KEY ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2005
- 1st, County Championship Victor Ludorum for the Champion County of the UK (July)
- 1st, County Long Range (July)
- 1st, NRA Long Range Match at the Inter-Counties (June) with a record score
- 1st, NRA Short Range Match at the Inter-Counties (June) with a London “B” record score
- 2nd, Inter-Counties Aggregate
- 2nd, Grist Cup
- 3rd, King George V Challenge Cup
2005 SEASON REVIEW
EARLY SEASON MATCHES
We had a very full turn-out for our first match of the season, with twelve firers against Surrey and London University. Rather than shoot the usual ten to count, we split into two teams of six to accommodate the ULU team. Surrey ran out winners, with 1156.113 to our 1130.105 and 1085.62, and London University’s 1099.81. Richard Hebblethwaite was our top scorer over the Empire course of fire, with 190.21. The next three highest scorer – Richard Dyball, John Halahan and Daniel Blake – are all to be congratulated on having shot so well in their first outing for the county.
In our second warm-up match against Middlesex, Herts, Suffolk and University of London (again), we came a close first with 1343, from Middlesex’s 1338, Herts’ 1336, Suffolk’s 1320 and ULU’s 1290. James Norris, who turned up with no rifle, borrowed mine and promptly top scored on 194.20, counting out Graham Atkinson. Another great first team debut performance (well done James), and bang went my rifle/ammo incompatibility excuse for the season! Well done to our neighbours Middlesex on a fine shoot.
We entered two teams in the Purples Match this year: an “A” team and, for the first time in this match, an Under 25 team, to put down a marker and to aid preparation for the competitive matches to follow. Unfortunately, a clash for two Under 25 team members with their commitment to the Purples Club meant that we had to enter the Under 25 team in the morning session and the “A” team in the afternoon, meaning it would not be shooting at the same time as its main county rivals.
We were hard on ourselves after the match, which turned out in the end to be our best (least weak?) short range performance of the season, despite being some 15 points worse than our winning score of last year. It turned out that the “A” team won the afternoon session of the match and came 4th overall with 1168.125 points. Our top scorer was Richard Hebblethwaite with 149.18. Surrey Blue, Somerset and Sussex occupied the top three places, with all three shooting in the morning. We’ll try again to secure morning slots for both teams next year or, failing that, will see if we can switch the two slots.
Congratulations are due to the London Under 25 team, who came 9th overall (6th in the morning session) with 1160.104, a record for London’s Under 25s. Their gun score was equal to that of Hampshire, our main rival in the KG V Heat that followed, and was superior to those of Kent, Hertfordshire and the Surrey “Gold” team, all of whom are among the strongest counties on the Common. Henry Jeens was the U25s’ top scorer with 147.12 on his debut for the county.
KG V WEEKEND
The sun may have been out on the KG V weekend but it was very chilly (or so all of those who weren’t wearing shorts and sandals kept telling me). The weekend took on a new format for London.
First order of business was the County Knockout and the English XX Jewels on Saturday morning. Well done to Rob Welford, who won both the Knockout and the Silver (1st place) Jewel. Richard Hebblethwaite was 2nd in both, with the Knockout final effectively acting as a tie-breaker for the Jewels after both scored 100.10 ex 105 in testing wind conditions over the three earlier rounds. Newcomer John Halahan came third in the Jewels, while occasional shot Matt Charlton surprised himself and probably everybody else by coming 3rd in the knockout and scoring 101.9 overall. His excuse for the 35 in round two is that his rear-sight was very loose and must have wobbled the right way. The Jewels are only for the English though, so no glory for Matt but well done Rob! It seemed like everyone enjoyed the format (head-to-head knockout with each shoot a 2ss+7 string shoot with 10 minute time limit).
