Knights cross swords in open day

‘Sir’ Nicolas Bennett duels Jake Whistance at Eastern Park. (Lateesha Davis)

By Luke Voogt

An education resource developer on weekdays, ‘Sir’ Nicolas Bennett becomes a hallowed warrior of the Knights Hospitaller each weekend when he grasps the hilt of a sword.

“I was knighted at a ceremony a couple of years ago,” the 31-year-old from Grovedale explained.

Bennett has donned his armour for Geelong Crusaders Reenactment Society since 2015, and fought in re-enactments for about a decade.

“I’ve always been obsessed with fighting with a sword and it’s fun to pretend you’re a medieval character,” he said.

Now he hopes to share that obsession, as blades clash and steel rings upon Fyansford Common in Geelong Crusaders’ free open day beginning 1pm this Sunday.

Would-be warriors can learn to fight like the champions of old with a brief crash course in re-enactment combat learning how to safely strike and block with a hand axe.

“You will also be able to see some fast-paced combat displays, with our members wielding swords, shields, axes and spears,” Bennett said.

“If crafting is more your thing, come down and have a chat to our many members who are skilled in various medieval crafts.”

But swords are off-limits to those not in the society, with Victorian law requiring public liability insurance and a licence for their use.

“Victoria’s really strict with touching and owning swords – I think we’ve got some of the strictest laws in the world,” Bennett explained.

“People can pick up an axe, but not a sword – go figure.”

His own obsession with the sword and the other weapons of knighthood began with his father’s involvement in similar groups.

“I grew up doing bits and pieces with my dad,” he said.

“He bought me a little toy plastic sword when I was young, so I used to run around whacking people with that.”

He was also “obsessed” with the “underdog story” of Joan of Arc, the French heroine who led the resistance against English invaders in the Hundred Years War.

Now Bennett has a re-enactment family himself, with wife Sarah joining the crusaders and their 14-month-old son Jeremy seemingly destined to become a knight too.

“He’s got his own little wooden dagger, so he’s already practicing,” he said.

“[My wife] loves it. Originally she was coming along to support me but then she found her own niche with the leather and archery.

“She has made my belt and one of my sword-holders, and she’s working on a quiver.

“We recently attended an archery event and I had a custom longbow made for her for our anniversary.”

The couple even held a combat display at their wedding in 2019, where Sarah shot arrows with soft rubber tips, like tennis balls, at knights in the thick of a brutal melee.

“We’re hoping to bring that [sort of archery] into our combat eventually,” Bennett said.

While some re-enactment groups focus more on historically-accurate combat, Geelong Crusaders Reenactment Society is all about having fun and staying safe while fighting, according to Bennett.

“There would be things that we could do that would be more historically-accurate like face and groin stabs – which we avoid. All of the soft spots totally out of bounds.”

Like other groups, the crusaders use blunted weapons with metal armour and padding for protection.

Bennett regularly joins the society as Sir Nicolas at both public and re-enactor-only medieval fairs featuring historically accurate villages and feasts.

“That’s a really cool experience, if you like stepping back in time,” he said.

“Whereas the public ones are more about putting on combat displays.”

For more information search ‘Geelong Crusaders Open Day’ or email