Zen has over 30 years experience in re-enactment and has also worked as a fight coordinator
in a number of movies.
Zen, along with John Hughes formed the Black company in 2002. Zen is the Companies'
principle training officer, brining a wealth of experience to the training hall.
On the battlefield, Zen acts as the group’s ‘Captain’, spending most his time coordinating
the whole group and keeping an eye on the strategic position.
The Black Company portrays a ‘free company’ of mercenary soldiers during the Wars
of the Roses period in British History ( 1455 to 1487).
In the 15th Century the hiring of Mercenary armies was common place, in particular
in Italy. The “Condottieri” as they were called were mercenary soldiers employed
by the Italian city-states, the word simply means ‘contractor’ and is also used as
a synonym for “Mercenary Captain”
English soldiers fought as Condottieri throughout Italy throughout the 14th & 15th
centuries. In fact, some of the most successful Condottieri were English, for example
Sir John Hawkswood, captain of the White Company.
In Britain mercenary groups were employed by the houses of York and Lancaster. On
action where mercenaries were employed occurred at Stoke Field on the 16th June 1487
(which was the last pitched battle of the War of the roses). Here Martin Swartz captained
a retinue of German and Swiss mercenaries for the Yorkist pretender, Lambert Simnel.
The mercenaries fought to the end, one chronicler reported “ by the end of the battle
they were "filled with arrows like hedgehogs".
Upon the battlefield we operate as a heavy infantry unit, fighting at the heart of
Our ‘men-at-arms’ clad in plate armour and carrying heavy weapons such as poleaxes,
glaives or bardisches are supported by the skirmishers, lighter armoured, fast and
manoeuvrable fighters armed with spears, falchions and buckler shields.
We also have a small but growing contingent of archers.
The most important part of the team are the non-combatants such as the water carriers
and banner bearers. They have a vital safety role to play on the battlefield and
the fighters simply can’t do what they do without them.
The Company commander is Alan Olds.
Alan has almost 20 years experience in re-enactment and has worked on several historical
documentary and film projects.
Alan has been a member of the Black Company from the beginning and has worked his
way up the ranks over the years.
On the battlefield, Alan acts as the group’s ‘Sergeant-at -Arms’, spending most
of his time coordinating the fighters on the front line and leading the charges.
We are a family friendly group and actively encourage families to join.
We find that the majority of children like to be involved, whether it be helping
the fighters to get into armour, learning about the equipment, watching the training,
the cannons or just learning about the general history of the period.
Many a happy child has gone home and returned to school telling his teacher what
he got up to at a show to the chagrin of the other children who played computer games
The majority of the group are based in the South West of the UK (mainly Cornwall)
We travel to shows all over the UK during the ‘battle season’ which runs from April
Out of season, combatants have to attend a number of regular training session to
keep their skills sharp.