always been done this way. I'm sure there are groups out there where this isn't the case, but I certain that for 99% of the time. The person who runs the group is the highest officer and probably a Captain! I honestly blame Tom Hanks for the obsession with having a Captain rank, thank you 'Shaving Mrs Ryan'!
Can I have no rank but still help out behind the scenes with the running of the group? well, yes! There is so much going on; or should be going on behind the scenes to all groups that all help is usually willingly accepted. You don't ever have to accept rank offered if you don't want it, or think that it is incorrect for what you want to portray.
But how do I get rank / I still want rank.... OK OK, I get it, you want something on your jacket that looks different to all the other enlisted men your stood around, you want to be different. I get it. Every group has different rules around rank. Some will have very strict rules on when you can advance up the chain and how you do this. That can be from recruiting new members, time of service in the group or a whole number of other things. However, that can lead to problems... imagine if you keep on promoting your riflemen as they recruited lots of new members and have been with the group for years... you'd have riflemen with unrealistic ranks. So, for us it is all about balance (there is a whole page on this!) if you have X amount of guys, then X amount would be Pvts/PFCs/Cpls/Sgts etc. The only exception is that any Private who recruits someone can wear PFC stripes as a reward. Other than this, it is down to your role you want to portray and keeping the correct balance within the group.
Is there a group in XYZ region of the UK?
A question I see being asked all the time is if there is a group in specific regions of the UK, sometimes even down to the town! I'm not even sure who any group can say where they are from? The members are usually spread across huge parts of the UK and usually only all get together at events. These events can also be spread right across the country. So, really it depends on your willingness to travel, is the group worth travelling for and if the event is worth travelling to.
If we had to give the group a location for the sake of anything like paperwork, then I tell people Stansted, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't attend something like Stoneleigh Militaria Far as a group near Coventry!
I asked a question on a Facebook group and got abuse/laughed at!
Sadly this is something that I see more and more happening, someone new to the hobby asks a question and then receives a load of abuse of mickey taking. I was talking with our Sgt the other day about this and we both were a little angered by it. Although I did point out that whilst others can't be bothered to talk to people; or even worse ridicule those trying to learn and get into the hobby, we certainly will take the time to talk to them and help them and hopefully recruit them ourselves.
Of course sometimes people deserve to be laughed at with what they post... and as it is a hobby that comprises 99% adults, if you say something daft, then expect nothing less! However, its all about time and place.