Beyond the regular membership, The Guild has Honoured and Honourary Members. Both are those that the Guild wish to show respect to. or those held in esteem. Honoured Members are those who are held to have made contributions to the our fields of study without which the Guild would not exists as it does, if at all.
Guild Master from 2000 until his death in 2018. Without whom none of this would be here
The following was written by Mike Loades. John Wallers friend of 45 years on the day after Johns, death. Originally shared on Facebook and shared here by permission of Mike.
I have a heavy heart and I am filled with deep sadness to report that John Waller has died. He was my staunch and beloved friend for 45 years. It is almost inconceivable that such a bright light shines no more, though I suppose that is the nature of extraordinary incandescence; it is so intense that it can fade before its time. He was a mere 77 years old. He was taken to hospital a week ago and in the end his heart gave out on him; a strange irony for a man whose sheer guts and drive and charisma and passion were powered by a mighty heart. His heraldry was a lion rampant and he was indeed a lion among men. Now that the lion’s roar has stilled, he leaves an aching void.
Many followers of this page will know John either in person or by reputation from his time as Head of Interpretation at The Royal Armouries in Leeds. His time there and the legacy he left was a crowning achievement. John changed things and he changed people; his was a radiant personality and all who encountered him felt its glow. He was that rarest of beings – an original thinker. He was also a pioneer. John created a unique approach to historical understanding – of working out how things worked ‘by doing’ and then corroborating that with diligent research, cross-referencing the text of treatises and chronicles with visual clues in art, with handling original objects, with empirical testing, and always, always questioning everything. He had an instinct for the past, a feel for it. He understood the innate beauty of movement, of objects and of indomitable spirit. He relished tales of brave deeds and spoke of long dead heroes from antiquity as if he knew them personally. He simultaneously inhabited the past and the modern world.
The entire global re-enactment movement, the Historical European Martial Arts movement, the dramatic fight community, the presentation and interpretation of objects in military museums all stem originally from John Waller. In most cases he was the first to do it; in other instances he changed it forever. When doing it first, he may not always have had the right equipment or access to all the research materials, but he did it first and he did it with an enquiring mind and integrity. Today there are extensive research resources online, today there is arms and armour of every culture and period available to buy on the shelf. Such are the luxuries of 2nd and 3rd generation followers; the pioneer has no such support. Among his many talents John was very adept at making things and I think he enjoyed this as much as anything, whether working with leather, wood or metal. If it didn’t exist and he needed it; he would make it. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when he lived in Sussex, a visit to his house always encountered a production line of all manner of things from saddles to quivers to lances to sword hilts and scabbards and, of course, arrows.
Archery was his most abiding passion, the spark that lit the fire. He was also enormously good at it, as he was with all physical things. John was a natural athlete; strong, vigorous, immensely capable and fearless. He had a distinctive, leonine grace when he moved that was both splendid to watch and always challenging when you were at swordspoint. He and I had a great many sword combats in those early years. John also had tremendous physical and mental courage. He was a brave man.
I first met him in early 1973. The previous year the BBC had aired Robert Hardy’s ‘The History of the Longbow’. John together with some other friends were in it, riding horses and shooting bows in historical action sequences. As far as I know it was the first time this device had been used in a documentary. Once again John Waller was a pioneer. I contacted the BBC who put me in touch with him. I was 22. John, at that time, was starting up a medieval centre in Sussex, with horses, falcons, swordfighting, archery etc. I had a place at law school that I was going to take later in the year but instead I bought a caravan and moved to Sussex to work with John. I learned a lot that summer and forged a lifelong friendship. By the end of the year we were both taken in a different direction by other opportunities, working together for a while at Pinewood Studios. We worked together closely for a great many years on various projects and even when we went on our separate paths, we always kept in close touch. I spoke to him just a couple of weeks ago and had no sense this tragedy was coming.
I’ve been going through some old photographs to find some from the early years. There’ll be images enough from later times. He had many roles and existences. Here I’m just sharing some early personal memories. Sadly because I have move house a great many times, my old photos are in boxes not always easy to find. However I share a few here of my time with a man who I will always remember with profound love and affection.
He was the best of men. He had a noble life, a worthwhile life, a life that made a difference, a life that has left a mark. He was a gentleman and he was my friend. Thank you old friend for all you gave me.
My heart goes out to his wife Rosemary and his son Jonathan.
The following was written by John Waller, Guild Master.
Honoured member of the Guild
Ewart can arguably said to be one of the greatest influences on the current resurgence of interest in European historical combat skills.
In 2002 Ewart and Sybil were Honoured guests at The Guilds Annual seminar, At The Royal Armouries museum in Leeds. We were lucky enough that with him came some of the swords from his collection, which Guild members were able to handle without gloves, a rare privilege with weapons of that age. It was decided that making Ewart an Honoury member would reflect his position in our esteem. He would be made the one and only Honoured member of the Guild.
I knew and admired Ewart Oakeshott for nearly forty years, we were I believe kindred spirits. In some ways we were so different, but there was a bond which connected us, a love of swords. He loved swords with a great passion all his life, he knew the heft of a sword as soon as he took in his hand, it sang to him.
