50th Anniversary of My Movie
Subconscious re-enactment of the Civil War 1861-65 filmed in 1970.
I remembered that long ago I had, for some strange reason, when I was 14, re-enacted the commissioning of my friend Gordon Whyte, whose father had been Deputy Commander of the Canadian Air Force Detachment at Manston Airport, Ramsgate. Gordon had been one of my best friends at school and also another Civil War enthusiast. We often used to stalk each other with our air rifles, a bit like playing paint ball. The only rules were that you didn’t aim at the face because it was dangerous, so you aimed at the foot, especially the leather boot. If you got hit on the ankle or the leather boot then you were deemed dead.
I remember one day stalking in an orchard near his house on the airfield, were I made a particularly fine shot, hitting Gordon with a lead pellet at a good 100 yards. Unfortunately it missed his boot and hit him immediately above the ankle, causing him to jump several feet into the air. He had a lovely little pink pellet mark on his ankle, which we judged a fine trophy of war! I was particularly proud of that shot, because he hadn‟t seen it coming and it was extremely accurate, although just a few inches above the boot unfortunately. For a 100 yards that was a pretty good shot.
Gordon of all my friends had been one of my best Confederateers. So I planned his commission in order to honour him as he was leaving for a place at boarding school in Hastings, East Sussex. Being now a veteran re-enactor of some 4 years and seeing that I had raised a Company of troops - Baillie's Ranger's from among my school chums. I had already promoted myself to the rank of Captain in my own mind. Although for the film project I held the rank of Sergeant, as can be seen in the actual movie and on the still photographs taken at the time.
This was a deliberate act, as I had not wished to distance myself too much from my men. It just happened that way. I can not honestly recollect making a conscious decision to do this - it just fell into place. All I knew was that this was all just a hobby! Saturday evenings after work were spent sewing whilst watching a Cowboy Western series on TV called The Cimmaron Strip. I had made the Cavalry Officers uniform over several weeks as a project, it was entirely hand sewn, with the three gold bars on the collar, the rank of Captain in the Confederate Army and with gold braid chicken guts on the sleeve. I had converted an old grey cotton overall from my first Saturday job at Boots the Chemist and the most difficult alteration was the sewing of the braid on the sleeve, a very tricky procedure indeed. I think you will agree that this was extremely strange behaviour for a 15-year-old adolescent boy!
Well nobody else wanted to promote me, so like every thing else in my life this time around; I did it myself! Now I needed a trusty Lieutenant, I felt deeply that he had earned the privilege and that I would honour him be fore his departure. Fortunately the whole ceremony was captures in photographs for posterity, thank goodness. Finally in the Easter holidays, 1970, I acting as Brevet Regimental Colonel commissioned my compatriot in the field, 2nd Lieutenant Gordon Whyte, an Officer in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. I wrote out his commission, signed it, sealed it and then presented it to him in front of the all-important witness, my bemused sister.
The Film Project 1968-70
One sunny day 1968, at an Easter Civil War camp in Dargate‟s Wood, Chatham, I donned his uniform over my home dyed sky blue trousers, and posed for a memorable prophetic picture. A picture that I shall forever treasure during this lifetime: Baillie the Confederate cavalryman breathed again!
The smell of the campfire, the sleeping in the open, the camaraderie all seemed so familiar. I went home intoxicated by the experience and started to make my own uniforms and equipment. With little money I enlisted the help of my school friends and together we tramped the woodlands of Kent, building fortified camps, especially in the area known as Blean woods just north of Canterbury.
After a year I managed to persuade my colleagues to help make a Civil War film. For this I built a full size working field gun. I had already completed a working musket, which actually fired, but the cannon would be even more spectacular in the film. It was in my back garden at this time, that I commissioned my Canadian friend Gordon Whyte as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Confederate Cavalry. Once again all captured on photographs taken at the time, thank goodness. He was the most enthusiastic of my friends and was about to leave for boarding school in Hastings. I wanted him to carry a permanent reminder of our adventures and so in an intense.
After a year I managed to persuade my fellow classmates to make a Civil War film, for which, I built a full size working field gun. I had already built a working musket with bayonet in my wood and metal work classes at school, but the cannon would look even more spectacular in the film.
8mm Cine Camera
We our own uniforms and I provided the muskets made out of door chime tubes, wood and kilt pins, sundry props, kepis, plus SPFX special effects. Several bottles of tomato ketchup were also pressed into service and my Dad’s old Kodak 8mm Cine Camera.
Gordon Whyte, Dave Pilcher, Steve Cribbens, Brian Heard, Dale Harrison, Pete Morris, Tim Mallet.
Director, producer, cameraman Ian C. Baillie.
Story boards and Script. Gordon Whyte.
1864 after three years of war and bloodshed the Union troops of Sherman push in to Georgia on their their march to the sea. In their way are the desperate Confederates trying to stop them.
Ian Baillie as the Sergeant
Gordon Whyte as Lt. Shane and a Cherokee scout.
Dave Pilcher as Cpl. Shaggy Dawg
Steve Cribbens as Union Sgt. Stiff and Thing
Brian Heard as a Union Soldier
Dale Harrison as a Confederate Soldier
Pete Morris as a Confederate Soldier
Tim Mallet as a Confederate Soldier
Converted Fire Jacket: I subconsciously copied Baillie Kell jacket including the Lieutenant shoulder bars to produced Lt. Shane’s Union uniform for Gordon. The film show the futility of war, as the only survivor Lt. Shane discards his sword and walked away in disgust.
“Both Hyphen and I eventually became flight instructors at RCAF Station, Gimli. He was a memorable character who often stood apart from his peers. He joined the Base Theater group and became the toast of the town after brilliant performances in “A Visit to a Small Planet” and a 19th Century melodrama whose title I cannot remember. He produced a film for the Officer’s Mess that brought the house down and cemented his reputation as raconteur.”
Canadian Airforce Connection
Gordon Dad was 2i/c in Command of the RCAF detachment Manston Airport and Ft.Lt. Haydon-Baillie RCAF at the point in time.
Throw down the sword - Wishbone Ash