Ever heard of The Battle of Medway? Were you taught about it during your history lessons at school? No? Well neither had I and I certainly wasn't taught about it at school either but perhaps the very reason so few of us have heard about it is because it was the one battle in history we Brits like to keep quiet about - the battle that forced us to up our game defending our shores after the Dutch stole three of our best naval ships!
The battle in 1667 sometimes known as The Dutch Raid or the Battle of Chatham was described by the English 17th century diarist John Evelyn - which later became infamously known as one of the worst defeats ever suffered by British military - to be "the greatest dishonour to befall an Englishman". Samuel Pepys (we've all heard of him haven't we?!) wrote about it extensively in his diaries too and his defence to Parliament of the Naval Adminstration at the time was the cause of the rebuilding of the Royal Naval fleet and it’s success in the following centuries. The River Medway and our largest fleet of ships had been left unarmed and unmanned at Chatham Dockyards because of lack of funding following the Great Fire of London.
During June 2017, Medway Council will commemorate the 350th anniversary of the battle with a spectacular river event and a series of exhibitions and activities live across the Borough. The Council will host two weeks of exciting and unique events culminating on the 17th June with "MEDWAY IN FLAMES", a spectacular and breath-taking one-off showcase event using water screens, digital projections, fireworks and special effects bringing the battle to life and expected to be watched by over 30,000 people lining the banks of the River Medway.
Which is where I come in! Last week I spent filming with a crew from Ground Zero Productions from Rochester, for a film to be screened at the live event. These are a few Behind The Scenes photos from the shoot (there are no spoilers here as we can all Google the story of the battle!). We filmed at the historic Chatham Dockyards, Upnor Castle, Eastgate House and the Guildhall Musuem in Rochester.
London was just recovering from the Great Fire and The Plague was still prevalent within the city and right across Britain. The Bubonic Plague was spread by insects, mainly fleas, with bacteria entering the body through bites. The infection then spread through the body to the lymph nodes, causing them to swell and break open, causing what we recognise as buboes. Extremeties of the body, such as feet, fingers, nose and ears became gangrenous and the tissue began to die, resulting in death within about ten days of contracting the disease. Bodies were taken through the streets and buried in mass burial pits known now as Plague Pits. A Plague Doctor was hired by town leaders during the epidemic and treated both the wealthy and the poor. Often these doctors were not medically trained physicians and were unable to cure victims but gathered information on contamination and deaths. They wore a beak-like mask (check out the photo below) which was filled with aromatic items – the mask was designed to protect them from the putrid air which was, at the time, seen to be the cause of infection. The costume weighed an absolute ton and was incredibly hot for our actor to wear!
To find the cast for the shoot, Medway Council put out a call for an voluntary actors and extras who wanted to be part of this historic re-enactment. Auditions were held in Rochester and out of the huge amount of response, the main cast was selected and together with a large band of extras they all gave their incredible talent and time for the making of the film. Costume was sourced from Angels in London and the wigs all came from my regular wig suppliers at Shepperton Wigs. Men just love dressing up don't they.....?!
With luck we had a dry week to film in and with a fantastic cast and a great, professional and friendly crew - Ground Zero Productions from Rochester in Kent who were fantastic, kept to schedule and managed to wrap about two hours earlier than predicted after a long week in some fantastic locations. There were some tired, achy feet and even broken shoes which I managed to fix and dirty up with gaffer tape!
I can't wait to see the film. as I mentioned, it will be screened on floating screens and water projections in the middle of the River Medway with Upnor Castle as the backdrop during the Grand Finale of a week-long celebration of live events around the Borough with BBC's The One Show screening the event. The English and Dutch will go head to head with live games and sporting activities as well as a huge program of events in Amsterdam. More details can be found here http://new.medway.gov.uk/news-and-events/battle-of-medway
I'd like to thank Medway Council and Ground Zero for the opportunity of being involved in the filming of such a great piece of historical drama, it was great fun! There will be regular updates on my Twitter and Facebook page as well as Instagram, just hit the icon buttons on my Home Page or fund me on all three social media sites @katesfxmakeup