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East Norfolk Militia will be on parade at Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival

The East Norfolk Militia on parade at a previous Maritime FestivalA platoon of “red coats” will entertain visitors at a popular maritime festival, by marching them back Napoleonic times.

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

Among the attractions on parade at the annual Maritime Festival will be the colourful red tunicked soldiers of the East Norfolk Militia – a re-enactment group recreating the “Dad’s Army” Home Guard force of local people from 150 years ago.

They will showcase drills and stories harking back to when the Militia were stationed in Gorleston Barracks.

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.”

The Napoleonic Militia were a 960-strong force bolstering the regular army in a period from 1757 to 1881. Members were chosen from the local community by ballot – but could “pay” another person to take their place.

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 at Great Yarmouth was in 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 artillerymen armed themselves with swords and knives from the arsenal.

The Maritime Festival, in its 18th year, aims to be a more relaxed, fun affair with people able to see and board visiting ships. There is sea shanty, folk and brass band music, and a chance to sample barbecued herring as a reminder of Great Yarmouth’s role as a major fishing port.

New this year are seafaring-themed Ready Steady Paint workshops led by local artist Ernie Childs at 11am, 1.30pm and 4pm on both days. Book in advance by filling in an application form.

There are opportunities to make lace, learn spinning and knitting fishermen’s gansey jumpers, as well as visit the craft and beer tents. A bit of modern day military might features in a 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.”