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Paramedics aid man at Hawkesbury Showground in New South Wales after he was struck in the head with a Medieval axe

Axe Wounds Man During Medieval Battle Re-Enactment


A young man who participated in a mock medieval battle in Australia was flown to hospital after he received an axe-blow to the side of the head. The battle was organized as part of the Winterfest Sydney Medieval Fair.

ABC News reports that Mitch Toohey, a 21-year-old man from Victoria, was participating in a medieval battle re-enactment at the Hawkesbury showground in New South Wales, when an axe struck his helmet. He received immediate medical care before being flown to Westmead Hospital by a CareFlight rescue helicopter.

The mock battle turned violent when Mitch was sparring with an opponent and a third person ran across the field and forcefully struck him on the head with an axe. He was repeatedly struck until a referee stepped in and broke up the fight, realizing that Mitch had been injured.

A genuine axe had gone through the helmet he was wearing,” said David Wheeldon, Media and Communications Manager for CareFlight [via SBS]. “These had been forged quite professionally.

Although regulations are put in place to minimize injuries, such as weapons and armor standards and referees to monitor the battles, the re-enactments do involve full contact and therefore there are inherent risks in the activity.

Winterfest Brings the Medieval to the Modern Day

Winterfest Medieval Fair takes place in Australia in July each year, with the aim of taking participants back in time, from jousting, archery and combat to traditional crafts, cooking and games. 

Historical re-enactment is a core part of Winterfest and enables visitors to see what life was like in past times, from the Dark Ages and Viking era, through to the 1600s, with a particular focus on the medieval period.

One of the main participants in the fair is Australian Medieval Combat (AMC), a sporting organization that aims to promote a lifelong enjoyment of Historical Medieval Battles. During the fair, the AMC conducts a variety of shows and classes from one-on-one fights (sword and shield, sword and buckler, polearm and jousting), to group battles.

Other re-enactment groups at the fair include Compagnie Batavia, a 17 th century Dutch militia group; Einherjar, a Viking re-enactment group; Company of the Cross, a late 15 th century living history group demonstrating military life; Miklagard Garrison, re-creating the Varangian Guard in the period 900-1100 AD; and the Ninth Legion, an Ancient Roman re-enactment group.

Re-Enactments Can Bring Injury and Death

While re-enactments usually escape the blood, gore and death that would have permeated through real medieval battles, the mock fights can sometimes prove fatal too.

Last year, a medieval knight re-enactor tragically died after being impaled with his own lance during a jousting tournament.

Virginia military veteran, Peter Barclay, 53, was acting in an equestrian game for a crowd in Williamstown, Kentucky on Saturday when he was fatally injured. His medieval persona saw him participating in events under the chivalric name ‘Master Terafan Greydragon,’ and when the noble Greydragon went to spear “a paper plate while on horseback, something went wrong and his lance impaled him under his sternum.”

Fortunately for Mitch Toohey, the incident did not end so tragically. CareFlight’s Critical Care team managed to treat the man before he was airlifted to hospital, and he arrived in a stable condition.

Mitch Toohey was injured in a mock battle

Mitch Toohey was injured in a mock battle. (Facebook)

Top image: Paramedics aid man at Hawkesbury Showground in New South Wales after he was struck in the head with a Medieval axe. Credit: CareFlight

By Joanna Gillan



Will Vafuth's picture

presumptuous much? how many live steel reenactment battles have you been in??

“Didn't he notice the fact that the helmet had split?"
how much do you notice while you are swinging an axe at someone while they are swinging somwthing hard and possibly sharp at you?

Live steel events are held all the time. they are exceedingly rare in the US but many MANY other countries have them and all require signing a waiver acknowledging the hazards.

Wait, I thought that 'live steel' was generally banned from events such as this? Honestly, it sounds kind of deliberate. Surely this guy realized that repeatedly striking someone over the head with a real axe would hurt someone, sharp or not, even with a helmet? Didn't he notice the fact that the helmet had split? Yet his attacker only stopped when a referee stepped in? Yeah, smells fishy.

I'm all for research, but physical harm shouldn't be part of any reenactment. This is heinous.

Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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