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Forging Navy gun

BISLEY and Tipner may be only 40 miles apart as the crow flies, but it would be easy to assume that the world- famous home of competition shooting and the Navy’s more modest training range on the margins of Portsea Island are

poles apart. That misconception could be fuelled by the skill of the sailors and Royal Marines competing for the top military marksmanship honour when compared with the lack of confidence displayed by those picking up a rifle for the first

time in years. But the shooting carried out

at the two locations is one and the same thing – weapon training which is shaped by the demands of Afghanistan.

They just happen to be at opposite ends of the same scale... We will start at the top, because in skill-at-arms the Navy’s fervent wish is that those skills will trickle down to the benefit of all. And that trickle-down effect

was clearly evident at this year’s RN and RM Combat Shooting Competition, which saw a new name inscribed on the Queen’s

● A trainee shoots under supervision at Tipner

ever, meant teams were below full complement – the Royal Marines mustered seven, Portsmouth six and Plymouth four. It was Naval Air Command which fielded the largest team – and carried off many of the prizes, thanks to a team captain who led by example. Lt Dave Anderson is an observer with 771 NAS, the search and rescue squadron based at Culdrose. In addition to finding time to hone his own skills, he managed to find enough spare time outside duty hours to persuade sailors to attend regional skill-at-arms meets, select and train a team and gather them on the Surrey heath. And while he oversaw his team to a string of successes, Dave improved on last year by displacing Queen’s Medallist WO1 Paddy Newell RN, who led the

Medal roll of honour. The Queen’s Medal is the highest accolade a military marksman can aim for – the only medal presented for a Service skill, and can be worn on the uniform alongside other medals. Each Service has its own annual eight-day competition, alongside a host of other competitions for individuals and teams of up to 15, including a proportion of novices or tyros. Operational requirements, as

Portsmouth Command challenge. Lt Anderson spent two decades in the Royal Marines, and used skills he had learned in the Corps to improve his team’s chances. The officer is convinced that

what they have learnt could one day prove vital.

“These are skills which could make all the difference, especially amongst the people on operational squadrons at Culdrose,” he said. “The Baggers of 849 are in Afghanistan at the moment, and they would definitely benefit from competition combat shooting, because they are serving on the front line.

“If they did get into a situation where they needed to shoot at an enemy this would really benefit them.

training, but they do not get the pressure which is there during a competition, that adrenalin rush – that’s the closest we get to combat shooting.

“The only difference here is the target doesn’t fire back...” Victory over his old comrades

was not easy.

hurts me that we hammered the Royal Marines – they are my team, it’s where I came from. “But I have passed on whatever I learned from them, and the

“I am proud of this team, but it “OPTAG gives you basic

result is probably just a lack of experience at the moment.” One aspect of his personal

victory caused Lt Anderson a fleeting moment of trepidation: “The winner in each Service gets carried off shoulder-high in a chair – and I’m scared of heights, even though I am aircrew,” he said. The chairman of the RN and RM Rifle Association (RNRMRA), Cdr Mike Magan, had nothing but praise for the aviator – and echoed his words in terms of the competition’s military value. “For a guy normally flying in a SAR helicopter, Dave has really gripped and run his team,” said Cdr Magan. “He’s been shooting well, but

he’s also invested huge amounts of personal time in bringing on his team.”

The Bisley event ends with an Inter-Service challenge and an international match, but again the sporting terms can be deceptive. “We have moved away from the

hybrid of sport and military,” said Cdr Magan.

“Although this is a competition it is not a jolly. It’s part of their advanced small arms combat training, and it gives them skills they can take back.

runner-up, said the training was also relevant for the ship-borne fraternity,

sentries the confidence to use a rifle safely and effectively under pressure.

“It could have been the case in the past that if they got fired at they might have just gone to seek cover,” said WO Newell. “Now they would probably be more confident to take them on – it makes them more capable with that weapon.”

day, it was time for the Queen’s Medallists to be chaired from the ranges, with the Naval contingent withdrawing to the quaint Artists Rifle clubhouse for lunch and presentations (see below left). Amongst those joining the

With shooting over for the giving upper deck

shooters and officials was Robert Pooley, of Pooley Sword Ltd, which took over as leading sword supplier to the Armed Forces when Wilkinson Sword moved out of the business in 2005. Also attending was Mike Elms,

father of the late Cpl Liam Elms. Liam Elms died on New Year’s

“Competition is the spur – it adds that element of pressure which would be present in a combat situation. “A lot of what we do here is not just lying prone firing a rifle – it’s fire-and-move from a range of positions, standing, kneeling or squatting. “Here we give a range of

situations which they may find themselves in.

metres, so if you need to shoot an enemy at long range, you know you can hit them. “Then perhaps you move in and come into contact; you repulse an attack, then you counter attack. “Though you are on a static

range you are reproducing those scenarios.

“There are gallery targets, but also electronic pop-up targets, and a range of close-quarter targets, right forward to a few metres with a pistol – testing the kind of skills you would want when you are training for boarding parties.” The Navy works with its Army and RAF counterparts to develop combat shooting skills to make them more relevant to the front line, in part using input from individuals who are just back from the front.

that there are only 27 here when we have space for 60,” added Cdr Magan. WO Newell, the Queen’s Medal

● A competitor checks his rifl e sight on the Century Range at Bisley Bisley results Stewart Cup: Naval Air

Command (NAC); Herbert- Smith Challenge Cup: RN; Generals

Gravesend Cup: NAC; Trotter Cup: NAC; RAOC Challenge Cup: NAC; Air Arm Cup: RN; Chatham

Devonport Cup: Plymouth;

Cup: Plymouth; Cup: NAC;

● (Above and below) Weapons instruction and practice at Tipner

Portsmouth Cup: NAC; Inter- Command Rifle Cup: NAC; Pete Bloom Trophy: RN; Generals Prize: NAC; Inter- Command Revolver Cup: RM; Bounton Cup: RN; Hutton Trophy: RM; Queen’s Medal: Lt Anderson; Ramsay Trophy and Silver Salver: Lt Anderson; Hutton Tankard (Service Rifle): Lt Anderson; Simbang Cup and Silver Salver: Lt Anderson; Keymer Cup and Silver Salver: CPO Kendall; Kendall Shield and Silver Salver: Lt Anderson; RMRA

75th Anniversary

Trophy: Lt Anderson; Bounton Revolver and Silver Salver: Cpl Inglis; Queen’s Medal Tyro ‘Runner Up’ Silver

Salver: LAET Brown; ETR Champion Silver Salver: Lt Anderson;

Pistol Tyro Champion Silver Salver: Cpl Dolecki; Pistol Tyro ‘Runner Up’

Silver Salver:

Gy Sgt Schuster; RNRA 50th Anniversary Cup: Lt Anderson; Tyro FIBUA Champions Salver: WO2 Pritchard RM; Tyro

FIBUA ‘Runner Up’

Salver: C/Sgt Mitchell; Tyro Gallery Champions Salver: LAET Brown; Tyro


‘Runner Up’ Salver: Cpl Inglis; Tyro ETR Champions Salver: 2/Lt Thomas RM; Tyro ETR ‘Runner Up’ Salver: Cpl Inglis; Top Tyro Rifle – RN: LAET Brown; Top Tyro Rifle – RM: Cpl Inglis; GB Bars 2009: CPO Kendall (capt), WO1 Wharton (adj), Lt Anderson, WO1 Newell; Aldershot Cup: RN; Georges Trophy: CPO Kempster; Fallen Comrades Trophy: RM; Herbert Lott: PARA – PO Robinson, PASARA – CPO Heywood, NACRA – Lt Anderson, RMRA – WO2 Pritchard RM, Chairman’s – WO1 Wharton; Bisley Cup: Lt Anderson.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Chris Mumby (Bisley) and LA(Phot) Arron Hoare (Tipner)

“Which is why it is so frustrating “They shoot from up to 500

Eve in 2008 while on patrol with Zulu Coy, 45 Cdo, in Helmand, and a new prize dedicated to his memory – the Fallen Comrades Trophy – was won, perhaps as it should have been, by the Royals. The competition,

by Infonic, is a timed event representing the evacuation of a casualty, a resupply of ammunition and a final target shoot. “Shooting was a big part of

Liam’s life,” said his father. “He last competed at Bisley in

2006, and he loved shooting – he was in the RM team. “I feel very proud today.” Deputy CINC Fleet Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson spoke to competitors about the upcoming role of the Royal Navy in Herrick 14 in Afghanistan. The admiral noted that it


involved far more than just a brigade of fighting men – there were numerous support roles, such as medical and logistics, which would see sailors going through OPTAG (‘Operational Training and Advisory Group’, now an outdated title – its correct name is

Training or IPDT, but the old user-friendly monicker lives on). RNRMRA

Admiral Philip Wilcocks picked up a point made by Vice Admiral Ibbotson, saying: “The key thing is that the Navy must benefit from your presence here. “Actively go

other people improve their marksmanship.” Which brings us neatly

● Queen’s Medal rivals on the Century Range at Bisley

out and help Portsmouth and a two-week to president Individual Pre-Deployment Rear

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