THE Royal Navy’s Field Gun team from Plymouth showed off its speed and toughness to an audience for the first time today (Wednesday) and reached peak speed.
The Devonport Naval Base team showed how their weeks of tough training had paid off to a vociferous crowd of civilian base workers and naval colleagues who urged them onto a fastest time of one minute 28 seconds having beaten their previous best time since training by three seconds.
The 180-man crew are working towards the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity Field Gun competition finals at the Royal Naval training base HMS Collingwood near Portsmouth during a pubolic open day on May 31st, when teams race each other over a course pulling 900lb and four 120lb wheels and ammunition and assembling and reasembling them at speed.
The race is a brutal military examination of strength, physical fitness, technique, dsipline and teamwork and desgined to recreate the build up to a Boer War battle when naval guns were pulled over tough terrain to deliver gunfire.
Devonport Field Gun team trainer Lieutenant Neal Edwards said: “I’m very pleased at the form the lads are showing. They are coming to peak form at just the right time afte ten weeks training.
"It just shows how a good enthusiastic crowd can bring out the best in sportsmen and athletes. It certainly roused them to their best performance yet. They have the confidence to do well at this year’s competition where the opposition is very challenging.’’
Field Gun Officer Lieutenant Commander Ronnie Trulove said: “This is an unforgiving sport and an entertaining spectacle. There is a serious training element within Field Gun with elements such as leadership, fitness and team work uppermost in the skill set.
"It crucial that heavy pieces of kit such as gun beaches are slammed shut and wheels and the connecting limber and wheels are all disconnected and reconnected in perfect sequence with precise timing. Otherwise accidents can happen and fingers are key casualties.
"The only other problems are strained backs and legs and arms. They have all given up their spare time to devote to the Field Gun and have great potential to improve on winning a plate trophy last year.’’
The Devonport team includes HMS Sutherland with six members, HMS Bulwark, HMS Argyll, Royal Marines Tamar, the submarine HMS Talent and survey ship HMS Scott.
The competition is open to 23 teams from all the Armed Force and commorates events in 1899, during the second Boer War, when the town of Ladysmith (South Africa) was under siege for 120 days from the persistent Boers.
The Army, unable to counter the constant enemy attack were eventually supported by the Royal Navy and their 6 land converted ship-borne guns resulting in victory.
While at anchor off at Capetown the cruisers HMS Terrible and HMS Powerful,were called upon by the British Commander in Natal, General Sir George White VC for their long range guns.
Captain P. Scott of HMS Terrible was a gunnery expert and was able to design a carriage that could hold the naval guns for transit on land.
HMS Terrible delivered the guns to Durban where the carriages were manufactured prior to a contingent of 280 Officers and ORs led by Captain H.Lambton (RN) transited to Ladysmith by rail, the last train to run.
The success of the naval guns at Ladysmith called upon Captain Scott having to deploy a further brigade to act in support of General Buller's advance toward their beseiged comrades.
Due to the lack of rail transport the guns had to be handled across complex terrain, one story telling of a single 12 pounder being carried for 2 miles after a wheel collapsed.
The Brickwoods brewery donated the magnificent trophy, pictured in the gallery, to the Royal Navy in celebration of the successes of the Naval Brigade at Ladysmith. The Brickwoods Field Gun competition has been run at HMS Collingwood since 1907, minus the years of war.