a new semi-regular thing rating the television presenters of current-day Britain

#1: MIKE “Weapons That Made Britain” LOADES

Mike Loades, according to a brief and slightly half-arsed Googling wot I just done, is a fight choreographer and weapons expert. From watching Weapons That Made Britain, I have also learnt that he looks a bit like Christopher Timothy. However, what is really important here is that Mike Loades is a man who really likes hitting things with sticks.

Not just sticks, mind. Swords, spears, lances (he really likes lances), it’s all gravy. This week’s edition of WTMB saw him hitting shields with things and, conversely, hitting things with shields. In what was actually a pretty entertaining and informative documentary about the story of the shield in British history, from the Saxons through to around the 1500’s, Mike found plenty of opportunities to hit shields with things. He got two or three shields specially made. Then he started launching himself at them with axes. Very big axes.

There was a segment where Mike got some volunteeers to attempt to learn the art of the Saxon shield wall. They had to do this in a clearing in a forest, partly for space and authenticity reasons, and partly because Mike also likes riding around on a big horse like a slightly more chivalrous Adam Hart-Davis (if Adam Hart-Davis shopped at River Island). There was much opportunity for Mike’s co-experts to tell people not to do that or they’d be killed. Mike walked up and down the line… “you have learnt what to do? You are confident as a unit now? So I could just jump into you at any point, and you’d hold steady?”


So he jumped into them and they held steady. “Good!”

Mike went on to illustrate the usage of shields by modern riot police, the shields’ effectiveness coming in their flexibility and ability to deflect blows, as well as maintaining the old Saxon formation of a wall of police with long shields locked together, with another unit of police designed to rush in and quell situations with smaller, buckler-type shields. A policeman demonstrated the flexibility of these shields by getting Mike to hold one while he whacked it in various places. Mike seemed a bit nervous about this.

However, the piece de resistance was the segment about duelling shields, purpose-built shields from the 15th century (I think), sort of shaped like a long, thin oval but with spikes on the end, and with notches cut out for hooking people around the leg and so on. He and his hapless assistant engaged in a reconstruction of one of these duels. Much whacking of shield upon shield until Mike noticed that he had an opening, said “aha, yes, but now you’ve left yourself open here, and so…” he hooked hapless assistant aroudn the leg and sent him crashing to the floor, then swiftly levelled the spike on the bottom of the shield at his face and intoned – “Endgame! Look at my face.”

It was wonderful, particularly considering we could have been watching Simply The Best instead. And after WTMB finished, we did. More on that later, possibly, but for now, Mike “Come And Feel My” Loades gets 8/10.

Weapons That Made Britain, Saturday 7:10 p.m., Channel 4