OF Rifle Club – A golden O.F. Bisley

It all looked a bit shaky from the very beginning when the ex-President found himself on the wrong range.
Well, not him so much, as the bullet he had just fired.
It is not unheard of, as is chronicled on these pages, that our most revered ex-President and former Hon Sec, Brian ‘HRH’ Smith has occasional issues with cross-firing, ie scoring on someone else’s target. And definitely not in the Public Schools veterans. The Big One.
But it has not yet been witnessed that he was actually putting a round on the wrong range, indeed so skilfully did he place the shot between the flag poles on Bisley’s Century range that it scored a V-bull on the wrong target.
Still, unperturbed, he cheerfully carried on and his coach, the improving Andrew Horton, guided him onto the face of the correct target and to a respectable 43, signalling the start of a fabulous day for the Old Frams C team.
The ‘Vets’ which comes immediately after the Ashburton is increasingly serious and competitive and with even a couple of points dropped it becomes implausible to win it.
But such is the shape of OF shooting these days that we were able to enter three teams. Dropping points early meant there was no pressure for the A team then but the B team enjoyed themselves before our C team took to the point and a little bit of Bisley magic was witnessed.
Hun in the Sun
Coach Horton spread a little wizard dust on his shooting mat and out of the haze came ‘Red Leader’  Jon Ford – a former fighter pilot, senior RAF staff officer, and College governor. Very gradually he began to put together a group; Horton kept it in the middle. A squeaky bull or two aside the retired Air Commodore found himself with nine consecutive bulls and the last round in the chamber.
Now to the uninitiated, the bug of shooting is to fire consistent and consecutive shots in the middle of target to get the magic “possible” (ie highest possible score), and it is very difficult and tantalisingly elusive. Knowing that you have put the first nine in, the tenth round, even unfired, tends to shred the nerves of the shooter.
Pah! Jon used to fly supersonic jets at wave-top height. There is ice in his veins, iron in his will and steel in his nerves. Or maybe not. Anyone on the next three ranges can see the end of Jon’s rifle is as still as the balls in a bingo machine. Bang. The target slowly makes its upward return to show a V-bull at six o’clock and he has the first ‘possible’ of his life, with a magic six V-bulls. 50.6.
Naturally he wins the best shot of the day award and wears on his face the look of a child who has found the keys to the sweetie cupboard. It shows us all the sheer pleasure of the sport and that someone in his 60s can compete at the highest level – making us wonder why sporting authorities refuse to contemplate the inclusiveness of our game.
Nigel Burnip presents Jon Ford with the medal for his outstanding score.
Brewer’s Gold
And with that the teams disappeared, leaving the hard core behind to indulge in nine days of shooting and barbecued meat. And a barrel of Brewer’s Gold fuelling the unofficial clubhouse of the OFs at Bisley – The ‘Dingly Dell’ occupied by John ‘Judas’ Halahan, freshly off the transfer list from London to Derbyshire, James ‘Stinker’ Mehta – who, not enjoying the best of Bisleys, was dropped by Essex to the rank of pencil monitor, and Steve ‘Not too Bad’ McDowell – who held together decent enough form to be selected for his county before cocking it up yet again.
The OFs are a burgeoning club at Bisley and with one of us on practically every prize list, the showing was impressive indeed. Though Halahan nearly jeopardised his entire meeting following an exchange with the famously volcanic David Dyson – former pro rugby league player, professional Yorkshireman and GB vice captain. Dyson was overheard (several miles away) complaining that he had a misfire.
“Well Dave,” said our technical officer examining the unfired round through his half moons, “I suggest you pull the trigger harder.”
Prize lists showed the names of: McDowell, Halahan, Andrew “Coach” Horton, Tom ‘Mr Reliable’ Chapman and the inevitable Gangling Metronome Sandy Walker,  (oh may we grace the shadow he casts upon our shooting mats etc etc).  Shooters drop by the Dell to tell of their tales: “Shiver me Kimbers” Pope having a splendid second meeting with improving scores throughout, John “The Chair” Horton, “Beloved Chairman” Burnip – who wins this year’s Spine of Custard Award  for knocking himself out of the top 100 in the Grand Aggregate with a shocking 67 in the final event the Prince of Wales. He was fined for jug avoidance.
The Dreaded Corporation
