The shooting team have been busy since the last report halfway through the summer term. We've shot our two biggest competitions of the year, with varied success.
At the beginning of the summer holidays we competed in the Schools' Meet at Bisley. We went to Pirbright on the 4th of July for a training weekend prior to the actual competition began on Monday 7th July.
We fired both the L98 Cadet General Purpose rifle and the L81 Cadet Target Rifle (TR) during the meeting, the first time we've done so since 2000. This year our experience with the Cadet TR was much better than last time: the sights have proved much more reliable than last time, when we had problems with them coming loose.
On the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we shot the Wellington Trophy competition at 300 yds in the morning and the Iveagh Trophy at 500 yds after lunch, both TR competitions. We didn't have very much success in the Wellington, unfortunately, with very few firers winning silver spoons, but in the Iveagh we did a bit better. Ollie Peggram and myself both shot 34.4, with Ollie beating me on countback. Unfortunately this was still only good enough to get us into the twenties in the prize list, as many firers from other schools managed to hit 35.
Concurrently with the Wellington on we shot the Marlborough Cup, which is an individual snap-shooting competition, fired with the L98. This year it was much harder than usual, as range safety meant that we had to shoot from 300 yds rather than 200 yds as we had done previously. The combination of bright sunlight and the L98's clunky sights made it difficult to see the targets, let alone hit them, but we had some very good scores. Nick Davies had an excellent shoot on Monday, hitting 48 out of 50 and leading right up until the very last shoot of the competition, when he was beaten by a maximum.
Speaking of sunlight, there was hardly a cloud in the sky all week. I've never experienced such good shooting weather at the Schools' Meet! In 2001 we were plagued by gale force winds, and in 2002 by heavy rain and hypothermia, but this year conditions were near perfect.
The Marling, fired on the Tuesday afternoon, is a competition where we have to run 100 m, shoot down a 100 m target and then fire nine rounds into a 200 m target. Our Eight did quite well: apart from one person who had a sights problem, we all shot well, but unfortunately we came out fifteen points behind Sedburgh. The theme continued into the Schools Snapshooting competition the following morning: although we shot well, we were just beated by Sedburgh, putting them further ahead of us in the Grand Aggregate.
The Wednesday evening saw the finals of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment Falling Plates. Both our A team and our B team got through to the semi-finals. Our A team was beaten by Sedburgh A in the semis and beat Sutton Valence B in the 3rd/4th shootoff to take third place. Our B team had luck on their side, however, and scraped ahead of Sedburgh to retain the trophy for the Oratory.
Ashburton Day began at half-past six on Thursday morning. After quickly packing up our kit and having a cursory clean of the barrack, we headed off to the ranges in time for Stuart Bruce to shoot the Reserve Man competition at 8:00 AM. He shot well, finishing well inside the top ten. We then shot the main Ashburton competition: an Eight, a Four and a Pair firing at 300 yds and 500 yds. We did our best, and turned out some good scores, but although our juniors (the Pair and Four) acquitted themselves well, the Eight couldn't match the sheer class of the likes of Stamford and Epsom, and finished tenth overall. I shot the Spencer-Mellish at 500 yds, but I had a major case of nerves and only hit 43.2 ex 50.
Even though we didn't do as well as we've done in previous years, we put in a solid performance at the Schools' Meet, and I'm looking forward to next summer, when we'll have exactly the same team with an extra year's experience.
Some members of the shooting team stayed on for an extra week to shoot in the Imperial Meeting, as part of qualifying and selection for the GB U19 shooting teams. This year the Open Meeting included the World Target Rifle Championships, so representatives from just about every country in the world were competing there. We got the opportunity to fire alongside experts, at a variety of ranges other than the 300 and 500 yds we're used to; in a couple of matches we were firing at a range of just under a kilometre. Needless to say, we were hopelessly outclassed, and didn't manage to get onto any prize lists, even with a couple of scores of 48.5 ex 50!
After a couple of days training just before the start of term and a few Sundays spent on the range, we shot the 4th Division Cadet Skill-at-Arms Meeting (CADSAM) on the 27th and 28th September. We did very well. In the juniors, the B team did especially well, winning the U16 Gallery Match with the highest score ever of 575 out of 600: that is, dropping only 5 shots out of 120. They also came second in two other matches, and third in another. The D team also did well, taking a second and a third. In the seniors, the C team won three second places and a third. The A team did exceptionally well, winning the Gallery, Snap Shooting and ETR Matches, and winning Best Overall CCF Team and Best Overall Cadet Team.
The Falling Plates competition was an epic. The B, C and E teams were knocked out in the heats, but the D team were amazing, leading to an Oratory A vs. Oratory D semifinal where the A team won by a bare second knocking down the last plate. Unfortunately the A team narrowly lost to Sutton Valence in the final, but it was a very exciting match.
Thanks again to the usual motley crew of staff who take it upon themselves to look after us: Mr Bosher, Dr Danks, Mr Upton, Mr Womersly and Mr Berrow, and of course the indomitable Mr Topham.
Looking forward to next season, we have one of the strongest teams this year that we've ever had. Roll on the summer!