Pippingford Park 36 Hour tactical Event

Joris Nieuwint
 
 
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This private tactical event was organised by Pete Skillman with help from Manny Trainor and Marc Almond and was set in the wonderful East sussex countryside at Pippingford Park.
The weather before the event was atrocious and we were praying for a dry event…someone was listening as apart from the odd quick shower it remained sunny and dry!

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When we arrived on site Friday afternoon we quickly erected 4 pyramidal tents to use as a base camp and for somewhere to run to in the event of a huge sustained downpour.
As we were making camp Adrian arrived with his M10 and had brought along Rob with his M8, these were a very welcome addition as we had a large terrain to cover and would also add to the allies firepower for the event.

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Friday night was a cold one, very very cold we slept (well kind of) in the tents a rose early to prepare our kit for Saturdays battle.
First thing was the main battle briefing from Pete Skillman this included safety briefings and rules of engagement and gave us all the opportunity to catch up with old friends and to see the strength and numbers of the allies, meanwhile over the other side of Pippingford Park the same briefing was being given to the Axis troops.
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US 2nd Rangers prepare for briefing
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The Brits marching in

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Dodge with 37mm Field gun
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Normandy44 US 2nd Rangers
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British units on their way to briefing
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Kit check US 2nd Rangers
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US 2nd Rangers prepare for briefing
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Weapons collected Helmets muddied US 2nd Rangers
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US 2nd Rangers march up to briefing
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Wayne Roff Unit Commander of The Big Red 1
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Major Peter Skillman, Organiser of this event
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Final kit check by the French Yankees
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Dale Davison Unit commander of US 2nd Rangers with Major Peter Skillman
During the briefing I had the opportunity to take some pictures in a very atmospheric setting, smoke from a fire was drifting across the assembled troops while they were all assembled, this made for an eerie spectacle as it looked exactly the same as some original photo’s I had seen from the war!
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Various Allied units at briefing
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Various Allied units at briefing
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British units in attendance for briefing
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US 2nd Rangers in high spirits looking forward to battle
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British units listen in to their briefing

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Following an in depth briefing by Peter skillman it was time to move out to our objectives…

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For the US Allies it was to take and hold a couple of Bridges approximately 1 mile away from the briefing/HQ area, maps were produced and studied and a plan was formed.
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Cpt Dale Davison explains the plan to his troops
US 2nd Rangers split in to three squads with 3rd squad detailed to guard the M10 from marauding Axis troops who had in their possession Panzershreck’s, these could “fire” a tennis ball quite a distance and as one of the items in the briefing was that if the tank got “hit” by a tennis ball, it was effectively knocked out, it was doubly important to protect it.
As we marched down the road towards our first objective we were in high spirits and looking forward to enemy engagement, we didn’t have to wait long, a surprise ambush had been set for us and with a large amount of explosions and enemy gunfire we hit the deck quickly, the M10 was backed up a little to protect it and with a minefield on our left we concentrated our binoculars to the right looking for signs of the enemy.
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Sgt Steve Hood US 2nd Rangers engaging the enemy with his Thompson
 While 3rd squad defended the armour 1st and 2nd squads spread out to our flanks left and right to surround the enemy, a fierce firefight ensued and smoke grenades were deployed to enable allied movement under cover, after a hard fought battle the allies had captured their first bridge!
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Rangers in defensive positions covering the bridge
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Pvt John Beckett with M3 Grease gun attacks the German positions
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Forest and Chris our Medics were kept busy all weekend attending to real injuries as well
 Once we had the bridge secured the allies split and advanced on to the next objective, again it was a hard fought battle with several attempts to destroy the M10 with panzershreks, fortunately our game plan and tactics worked and we protected the armour and routed the axis forces, now we had secured our second objective it was time to fortify our position and dig in for the night….
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US 2nd Rangers from the French Yankees group remain vigilant
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Digging in for the night
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Garand
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50 Calibre machine gun nest

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37mm Field gun
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37mm Field gun camouflaged against attack

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50 Calibre machine gun nest
During our strategic camp building we had a surprise attack from the Axis forces, it was a quick stand too and defend the positions, there was no time to plan anything and it was a case of every man for himself defending the position, 1 guy even put his helmet on backwards!!
This brought home to us how vulnerable soldiers were on the front line and the level of training needed to cope with just such a situation, it was a sobering experience which was one of the highlights of this event for me.
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German soldiers who had been overcome trying to attack our position
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Preparing the foxhole for bedding down for the night
I spent the night with the 37mm Field gun under a hastily erected canvas, it was cold however not as cold as the previous night in a tent! I think this was because of all the natural foliage we had covered ourselves with, we were not troubled with any further attacks during the night however we still kept our weapons close to hand.
In the morning we set about getting a brew on and trying to cook something on the hexi stoves, after a warm coffee and a bite to eat  we had to break camp as we were moving out, this was heartbreaking as we had spent around 4 hours the night before setting up, again it was another insight in to what the soldiers of WW2 had to put up with for months on end, we were fortunate that our event only lasted 36 hours!!!
We had to get the 37mm back down the very steep hill we had dragged it up the night before, once everybody was in place we started our descent…
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37mm Field gun being manhandled down the hill
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37mm Field gun being manhandled down the hill
It was great to see all the guys working hard together to achieve an objective, it was important to show that the front-line was not all about firing weapons at the enemy, it was defending your position, and breaking camp while being aware of your surroundings, weapons to hand and everyone pulling together as a unit.
Once the camp was cleared we made a final check for equipment or litter left behind then joined with our friends in Ranger Re-enactment, whilst chatting with them we were again attacked by a marauding force of Axis troops, RR held the position while I took the M10 back to our rear echelon to get reinforcements.
We then made our way tactically to the last know position of our colleagues, once we met up we all spread out and advanced on the German lines.
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Dodge WC51 advances with troops
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US troops keeping clear of the mined road
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Contact!
 After making our way through the no fire zone we emerged in to an open plain, we moved forward cautiously and were once more engaged by the Axis troops. I positioned Adrian and his M10 so the barrel was pointing towards the MG nest that the Axis troops were manning, I rigged up a 25g pyro in the barrel with the aid of Steve’s covering fire from the 50 Calibre , once everybody was ready Steve hit the button and “BOOM” the MG nest was taken down.
We advanced on the position taking German prisoners as we went
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US troops moving up through the forest
We made a charge across the field and took out the last of the German positions.
In summery this was one of the best events I have been too, no members of the public present, just dedicated re-enactors who were prepared to put in 100% effort to make this an event to remember.
I have been a re-enactor for many years and attended numerous shows however laying in the 37mm Field gun firing position we had dug out brought home to me that I had the luxury of canvas above me, a sleeping bag and a blanket, more ammunition in the Dodge, water and other supplies in the pyramidial and the Dodge to ferry me around when I got tired… The troops who did it for real day in day out for months on end didn’t, they had to be self sufficient with food and ammo, they lived in appalling conditions (Bastogne Belgium springs to mind) and they had to do all of this with the constant threat of being killed.
My respect for those who did this has been growing every day however this event has highlighted just how brave these people were, Allied or Axis it doesn’t matter, they were all people who gave their lives for their beliefs.
Keith Nisbet