The weather throughout the meeting was deeply challenging. Ranging between the usual July monsoons and simply sizzling, there was enough wind at long range to find oneself almost needing a motorised winder to put enough deflection on the sights. During the dreaded Corporation – the 1000 yard shoot of the Grand Aggregate – those of us on top of the hill on Stickledown’s range four found wind ranging from 5 to 15 minutes – or should have if you were any good at judging unlike the tall fool McDowell who scored 41.4 sawing the target in half. Easily enough wind to miss the target altogether.
The final tally for the OFs in the Grand Aggregate (out of 705.141 and 1000 competitors) was:
Horton A
Horton J
Sandy (oh may our children be blessed by the slipstream of his magnificence) of course, made it to HM the Queen’s Prize final – giving the OFs a second successive representative in the most prestigious shooting competition in the world.
But before that there was one more ancient OF tradition to complete. The team competition at Bisley known as The Parting Shot. With too many OFs to fit into a single team and not enough for two the decision was taking to represent our Bisley manifestation – the Dingly Dell.
Ten shooters and two coaches lined up. The two captains were picked at random – McDowell and Horton, A. We then lined up and picked our teams school-style. “I’ll have Halahan” and so on with Horton complaining that he didn’t want James, sir, on the grounds that he was a ‘spaz’ whatever that might be.
Shackleton and ‘The Spaz’
Shoulder to shoulder the two sides got together, the Dinglies and the Danglies, with a plethora of OFs in each, to face the assembled might of the other teams.  Mr Reliable Chapman begins for the Danglies with a 73, the honorary OF Tad Lilley a 72. But the Dinglies are on fire.  Andrew “Shackleton” Horton and another honorary OF – former Suffolk captain Andrew “Nopee” Thomson has led the way with a magnificent captain’s knock. Two maximum 75s. “Spaz” Mehta shows his mettle with a 73 and Halahan, his sights a wobble, a 72.
The Danglies are done, but with scoring like this the Dinglies are in a really hot seat. Coached by the irrepressible Eric Stuart Bamford, who happens to be the captain of the Great Britain Veterans team, there remains one more shooter. Not seen since the Vets some nine days before, David Argent has appeared on the firing point and fires in a 74 just in time to claim a medal, thus earning himself henceforth and forevermore the soubriquet “Muttley”.
Mehta & Horton with the “Parting Shot”
The old foes of the Met Police, the Sussex Home Guard,  and Greshams (winners of the Ashburton) have been vanquished. Gold medals all round for the Dinglies, who are presented later with the trophy by Major Phil Packer. Nice to be reacquainted with this prize, last won by the OFRC in 2005.
Victorious Dinglies
L-R: Argent, Halahan, Mehta, Horton A, Stuart-Bamford, Thomson
Vive La Republique
Smiles bigger than a slightly stoned Cheshire Cat, it was time to break out the vintage firearms and compete in the annual Agincourt match (this year for some reason renamed the Orleans). This is where you get to fire a wartime .303 in a standing match at 300 yards rapid fire – against the British. All right – so it is the British Alpine Rifle Club but hell, that’s just detail.
Only the final of HM The Queens Prize remains and so the OFs arrive in force to support HM the Gangling Metronome (oh may we throw Lotus blossom in his path etc etc) as he continued his campaign for complete global domination, against the hundred finest shots in the world. Regrettably for him, he draws range four and the wind is about as readable James Joyce’s Ulysses translated into Albanian.
Yet, despite some of the most seriously challenging conditions ever seen in the Queens Final the 22-year-old wunderkind (oh may our crops be blessed with the precipitation from his magnificent brow ect etc) is on the leaderboard after 900 yards with 221 from 225. Even the Great One, however is unable to see coming the 7 minute wind changes which are forcing some of the world’s best shots into the 2-point Outer. Two 3-point magpies put paid to his bid for the biggest prize yet the ever-present smile on his face shows how much simply making the final means.
Sandy Walker in action, propping up the leader board
None of the attendant OFs has the slightest doubt that we will, one day soon, be carrying Mr Walker (oh may our destinies be entwined with his very being etc etc) from the range in celebration of his first Queen’s Prize. Instead he has to make do with 46th position.
And with that, it was over for another year. 
Now the OF season will close with the OF Guest Day on 12th September, and the .22 shoot at the College on 19th September. Contact Hon Sec James Mehta for further details.


Join the conversation

Log in to add your comment


Add your own story

We encourage you to participate and send us your stories, whether news, events, ceremonies, or anything else you would like to share with your fellow Old Framlinghamians.