Watering the troops - a brief history
Whilst water carriers on the battlefield may not actually be historically correct, given the multiple layers of linen and wool and armour our reenactors wear in all weathers, in the Sealed Knot, we do have members who take to the field as Water Carriers.
Each block of musket or pike will have at least one water from their Regiment assigned to them where possible, with other water carriers helping out as the need requires and muster attendance allows.
A few years ago, the Sealed Knot management decreed that in order to take to the field, all members must be dressed as men, they deeming the presence of women on the field amidst battle as historically inaccurate.
This hit many water carriers hard as traditionally this is role populated more strongly by women Sealed Knot members - the women also finding safety through their skirts as it is more obvious in the throws of battle that a skirted person isn't a combatant (Gordon's highlanders aside!). The skirt too acts as a shield from public or warring parties for fallen soldiers receiving any battlefield medical assistance.
However when needs arise (and indeed you will witness many other regiments turning a blind eye to this ruling), you may well see a Scots Brigade lass take to the field in her skirts and arisaid. The Scots Brigade's principal Water Carrier however a man, who will carry several litres on his back in a basket.
Special skills or training required:
No training is required but water carriers do perform a number of important functions alongside carrying and distributing water.
When in battle they are the eyes and ears of their block, able to shout out warning of approaching horse or attack from the rear.
In the event of any injury, a water carrier can alert and assist a medic as directed.
A water carrier may assess whether a combatant is deemed unfit to continue and request that said person takes a short break or retires from battle. Dehydration, exhaustion or mild concussion are not to be sniffed at in a battle environment and it is a water carriers job to help keep their block safe - even if from themselves.
Should a combatant set themselves on fire (it's been known to happen), the water carrier can effortlessly transform in that of Fire Brigade!
Water carriers have also been know to give out jelly babies or such like that are high in sugar content as well as thirst quenching.
Water carriers are also on hand to assist with dressage issues on the field, such as tying off loose shoe laces or adjusting breast plates / helmets.
Cost of kit (excluding standard clothing):
The role of a water carrier is minimal expenditure (unless you count the cost of chiropractors after lugging about litres of water for hours on end!)
Seriously though, once you have basic kit, you just need a water bottle and cover and you're basically good to go! Covers range from £5-12. Use an empty 2 litre bottle.
No of water carriers in Scots Brigade:
We have a number of members that regularly step-up to carry water for both our musket and pikes blocks. On a hot day, there can never be enough water carriers!
i) In troop line up: Always at the back in the Baggage Trayne. During a pause in procession, water carriers will walk the line giving troops refreshment before returning to the rear.
ii) On field: A short distance behind the troops or in the centre of hedgehog protection ring if being charged by horse! When called upon, water carriers will advance to within the block to provide refreshment, before retreating to a place of safety at the back of the line-up.