IT is 1.30pm on a wintery Sunday.

While most head to Southampton Common to take a stroll or have a kick around, the Beech family are preparing for battle.

Dad Sean transforms into a 12th-century knight in full combat armour wielding a 10ft spear and wearing chain mail weighing more than five stone.

His five-year-old son James is already in training to be his squire.

But it’s a good job he’s protected.

Not every dad spends their Sunday dodging arrows fired by their 14-year-old teenage daughter or escaping a fatal axe blow by their wife – ferociously fighting on the battlefield as a man.

And it won’t be long before Sean and Zine’s newborn baby Rowenna will join in wearing authentic costume – but with her middle name Ursula chosen especially because it means Little Bear from the medieval period, she’ll fit in.

“You do get a few looks from members of the public but they absolutely love it!

“Not many dads can say they have their entire family coming for him in full combat gear at the weekend but it’s all good fun,” laughs Sean.

“It’s exhilarating, it’s exciting, it’s a thrill, it’s a challenge.

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“You’re there on a battlefield with nothing but a shield for protection and you think to yourself ‘this is going to be fun!’, ‘am I going to die quickly or will I still be alive at the end of it?’”

The 43-year-old history enthusiast is talking about Historia Normannis – a 12th-century authentic re-enactment group which has now arrived in Southampton.

The society was formed ten years ago and has branches across the UK, France and America, hosting weekly training sessions ahead of educational visits to schools, living history displays and national events at English Heritage sites and castles.

The group present the workings of 12th century life including combat, craft and all aspects of camp life – priding itself on historical accuracy.

Sean, a former medic who served in Iraq with the Queen Alexandra Royal Nursing Corps, and his 34-year-old wife Zine got involved after seeing a show at a Welsh castle and were instantly hooked.

After they joined a Historia Normannis group in Guildford, Sean, who now works as a school teacher at Wickham Church of England Primary School, agreed to bring it to his home city.

And he is now appealing for new members to sign up for a variety of roles spanning combat and craft for the living history displays.

“Anyone with an interest in history will have dreamed of fighting with a sword at medieval castles,” Sean explains.

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“This is as close as you can ever get to the reality of that. You get to experience what our forefathers experienced and all within the grounds of some of the most spectacular and awe inspiring buildings in the world.

“Members get to meet some truly fascinating and interesting people and play with some great toys including catapults and trebuchets.”

In combat, each member begins as a peasant or freeman before working up the ranks of the society learning battle techniques using everything from clubs and knives to axes, swords and spears.

But although women are welcome to take part both as ladies of the court or fight on the battlefield as men, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

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Sean, who said he has broken fingers and lost toe nails, says: “We’re really big on safety but at the end of the day if a blunt axe catches you in the wrong place, it’s going to hurt.

“It’s also incredibly physically demanding. In the 12th-century at eight years old your life would revolve around training for battle.

“We just do it a couple of hours once a week so you use muscles you didn’t know existed.

“It can take a few weeks to stop aching but it’s great fun and most definitely a stress reliever!”

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But it isn’t all about getting physical.

The group will run craft skills sessions on a regular basis ahead of setting up traditional camps with authentic artefacts, explains Sean who makes his family’s shoes and weapons by hand.

“We teach members to be self sufficient so members will be taught how to make their own clothes, haft weapons, leatherwork, make shields and chain mail.

“At shows they can learn other crafts such as wood turning, metal smithing, weaving, embroidery, fletching as well as learning traditional songs and historical practices in addition to the combat.

“When we hold camps it all comes together and it’s spectacular.”

And for the Beech family, nothing compares.

Sean says: “The old adage of you don’t know until you try is very true of our hobby and we’re passionate about it.

“You can look in a history book yes but nothing quite beats going out on a field wearing full combat armour that you have made and being part of a battle unfolding. It really brings it to life and it’s amazing for the audience. You can’t get that from a book.

“It’s just wow.”

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The group will train from Sunday, November 24, every Sunday between 1.30pm and 3.30pm on Southampton Common.

Everyone is welcome. For information search Historia Normannis Southampton on Facebook.