CHILDREN and families were determined to get some hands-on history, even on the first weekend since going back to school.
Youngsters were taught about life in the Victorian army through interactive drills at Fort Nelson’s Royal Armouries in Portchester this weekend.
Museum assistants Kelly Maycock and Sarah Thompson led the ranks under the guise of a straight-talking drill sergeant and corporal.
Once kitted out in military regalia, the cadets were shown through rifle drills and marches.
After being promoted to gun detachment, they then worked in teams to load and ‘fire’ a real bronze three-pounder mountain gun.
Each new recruit was presented with a certificate at the end, along with a ‘warning’ that they could be called for service in the Victorian army at any time.
Seven-year-old Hollie Horscroft, from Locks Heath, said that she and her two sisters, Miley and Freya, will be telling their school friends about their stint in the forces.
Hollie said: ‘We were taught loads of things. I liked the bit where we pretended to fire the gun.’
Liam and Mel Arstall, from Havant, are frequent visitors at Fort Nelson with their six-year-old daughter Erin.
Liam said: ‘This place is fantastic at bringing military history to life. We do lots of events here, and Erin’s learnt all sorts.
‘It’s great for history full stop, and history is the thing that gives us perspective on the future.’
As part of Fort Nelson’s Defend The Fort weekend, visitors could enjoy guided tours of some of the heavier artillery, as well as a riveting exhibition in the fort’s hospital about 19th-century nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale.
Customer services manager Lindsay Shepherd says it is important to preserve the history of the fort, which was built in the 1860s.
She said: ‘Kids and families really love it because it’s so hands-on and they’re getting close enough to touch the cannons. It’s not the same as just listening to someone talk to you about them.’