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‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ - as long as they’re insured…

‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ - as long as they’re insured…

‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’ - as long as they’re insured…
With cannons flashing, muskets at the ready and armour-clad foot soldiers and horsemen ready to do battle to the death – or to make it look as close to the real thing as possible in any case – historical re-enactment events will draw huge crowds up and down the country throughout the summer.

With no shortage of military hardware not just on display but in use, taking in the weapons of choice of armies from medieval times right through to the modern day, it’s fair to say the groups and societies who bring history to fiery, noisy, bloodcurdling life need to make sure they’re well insured. Just as well for them, Jelf has it covered.

The brokerage’s ‘ReAct’ product is underwritten by Hiscox, and there’s clearly a market for it with ‘hundreds’ of policies written annually, according to Paul Buckle, Jelf’s managing director of schemes and affinities. “We include liability for the use of horses, and even tanks and military vehicles as well,” he explained. “We let people do archery, fire muskets and cannons and there’s even the odd trebuchet in there somewhere as well. Obviously they’re not catapulting fiery things to burn down castles but occasionally they’ll chuck watermelons in the air, and obviously there’s no shot in the muskets or cannonballs in the cannons – it’s just black powder flash, but it all makes for the spectacle.”

Jelf has been providing cover for over 10 years. “It is pretty well established,” he said. “We give it a bit of an overhaul and refresh it every few years. It has a very loyal following - it’s one of our smaller schemes and it is quite quirky, but we like quirky schemes!

“One thing I’ve noticed is the growth of modern warfare groups – based on Vietnam and the Gulf War, and there are quite a few WWI and WWII re-enactment societies as well, it’s not all medieval stuff. The modern warfare guys have all the newer kit, and use hand grenades, things like that. Our liability cover is quite wide-ranging and diverse in what it covers. All the really strange things you might think ‘I wonder who insures that?’ Well it’s us.”

It’s clear Jelf’s ‘ReAct’ policy plays a part in allowing the societies to create the dramatic spectacles which thrill onlookers - Buckle is reluctant to claim any credit on Jelf’s part, going only as far as ‘Insurance is an enabler and should always be looked on as such’, it also covers historical re-enactment groups in their outreach work, visiting schools to bring to life times past. “The cover we provide is not just helping to create a summer spectacle, it’s also helping to educate schoolchildren as well,” he said.

With hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of heavily-armed warriors charging around a field surrounding by non-combatant members of the public watching battles rage from very close proximity, you may expect claims to be commonplace. Not so, according to Buckle.

He explained: “We’ve had some interesting incidents, including a flagpole falling on someone in the crowd, but we haven’t had things you might expect like a runaway horse charging through the crowd or a jousting knight not getting up again – so no, we haven’t had anything outlandish really.”

With the British public showing no signs of losing their appetite for the kind of historical re-enactments the policy enables, demand remains strong. Buckle said: “It’s been consistent for three or four years – we haven’t really felt any impact from competition but it’s very hard to measure market share. People come to us, they renew, people leave groups then form their own, so that tends to keep things going around - but it’s pretty consistent. We just know how much business we write, and we write a lot of it and there’s very limited competition. It is a bit odd, quite technical and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea so you can understand why new insurers wouldn’t be that keen to get into it because it conjures up images of people in chainmail bashing each other over the head with swords – which is what it often is!”