It’s been a year since our last report, so a whistle-stop review of all our activities in 2023.
In times gone past our shooting would be restricted to the summer months, but now with such a wealth of talent and achievement our members are competing across the world and throughout the year.
The first tourist was Jon Ford (S 1958-62), a member of the England team.
You may remember that I was selected as a member of the England Team way back in 2020 largely as a result of my performance in the 2019 Imperial when I came 89th in the Grand and 49th in the Queen’s, but also because I had been to South Africa several times with the RAFTRC and shot twice for the GB Veterans at Bloemfontein. We were due to travel to Kenya and South Africa in 2021 but this was delayed for a year because of Covid. In 2022 Africa was struggling with Covid so the England Tour was delayed for a further year and we finally set off on 26th February after an unscheduled 24 hour delay because of changed rules regarding the carriage of ammunition! This 2 year delay meant the England Team was having to relinquish shooters to the more senior GB Palma Team and the GB U 25s when we got to South Africa.
We flew direct to Nairobi where we were met by the Kenyan Team and given a ‘Blue Light’ escorted drive to a safari park. After 4 days ‘acclimatisation’ at a height of some 5000 feet and several Safari Drives in the Sweet Water Park we moved to the range at Nanuki for 2 days of individual shooting followed by Team matches against the Kenyan National Team. We had 2 England Teams: a Red team (effectively the A Team) and a White team (the B Team) of which I was a proud member. The result was diplomatically sound as the Red Team won with a score of 1152.114 followed by the Kenyan Green Team with 1093.68 with the White Team in close pursuit with 1090.84 and the Kenyan Black Team coming in with 1064.56. The conditions on the Range were challenging with a fishtailing wing and the odd squall passing through which completely obscured the targets. The dust clouds meant that the rifle actions had to be protected at all times.
This was a major event for the Kenyans and we were the first visiting Target Rifle Team for over 20 years. It was attended by their Minister of Defence and there was a major prize giving followed by an excellent lunch served at a marquee behind the firing points. I shot well at 300 getting a 48.2 followed by a 46.4 at 500 and a disappointing 41.1 at 600. However, in the overall placings I held my own as a 78 year old, although I felt I could have done better! In the individual shoots at 800 and 900m I scored a 42.2 at 800 coming 19th out of 54 beating 8 of the England Team and at 900 got a 36.2 with a very strong fishtailing wind coming 34th out of 54 but still beating 6 England Shooters including a Queen’s Prize winner! So, all in all, in Kenya I felt I held my head high on a challenging range with some fishtailing winds which were difficult to read and was very proud to be awarded my England Cap.
After a full day of shooting followed by a party with the Kenyans we the had a ‘Blue Light’ escort back to Nairobi for a dawn flight down to Johannesburg and thence a 5 hour van journey to Bloemfontein so we were on the move for nearly 36 hours! I was very glad I was judged to be too old to drive!
It was good to finally arrive in Bloemfontein at about 7 pm and thence to meet 2 fellow Old Framlinghamians who were members of the GB Veterans Team. It must be a record to have had 3 OFs shooting overseas for International Teams at the same event.
My individual shoots during the week were not particularly inspiring. However, I got a 49.3 in the Freestate Cup and a 35.3 in the State President 1 at 500 and a 49.5 in the State President 2 at 600 so my scores were enough to be selected as a member of the England Team for the Protea International Match. Here I got off to a good start at 700 with a 49.4 and then got a possible at 800 with a 50.3. Sadly, however, the wheels came off the wagon at 900 where I spannered one out to the right early on. This got to me and I ended up with a disappointing 40.0. But I did beat my Captain and Vice Captain and at the age of 78 felt I had not disgraced myself.
As Jon mentions in Bloemfontein he met up with both James Mehta (S 1967-75) and John Halahan (S 1972-75), who were members of the GB Veterans team squad. This squad was still training for the World Long Range Championships due to take place in March 2024, and visiting for reconnaissance purposes. Competing in South Africa creates problems for UK shooters used to more temperate conditions. The altitude and temperature of the high veldt causes ballistic challenges, whilst dehydration is a constant danger. Happily both John and James performed sufficiently to win selection for the tour next year.
Pictured below are Halahan, Ford, and Mehta. Stradbroke on tour in the southern hemisphere. A long way from Bromeswell! It’s not always sunny as can be seen from the lightning picture below.
Back to Blighty, and May saw the NRA Team on tour to the Channel Islands. This team is regarded as a development team to bring on shooters who have not represented GB. Honoured to be appointed as Captain, James Mehta chose Kim Pope (M 2004-09) as his Vice-Captain. Together they selected a team of very mixed ages to travel to compete on both Jersey and Guernsey. See picture below
The success of the 12 day tour was phenomenal, with the team winning three of the four matches as well as depleting that part of the English Channel of sea food.
Pictured below is James and Kim on Guernsey
Summer bought the traditional series of three matches with the OFRC fielding teams against a variety of old-boys teams. These matches are arranged by our own Hon Sec, JJ Overbury (S 1971-79), and huge thanks go to him for this colossal undertaking.
The “Short Q” took place in April, with OFRC narrowly beaten by Lancing into second place by the mere margin of five v-bulls. The “All Day” in May and the “Long Q” in June saw Fram victorious: so we missed a clean sweep by a whisker, but have a nice lot of silver to polish.
The Imperial Meeting in July was notable for the appearance of a team from the College for the first time in several years. Great credit must go to SSI Roy Witham for his persistence. A group of students seemed to relish the Bisley experience, and their enthusiasm made up for their lack of skill. But the OFRC are looking forward to helping where we can with coaching and advice over the months ahead.
The Schools Veterans match is the opener for many OFRC shooters who stay on for the next ten days of competition. But they are joined by many former students of all ages, enough that we could put out two teams of ten. Friendships are rekindled, and after the match we have a dinner followed by our AGM. No prizes for us this year: you cannot afford to drop a single point, and we lost loads! Our A team was 24th ex 47, whilst the B team 17th ex 28.
Unusually we were not able to field a C team this year.
Pictured below are firers on the line at 1000 yards
The weather this July was unseasonably chilly, windy and wet. The high winds caused some competitions to be cancelled: not in deference to the firers, but for the safety of the markers as targets can be blown out of the frames.
No less than nine OFs competed in some or all of the competitions: Nigel Burnip (S 58-65), Jon Ford (S 58-62), James Mehta (S 67-75), John Halahan (S 72-75), Steve McDowell (G 82-86), and son Theo, Kim Pope (M 2004-09), Jon Thorp (S 2011-17), and Sandy Walker (R 96-05).
Sandy Walker has had a quiet shooting year, distracted by both wedlock and progeny (congratulations!) but showed his class with an exquisite maximum score of 50.10 to win the Admiral Hutton competition at 900 yards. Thereafter a fairly quiet meeting for the Old Frams: caps for Halahan (Ireland) and Mehta (Scotland) in the National Match, whilst Thorp helped an English XX team to second place in the Home Countries versus the UK Armed Forces Match. The now usual appearances in county teams for many of our members, with Essex (captained by Mehta) beating Suffolk for a change, although both were well below Norfolk.
Slightly busier was the barbeque hosted by the OFRC to repay the generous hospitality of our Guernsey chums. So much so that a fast car had to be sent to the off-licence for further ammunition.
We’re always on the look out for new members. If you’d like to have a go then you are very welcome to join us. All kit and coaching can be provided, and it’s a lovely day out in great company. All you need to do is to contact our HonSec at email@example.com
Our fixtures next year will be: 20th April, 11th May, 1st June, and 18th July 2024, all at Bisley.