Military Odyssey 2021 – Show Report

By Joshua Boyle, Jack Green & Will Kerrs

Joshua Boyle, iC

Military Odyssey has always occupied a special place in my heart, being one of the oldest and largest multi-period events in the UK. Our group cut its teeth at Odyssey 2019 when we were joined by Traditia Militara from Romania. I was very impressed with our display, the enthusiasm of our guys, who for some was their first event, and the overall feel on the display. We were complimented by a number of Romanian nationals on our efforts and pronunciation, and by fellow reenactors. One reenactor who was particular impressed was Will Kerrs, who had a few things to say (listed below). We are also planning some joint events with Krasniy Konserv Re-enactment Group.

Our scenario for the display was as follows: “Following the crushing defeat at Stalingrad, the remainder of the 3rd and 4th Armies have been forced to retreat over the land they gained over the previous three years. In 1941 when Romania had joined the Axis, the Army stood at around 100,000, and swelled to 500,000 by 1943. At Stalingrad alone, Romania lost 150,000 men. Completely broken, and without heavy artillery and tanks, the 3rd and 4th Armies were forced to hold their lines with whatever they had. With the Italian Capitulation, an influx of small arms and equipment was made available. By 1944, the largest tank the Romanians possessed was the T-4 (Repurposed Pz.Kpfw. IV) and the 75mm PaK 97/38, a homebrew design utilizing the 75mm French mle1897 Field Gun on the chassis of the PaK38. Pushed all the way back to their homelands near Iasi, and sandwiched between the Dnister and Prut Rivers, the remains of the Romanian 3rd and 4th Army fight alongside elements of the Grossdeutschland Division. The battle would become to be known more commonly as the battle of Târgu Frumos.  

The Battle of Târgu Frumos, also known as the Târgu Frumos Operation, occurred during 1944 in World War II in and around the town of Târgu Frumos in Iaşi County, Moldavia, Romania. 

It was fought between the Red Army and Axis forces and, according to David Glantz, it was within a supposed Soviet Union First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive. The same historian had earlier concluded that the battle was instead a successful example of Soviet maskirovka, meant to trick the Germans into believing the region continued to be in their strategic interest after the end of the Uman–Botoșani Offensive. 

The term may apply to either to the entire scope of conflict in the area over a longer time, but often refers specifically to the battle in May. For example, a military unit or an individual can be said to have served in the battle. Soviet historians did not consider this to be a significant battle but have come around to identifying it separately. 

The battle in May has been used in military education as an example of how a mobile defense can defeat an armoured spearhead. On our display we are demonstrating an aid station with a clerks office to the rear of the combat line, where the troops are pulled back to when they need to rest or receive treatment for light wounds. “

Overall, I enjoyed Military Odyssey 2021. The dedication of our group to the authenticity of our display was amazing. In future, I want to incorporate more timed events, such as rifle drill, lessons, patrols and potentially firing demos (as we plan to get a few toys by the end of 2022). And a very big thank you to Philip “Fidget” Johnson of Parma Ham and Vino for the loan of the ZB53!

Will Kerrs, General Secretary of Krasniy Konserv Re-enactment Group and coauthor of T-34 Shock

On the whole, I thought it was a display that wasn’t too complex but made good use of its space in fairly efficient ways. I think there are two elements: the use of space, and the performance. Dealing with the former first, you managed to pack quite a few things in whilst at the same time keeping a fairly open plan. So, if I remember rightly, it was a large, open tent, a couple small tents, a blackboard, and a machine gun post. I’d highlight the machine gun post to begin with. Now, that’s not a particularly complicated thing to do, but it’s something that’s hard to go wrong with. I think the display wasn’t just lived in, but also felt as though it was being fought in. That brings me onto the second and probably more interesting thing was the performative nature of the display – namely the drill that you guys did. That’s a great way to get the public interested because it was quite literally spectacular, especially with the banner.

I think the most successful parts of the display for you guys were: 1. The performative elements that gripped the attention of the public. 2. The open plan nature that meant that the public felt they were able to enter and engage.

Jack Green, 2iC

This year the 39th set up behind friendly lines for rest and rearmament, our aim was to show the public what a rear line position looked like away from the fighting. We had quite a decent display for 5 of us as we managed to fill up nearly all of the space we were provided. As previously mentioned our aim was to show and educate the public about a rear line position away from the fighting, we had plenty of equipment and kit to show this off. We had set up a field kitchen and “Command tent” so to speak, we had a variety of equipment and weaponry layed about and a blackboard and information board displaying our scenario and our schedule for the day.

With the equipment and members we had this year i think we managed to put on a decent display for the public, our members were fully engrossed in talking to and informing the public about our display and the history of Romania when asked. We had an excellent prisoner exchange event with 284th Rifle Division, our friends just down the display from us. Mark Turner helped plan this and we greatly appreciate his help, you can find the Video on the 39th Infantry Regiments YouTube and Facebook page (embedded below). The members of the 39th this year were limited due to others having prior engagements but the members we did have were very enthusiastic, they were keen to talk to the public and share their knowledge not just about the scenario but the war in general.

My personal favourite bit of Odyssey this year was being able to issue drill commands and watching our members improve their rifle and marching drill. Being able to learn a bit of Romanian while doing so was also fun, as someone who is learning a complex language (Japanese) in my spare time, it felt good to be able to pronounce and remember these commands even now as i sit here typing this. I look forward to hopefully doing more of this in the Future.

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