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Colourful soldiers on parade at the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival

PUBLISHED: 10:35 02 September 2017

The East Norfolk Militia on parade at the previous Maritime Festival. Photo: East Norfolk Militia

The East Norfolk Militia on parade at the previous Maritime Festival. Photo: East Norfolk Militia

East Norfolk Militia

A platoon of red coats will entertain visitors at the popular maritime festival in Great Yarmouth.

The East Norfolk Militia on parade at the previous Maritime Festival. Photo: East Norfolk Militia The East Norfolk Militia on parade at the previous Maritime Festival. Photo: East Norfolk Militia

Around 30,000 people will flock to the historic quayside for a weekend of seafaring heritage and fun on September 9 and 10.

This is the 18th year of the festival and organisers are aiming for it to be a more relaxed, fun affair with people able to see and board a historic tall ship.

Colourful red tunicked soldiers of the East Norfolk Militia will be showcasing drills and stories from back to when they were stationed in Gorleston Barracks.

The Militia is a re-enactment group recreating the ‘Dads Army’ Home Guard force of local people from 200 years ago.

The East Norfolk Militia on parade at the previous Maritime Festival. Photo: East Norfolk Militia The East Norfolk Militia on parade at the previous Maritime Festival. Photo: East Norfolk Militia

The Napoleonic Militia were a 960-strong force bolstering the regular army in the 18th and 19th centuries. Members were chosen from the local community by ballot, but could pay another person to take their place.

Group member, schoolteacher Richard Cullen, said: “The Militia would collect prisoners of war from the ships, take the injured to the Royal Hospital in Great Yarmouth, march the others to King’s Lynn and put them on barges to a POW camp near Peterborough.”

Today’s reenactors number about 25, drawn from people of all walks of life who enjoy re-living the history.

Another bit of Militia history in Yarmouth was May 1861 when soldiers got into a pub fight with the Royal Artillery which escalated into a rock throwing riot on the riverside.

It was broken up by officers, just in time, as the artillery men armed themselves with swords and knives from the arsenal.

There are opportunities to make lace, learn spinning and knitting fishermen’s gansey jumpers, as well as visit the craft and beer tents. There will also be folk and brass band music, a chance to sample barbecued herring and a bit of modern day military might features in Red Arrows display jet simulator.

The festival is staged by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area, as part of its drive to attract visitors and spending to the borough.

Chairman of the organising committee Aileen Mobbs said: “The festival is all about celebrating heritage in a fun way that engages with people of all ages. The Militia do exactly that by educating as they entertain and are one of the crowd’s favourites.”

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