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Tuesday, June 6, 2023
June 6, 2023

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Saber training at Fort Vancouver a step back in time

Seven-week course at fort a nod to 1845 visit by British ship

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

It might conjure up hack-and-slash movie scenes set on old sailing ships, but the focus of summer saber training will represent the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company fur-trading center at Fort Vancouver.

The seven-week course that starts today will focus on methods for training British sailors and Royal Marines, who used boarding cutlasses in ship-to-ship fighting as well as land battles.

The focus is a nod to an 1845 visit by HMS Modeste. The 18-gun, 120-foot-long British Navy ship arrived at Fort Vancouver to patrol the area and protect British interests in the Pacific Northwest as American settlers moved in.

Sessions will include the history of the British Navy and Royal Marines, and their relationships with the people of the Pacific Northwest.

The shift in focus resulted from a shift in location, to a courtyard inside the reconstructed Fort Vancouver stockade. The four previous programs represented American troops called dragoons, saber-armed soldiers who were stationed at Fort Vancouver in the 1850s. Those training courses were held at nearby sites, including a hangar at Pearson Air Museum.

If You Go

What: Saber training for people 12 and older, in partnership with Academia Duellatoria of Portland.

When: Noon to 1:30 p.m. the next seven Wednesdays through Aug. 22.

Where: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 1001 E. Fifth St., Vancouver.

Cost:$100 per person, to be paid before training sessions begin. No payments will be accepted at the training sessions.

Contact: Call 503-888-9310 or email jeffery@mind.net

“We wanted to be able to have the saber training inside the stockade,” National Park Service archaeologist Elaine Dorset said.

That will give members of the public a chance to watch the action while visiting the fort.

However, “To go inside the stockade, we needed to tie it to the Hudson’s Bay Company era of the British Navy,” she said.

The changes won’t require rebooting the training program.

The method the U.S. Army used for training dragoons was adopted from the British Navy’s training, lead instructor Jeff Richardson said.

Participants will continue to use the same weaponry.

British sailors and marines “would have been using boarding cutlasses. They are shorter and thicker, and very heavy,” Dorset said.

To be consistent with Fort Vancouver’s emphasis on living history, participants will wear clothing appropriate for the period, provided by the historic site’s costuming department.

Three training levels are offered:

• Basic 1: It begins with footwork and progresses through solo and partner drills, including offensive cuts and thrusts and defensive guards and parries.

• Basic 2: Continuing skills learned in Basic 1, it consists of additional solo and partner drills and will focus on perfecting technique.

• Intermediate: With more advanced skills and techniques, it will begin the concepts of offense and defense with an opponent. (Proficiency in Basic 2 skills is required.) Training sabers, with dull edges and blunt tips, and protective equipment will be provided.

Participants who complete the Basic 2 course will be able to volunteer for living-history events.

The seven-week training will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, through Aug. 22.

The fee is $100 per person; participants must be 12 or older. The fee is payable to Academia Duellatoria by check or PayPal. Fees must be paid before the training sessions begin. No payments will be accepted at the training sessions. Contact Richardson at Academia Duellatoria by email at jeffery@mind.net or at 503-888-9310

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter