Whilst the Isle of Skye continued to enjoy some great weather I returned South to spend a couple of weeks photographing Field Gun. This competition remains, to me, the epitome of team sport.
Winning is about discipline, courage, power and working together. There is no hiding place in the team whether you are the coach or any of the 18 crew members.
The sport dates back to the Boer War when the Navy landed guns and demonstrated its ‘can do attitude’. The crews of HMS Terrible and HMS Powerful man handled guns over the rough South African terrain to help their Army colleagues who were under siege from the Boers, at Ladysmith.
Many will have seen this moment from history re-enacted at the annual Royal Tournament held at Earls Court where the three Command Crews of Devonport, Portsmouth and Fleet Air Arm raced their guns over what was, in essence, an assault course. With the Royal Tournament no longer in existence many will be unaware that Field Gun remains flourishing either through the associations that keep the event going at various summer shows or through the two larger scale competitions that are still held on the six lane track at HMS Collingwood.
Which ever form of competition is studied they are each based on three distinct parts. The run OUT to the first action (firing of three rounds), the run BACK to the second action and finally the run HOME when the watch is stopped as the gun axle or last man crosses over the finishing line.
The first event is the RNRMC sponsored Field Gun for crews from all three arms of the Forces. In this event the limber is built and during the run the wheels are exchanged, twice, with the gun. The limber is also dismantled for the first firing action. This is aimed to simulate the activities back in 1899 when the Navy manhandled the 12 pounders across the veld. This years competition was won by HMNB Portsmouth with No1 Clayton Patilla. They produced their fastest time of the tournament in the final to win in 1:19.88.
The second major event is the Junior Leaders Field Gun. Though the drill is slightly simplified these youngsters aged between 16 and 25 only have 12 hours of practice as a team with a gun before they compete against each other.
They use the same equipment as the RNRMC Field Gun over the same 85 yard course on HMS Collingwood’s large parade ground.
This year the team from BAE Systems broke the strangle hold of event sponsors Network Rail when under the guidance of No1 Clayton Patilla then ran their fastest time of the tournament in the final and won in 1:22.8.
Seems to be a pattern emerging.
Having enjoyed the passion, noise and powerful running of Field Gun my next sporting photographic challenge takes me to the other extreme of sport. Back north in one of my favourite Scottish locations of Torridon I will be following the Celtman Triathlon.
If Field Gun is less than 1 minute 30 of extreme exertion then the Celtman sees its competitors embark on a 3.8km swim in a sea loch followed by a 200km bike ride and finishing with a 42km run which includes the ascent of two of Beinn Eighe’s munros. At least they will not have to drag a gun!
The image above shows that part of the final 42km run is flat but in the distance is the majestic massif of Beinn Eighe up and down which the runners will go.