Saturday afternoon saw the now traditional match between the KG V team and the London Exiles. The match was more competitive than usual despite the unavailability of the Welsh contingent for the Exiles – I do hope that will not be the case next year because they are a formidable group now. However, that competitiveness was not obvious at the time, as some rather tricky wind kept the scoring rather low. The Exiles built an 8 point lead after 300 yards despite only averaging 46.3, and preserved 5 points of that lead despite doing no better at 500 yards. However, the KG V team gave an early indication of ability to perform when it mattered by averaging 48.4 (to the Exiles’ 45.3) in still difficult conditions at 600 yards. Graham Atkinson top scored for the KG V team with 143.11 and Alex Gill for the Exiles with 143.8 – his second good shoot in his second shoot with the county. The conditions were such that the scoring could have been damaging to confidence but, as it turned, the match instead proved to have been good preparation for the following morning’s KG V Heat.
The conditions for the Southern Counties KG V Heat itself were not as extreme but were similar in terms of wind direction and (to a lesser extent) variability. It was predominantly a fish-tailing head-wind like the previous afternoon and the team was well prepared not to be distraught by any low scores that resulted. Not that any did: for 47 to be the lowest score of the morning was a very good demonstration of consistency in tough conditions and a key differentiator against the other teams. David Armstrong and Nigel Cole-Hawkins set the scene well by kicking off at 300 yards with 50s and putting everyone in the right frame of mind… but they were the only 50s of the morning! Talk behind the point was of Hampshire having put in a good performance at 300 yards, but London’s 389 was in fact 5 points ahead of Hampshire and 10 in front of Berkshire. Scores were slightly lower at 500 yards, where London and Hampshire both made 384. And at 600 yards, London made 385 to Hampshire’s 382 to win the Heat by 1158.115 to 1150.112. Berkshire came 3rd with 1126.97, which was marginally lower than Wiltshire might have achieved if their 8th man had turned up and shot! Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire did not shoot. David Armstrong was our top scorer with an outstanding (for that day) 148.16 – well done David, and indeed Brian (his coach) and the other London Sassenachs for having qualified for the final for the third year running.
Simultaneously, the London Exiles were shooting against the Great Britain Under 25s on Stickledown. The GB U25s won the match, while Henry Jeens top scored for our team. We had also held a joint dinner with the GB U25s on the Saturday night, which will have raised awareness of London U25 shooting. We hope to hold a joint training weekend with the GB Under 25s next year, to reinforce the links between us and to provide both the KG V team and the London Exiles with some strong opposition on the Saturday afternoon.
What an Inter-Counties weekend we had! Quite apart from the fact that it was 33 degrees Celsius, we won the NRA Long Range Match, retaining the trophy with a record score, London ‘B’ won the NRA Short Range Match, with the ‘B’ team’s record score, and we learned a few things that we should already have known. Thanks are due to Hugh Riley, Chris Dawes, John Saunders, Harvey Woods and Guy van Koetsveld for giving of their time to help both teams perform as well as they did.
The first competition of the weekend was the individual 2ss+15 shoot at 300 yards. Jon Underwood (Surrey) won with 75.12. Our best performers, all on 74, were Graham Atkinson, David Armstrong, Nigel Cole-Hawkins, Gabrielle O’Leary, Rob Welford and Alex Woodward, who won the salver for being the top Under 25.
LT. COL. ‘H’ JONES TROPHY
The main short range match followed, and London Gold thought they had started badly at 300 yards with 15 off, until they realised that was 3rd best on the range. London Silver were on the same gun score in 4th place at that point and looking very pleased with themselves! Our performance improved at 500 yards as the wind became interesting. We tried to wait out any periods of right wind, since they tended to be fleeting, and London Gold finished the 500 yards range two points behind the leaders, with London Silver a further four points down. However, 600 yards did not go so well for us. London Silver’s scoring was low; London Gold’s was not high enough, and was made worse by an unfortunate wrong sight-setting (five minutes too low). That was compounded by the marker awarding an unearned inner for the single sighter, which meant we only discovered the problem after a miss, first to count. Frustrating. Nevertheless, London Gold finished 5th, with Cheshire in the driving seat. London Silver were a very good 12th (in fact 9th on our numbers), taking the considerable scalps of Sussex, Hampshire and Yorkshire, all of whom have won county competitions in recent years. London’s top scorer was David Armstrong with 147.20. Some of the Silver team did their selection prospects for the matches at the Imperial Meeting no harm at all.
NRA SHORT RANGE MATCH
The rules of the Inter-Counties mean that, despite their elevated position on Saturday, the Silver team could not compete over the hill on Sunday, but took part instead in the NRA Short Range Match. This they won with some aplomb, by a margin of 28 points! Their score of 1163.125 would have been enough to have come 3rd on Saturday! Highest scorer was Mike Eustace on 149.15. Fittingly, he went up to collect the trophy at prize-giving. Well done Silver team.
NRA LONG RANGE MATCH
Meanwhile, London Gold were competing against the other top 24 counties on Stickledown and trying to retain the Long Range cup that we won last year. Some truly excellent shooting by all eight firers at 900 yards meant that, despite a cross-shot (which was a V-bull, of course!), we finished the range only two points off the lead. At 1000 yards, we had to stop the firers for considerable periods of time on several occasions, as we waited for wind conditions that we were confident about reading properly (rather than guessing and hoping). Like at 500 and 600 yards the day before, it was quite amusing at times to see some of the results on other counties’ targets while we were stopped. The firers coped well with waiting in considerable heat, although sadly one of Richard Hebblethwaite’s rounds didn’t cope so well – his very last shot went high after a few minutes’ wait, costing him a 150 but leaving him with an excellent performance nevertheless. His 149.20 was our best and also the best on the range. All our firers shot very well again at 1000 yards, making the coaches’ jobs considerably easier. As a result, we overcame the one shot deficit to win by 5 points from Surrey and by the wide margin of 31 points from 3rd placed Yorkshire! I do not recall a higher long range score than our 1165.126 – certainly it was higher than the Mackinnon record at the time, meaning that London shot better on long range that day than any national or international team had done at Bisley. Very well done indeed, everyone!
Our score of 2314.245 in the Inter-Counties Aggregate was our highest since the format changed (and the 800 yards range was dropped) after the 1999 match. However, it was only enough for 2nd place, 7 points behind Surrey and 20 points ahead of 3rd placed Cheshire. Given the two misses, we had clearly proven that we have the ability to deliver better performances than any other county on the Common. But in order to achieve that, we needed to take on board the lessons of the weekend, which are included in section (3) above. Nevertheless, it was very pleasing for both teams to come away with Silverware.
KG V FINAL
The first match of the Imperial was the Final of the KG V. We had qualified by winning the Southern Heat by 8 points. However, on the day, the team never quite performed to its potential, dropping 15 points at each of the three ranges to finish on 1155.104. Neither conditions (including the considerable heat) nor ammunition were entirely benign, but the fact that we finished 17 points behind Surrey showed that substantial improvement would be needed before the following week.
Not only that, but Surrey had caught our Inter-Counties disease and achieved their win despite a cross-shot; and, although we overhauled Hertfordshire at 600 yards, Somerset kept their nose in front of us by 2 points. We finished 3rd, with Richard Hebblethwaite, Graham Atkinson and Mike Eustace all scoring 146. Well done to Mike on his first team debut, joining John Halahan and Henry Jeens as this year’s new full caps. Sadly, Richard and Graham were to be unavailable for the following week’s main Imperial matches. In Richard’s case that was because of the arrival of a new baby boy, Toby, who was very well behaved and refused to pop out on KG V day. Congratulations Richard!
3rd in the KG V was our third best result since 1981. However, it was also our worst of the last three years, so there was an air of disappointment in the team as we headed into the individual shooting – disappointment but also determination to do better.
Quite a number of shots performed very well over the first few days of the TR meeting, making selection for the County Short and County Long very difficult indeed. Those who were named as reserves and register keepers were shooting well enough to deserve places in the teams, but there were others on even better team and individual shooting form. Although the wind at 300 yards in the County Short Range looked like it was moving around a lot, conditions were not too difficult at that stage. We dropped 11 points – not disastrous, but we were already 6 points behind Norfolk’s excellent shoot. The wind became markedly trickier at 600 yards and we did not cope as well as we should have. Whether through buffet or the difficulty we experienced in reading the rapidly changing wind, there were several shots that we couldn’t account for. As a result, we dropped 22 points at 600 yards to finish 5th, 13 points behind winners Norfolk and 8 behind Surrey. 2nd place in 2002 and 2003 have been our best recent results in this match, the only one that has eluded us recently. We must remedy that next year. I am convinced that we can protect a lead if we can establish it at 300 yards and think we ought to get everyone together early next season to shoot at 300 yards over and over again until we score 400 out of 400 or something very lose to it! Nick Brasier was our top scorer in the County Short on 99.14.
The County Long Range was a different story. Brian provided this coach with reassurance over the headsets throughout a match in which conditions were not easy, yet they were made to seem so by some truly excellent shooting by all six firers. We dropped 10 points at 900 yards, already 8 better than Surrey and 5 ahead of Norfolk. But the real triumph was at 1000 yards, where our score was as good as anyone else’s had been at 900! Surrey’s wind coach said afterwards that he thought he had pulled out all the stops at 1000, but we had still gained a further point on them, dropping 15. Mike Walton and Alex Woodward jointly top scored on 98.10. It felt terrific to have won such a big match.
It also felt great that we had won our third out of the last four major county long range matches, after the 2004 and 2005 Inter-Counties Long Range victories. Now let’s try and do similar at short range!
Even better, the margin of victory in the County Long Range was sufficient for us to win the County Championship Victor Ludorum, with Surrey and Norfolk only 1 and 2 points behind us. Adam Jory was top scorer overall with 196.17 over short and long ranges. We were also 2nd in the Grist Cup. Someone remarked to me that Surrey must be angry at having been pipped in the aggregate. Far from it – all members of their team were very magnanimous in defeat and it made us feel all the more worthy winners. We have a good and friendly rivalry with them now; long may it be so, because they will help push us to greater heights. I also hope we can be as sporting as they if ever we are disappointed with our results..
We collected the trophies for the County Long and the Victor Ludorum on Final Saturday. They are enormous! Brian & Pat’s photos of us and the trophies are attached. It would be good if all those who took part could be available for one fixture next year – I think the Inter-Counties weekend would be best – so we can get a team photo done with the cups, as well as (of course) so we can put out at least two teams of 1st team standard for the event. Please let me know if you don’t think that will work for you. It would be greatly appreciated if you can make sure that it does – I believe it’s 17th June (all day) and 18th June (am) next year.
Some individual mentions: top Londoner in the Grand was Rupert Elvins in 8th place. Top in the Queen’s was Nick Brasier, also 8th. And Alex Woodward was 14th in the St. George’s. As an aside, Alex also won the Duke of Cambridge (or was it the Hutton?) outright with a superb 50.10 at 900 yards. John Saunders and Hugh Riley were Captain and Adjutant of the winning England Mackinnon team, which deservedly contained Mike Walton. Four Londoners (six if you count those planning to join their county of residence next year!) were in the Welsh team that came second: Alex Woodward, Henry (along with Richard and Edward) Jeens, Gaby O’Leary and Rachel Wenham. Jo Hossack was among the top scorers in both National and Mackinnon for Scotland, with me as her coach, and Rupert Elvins also shot in the National. Adam Jory and John Norman were in the Guernsey and Jersey teams. And Daniel Blake did very well to be named as reserve both for England’s National team and for the Great Britain Under 25 team. Did I also see Will, David and Nick in the England National set-up? Apologies to any that I have omitted – this is all from (my notoriously poor) memory.
A summary of scores in our wins is available on the website. It is notable, and very encouraging, that as many as 20 people’s scores contributed to us winning trophies. It is also very positive that no fewer than 11 people are listed above as having top scored for us in matches this season.
Well done London on an excellent season, though still one one which we can improve!
All the best,