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Twentieth Century Chivalry

Adventures in the 14th Century

Some of our readers may remember the name of Guichard d'Angle, a famous knight who, much to the chagrin of those who today try to claim that peerage titles for life are a modern innovation, was granted the earldom of Huntingdon for life in 1377. He was, as is said today, quite a character.

His arms, shown right, are given by Beauchet-Filleau, working from the notes of the Count de Ste Maure, as d'argent semé de billettes d'azur, au lion de même, but the Harleian MS 2169 in the British Museum, a 15th century book of arms entitled "Auncient Coates", gives the field as of gold (as illustrated here).
D'Angle was a formidable warrior in the wars between England and France, fighting for the French King until 1363, and then for Edward III by whom he was appointed Marshal in Acquitaine. In 1369 he was Edward's envoy to the Pope, travelling with a large retinue, but on his return the military situation made an uninterrupted journey through France appear impossible. Accordingly he relinquished command of the troops to his son-in-law and continued alone, disguised as a poor priest, badly horsed and ill-equipped, through France, Burgundy and Auvergne, to meet the Prince of Wales eventually at Angoulême.
Froissart, who gives the bare details, regrettably relates nothing of the adventures d'Angle must have had during his travels, but nevertheless the mention of the journey in disguise suggested we might look around for a contemporary adventure in disguise. We found one. It would not immediately be described as "chivalry" in the modern sense of the word, but in the historic style of perilous travels in disguise it is, and it is worth reading.

A 20th Century Diary

Not long before the Gulf War a young officer left the British Army to become a television cameraman. He learned his trade in Afghanistan, producing pictures that were regularly broadcast into the world's living rooms, and elected to remain a freelance so that he could specialise in reporting war. While this ensured a certain amount of freedom, it meant it was often more difficult to obtain the privileges accorded to the teams of the big corporations.

Easy and authorised access to the Gulf War was denied him and, with the suspension of civil flights to the Persian Gulf, rather more than a little imagination was necessary to reach Bahrein. This he eventually achieved via Oman and Sharjah and a small strip-hopping aircraft. His diary begins there, 16 days before the invasion of Iraq.
Day 1 Arrived Bahrein. Briefed on current situation.

Day 2 Further briefings.

Day 3 Local reconnaissance.

Day 4 Situation reviewed. Only option available is to acquire a military ID. Photocopied an ID card as inspiration for creativity. Located an irritatingly talkative Arab printer experienced in screen printing. Bought some paper similar to that used for ID cards, with pink wavy pattern of small dots on a white background.

Day 5 Hired good Macintosh at the Apple Centre together with a scanner. Scanned the photocopy of the two sides of the ID, cleaned it up on screen and printed out on the pink paper. Arranged photograph in a cupboard in the souk, holding the board with the army numbers on it, and then glued on the photograph and typed in personal details. Laminated the final result with the help of a cooperative secretary.

Day 6 Reported in my old tropical combats and wearing Captain's pips to an army unit at RAF Muharraq. Located a landrover going to Al Jubail and put my equipment aboard. Quizzed by an alert SNCO who, while probably returning to his office to check the passenger list, was intercepted by another NCO with what appeared to be a pressing problem. The driver and the other passengers arrived before he was released, and we departed. On arrival at Dahran airbase I visited a fairly amiable unit which provided various items of equipment needed to enhance personal safety and to further credibility.

We departed for Al Jubail, the huge US/UK base, and arrived at Blackadder Camp ~ later condemned by the Red Cross as an EPW camp, but obviously fine for British soldiers. Slept on the floor of an empty billet, after having entered the secure area by mistake and avoided having my personal details entered into the main admin computer only by pleading urgent personal discomfort.

Day 7 All day at Al Jubail writing "blueys" galore.

Day 8 Travelled up the main supply route to Al Batin. Noticed some Challengers mounting low loaders, so took a lift forward.

Day 9 Looked after very well by the armour.

Day 10 Spend the day 45 km south of the border.
Briefed by soldiers who accepted him as one of themselves.
ID ~ Identification

ID card lent by surprisingly unsuspicious soldier.
The cooperative secretary was British.
Captain's pips ~ Captain's rank insignia, three stars.
SNCO ~ Senior Non-Commissioned Officer
Credibility included also an explanation for the heavy camera equipment
EPW ~ Enemy Prisoner of War
"blueys" ~ air mail letters home
Challengers ~ British main battle tanks
Day 11 ~ Heading towards the action