One of my fondest memories of our friendship is from the early seventies, when Sybil and Ewart lived at" High Dering" in Sussex. I was one of a small group who called ourselves "The Swordsmen", this was a sword loving dining club. The members and our wives, would meet periodically at" High Deering". Sybil would cook and oversee dinner, which was always superb, and the wine good and drunk out of glasses on which was engraved "The Swordsmen" and with our names. At each end of the table sat Sybil and Ewart. After dinner the table was cleared and the ladies left the men to their brandy and cigars. Then came the reason for our gathering the members placed on the table their newest treasures. The sword was then discussed, past around and its story told. When it got to Ewart and he held it in his hand, this benign looking man seemed to grow. Although all there had a love of swords, it was not the love that Ewart had. He would hold the sword as if it was an old friend that he had not seen for a long time. Taking it in his hand he held it like a warrior, not a collector or an academic.
One of the things that some people will not know is that Ewart was also a very good artist, as the illustrations in his books and the paintings at Sybil's and his home in Ely will attest. He was a many faceted man, who gave of his Knowledge to all that asked. His books have inspired generations and awoken in them a love of arms and I'm sure will continue to do so to any that are lucky enough to read them in the future.
Amongst all the memories I have of Ewart , this is the last and most special .
At the European Historical Combat Guild's annual seminar at the Royal Armouries on August the tenth 2002, something special took place that affected all that witnessed it.
Ewart was to be made Honoured member of the Guild, but just a couple of weeks before he had taken a bad fall, which put him in hospital. He insisted that he would get out and be there, and he did and was.
He arrived with Sybil, they were both in wheel chairs accompanied by two of their dedicated helpers Esther, Grahame her husband and Chris Poor. After dinner, I pushed Ewart to the centre of the dining area, where after a few words from me, he was presented with his Honoured membership. He then said he would like to say a few words, but he was not going to speak sitting down. So with help from Esther and myself he struggled to his feet and spoke. You had to be there to see this old frail man rise in his pride
There are all sorts in the Guild, some of whom are very tough men, but all those who saw him that night, were deeply affected by Ewart's courage.
He was a special man, who I loved and honoured and whose like we shall not see again.
Don't grieve you that knew him, just be glad that you had the good luck to have met such a man, and I'm sorry for those of you that didn't.
Remember when you read some puffed up academic talking about swords, just think about Ewart.
This is a poem of his, on the last page of his book" Sword in Hand "
Survivors beyond memory
Old things and rare my treasures are.
Times folded gates, fast closed to me,
These lonely sentinels unbar.
Years do not weary them, nor mar
Their power of ancient wizardry;
Things old and rare my treasures are
Enchantment seeking memory.
Scarred wreck of long forgotten war
Austere, unchanging, silently
Dream, and the drums faint and far
Arouse the blazoned years for me.
Enchantment wakens memory;
Old things and rare my treasures are.
That says it all.
See you later old friend, keep a place at the table for me. Love John
Fulvio who owns and runs DEL TIN ARMI ANTICHE COMPANY has been making accurate high quality reproductions of selected old weapons and armour since 1965 in their workshop in Maniago, northern Italy. The intention has always been to produce replicas that should be in no way be inferior to their originals. This has led him to study numerous originals in museums and private collections. It has also lead him to study other sources, both literary and pictorial, to produce arms and armour for which no surviving examples survive.
His weapons are in the collections of private Collectors and museums world-wide. This includes The Royal Armouries Museums in the UK. Also his weapons and armour have been shown in numerous educational exhibitions. At The Armouries his weapons are used for the historical Combat Interpretations, developed by John Waller, The Guild Master.
It was during the development program for the purpose built museum in Leeds, that John Waller, Creative Director of The Armouries, first met Fulvio. The weapons Fulvio produced were the only ones that met the standards of appearance and durability for use in combat interpretations demanded by The Armouries. Del Tin weapons have been used by The Armouries ever since.
For these same reasons, Del Tin weapons are recommended by the Guild and most Guild members now own and regularly use his weapons in their training. They are also used by numerous other groups researching historical combat, in Europe and across the world.
In 2003 Fulvio was invited to attend the Guilds Annual seminar at The Armouries in Leeds. There it was the pleasure of the Guild Master to make Fulvio an Honoury member, in recognition of his work in the field of arms and armour. The Guild was honoured when Fulvio, took the Guild motto, Above all honour, as the motto of Del Tin Armi Antiche, which can now be seen on the Company’s Arms.+
Takamasa is the son of the chief priest of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun who unified Japan in the 17th century. He is a priest in the Shinto religion and is a sixth Dan in Kendo
We had first met Takamasa in the 1990s, when he was acting as his father interpretor during visits by representatives of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine to The Royal Armouries, with whom they are twinned. This involved several visits by groups from the shrine that would demonstrate Yabusame, horse archery. In 1995 a Royal Armouries team, including Jonathan Waller and headed by the Guild Master, John Waller, by then Creative Director of the Royal Armouries, that went to Nikko to take part in their annual May festival commemorating the founding of the Shrine. The team demonstrated Medieval European equestrian martial skills, foot combat and archery.
During the summer of 2005, Takamasa was at The Royal Armouries museum in Leeds for a number of weeks, supervising an exhibition of items from the Nikko shrines own collection. While there, he trained with Guild Master John Waller, also The Armouries Creative Director and Andrew Deane, Armouries Senior Teacher and Guild member. At the end of his stay the Guild Master made Takamasa an Honoury member of the Guild in recognition of his skill and commitment to the training.
“I really enjoyed staying in Leeds, especially the training with your father and Andy. I know what I leaned from them is just a piece of the essence of European martial arts but feel very useful to improve my kendo. I really appreciate them. I hope to see you in either UK or Japan in the near future.” Takamasa