Colchester Rifle Club
hometown of both the Colchester Rifle Club,
.......................................................................................and the Royal British Legion Mersea Island Rifle Club
This page affords basic information on the Colchester Rifle Club, but a link to the official site is provided below
Visit the website of the Colchester Rifle Club
CONTACT EMAIL: COLCHESTER RIFLE CLUB
For more than a hundred years, Colchester Rifle Club has spawned many highly successful members, some of whom have shot, and indeed still do, at National and International level. The Club is nowadays more small-bore orientated, with sections for the National Small-bore Rifle Association (NSRA) affiliated .22 rim-fire rifle target-shooting competitions, Sporting and Gallery Rifle, inclusive of the Air Rifle and Pistol group, with junior members from just 12 years of age, all undertaken at the purpose-built Layer-de-la-Haye premises. However, the club has a good representation in full-bore shooting, and the section make a considerable impression in County competition. Indeed, the Club has prided itself that, in the past, members
of considerable longstanding, and one or two still shooting, have been highly successful at National and International level. Th club boasts past and present members who have been winners of major Imperial Meeting prizes, including the King's Prize and, more recently, the Grand Aggregate there. One member - the late Chalky White, won the King's prize on three occasions.
Even in recent years, the club has hosted members who have achieved notable successes, not least of which is the winning of the Lord Roberts main National event at the Bisley annual small-bore meeting, where the competition is as great as it can be, short of at the Commonwealth and Olympic games or World Championships. The Club has a healthy number of junior members from 14 to 18 years of age shooting small-bore rim-fire rifle. Currently, one young lady member has become Essex Junior Champion, (open to either gender - thus she beat all comers), and is being coached to National level. She will soon be in competition with the senior shooters, already matching and exceeding the scores of some of the best. Several senior CRC members also shoot in the Essex County Small-bore Rifle Association's County Team. One member who started shooting air-rifle as a junior, and who is now in his early twenties, already shoots for England, and is now trying out for qualification in the 3-positional discipline for the Olympics in 2012. There are a number of members who shoot their veteran and classic .22 rifles for pleasure and competition in the HARC Miniature Rifle Leagues and occasionally sojourn to the Bisley Historic Arms meetings. In addition to the many and varied NSRA affiliated league competitons shot, there are a number of Essex based local leagues in which members shoot their modern .22 target rifles at a more relaxed, but still individually competitive, level. The Club has members' full-bore rifle shooting sections affiliated to the National Rifle Association (NRA), with the main .762 calibre Target Rifle group shooting at Bisley and Thetford Ranges in competition. There is a significant representation of CRC members shooting in the Essex County (Full-Bore) Rifle Association's County Team. One member recently represented England in the team shooting in Mexico in 2008 and again in South Africa in 2009. In SA, England took third place only 4 points behind the winners. A close match indeed. More recently (2009), the group shooting historic full-bore rifles has been re-formed, and range bookings are made regularly at Colchester's Middlewick and Fingringhoe M.o.D. Military ranges for the shooting of Lee-Enfield and other classic marques of rifle in both .303-in. and transitional .762 calibres, not to mention a few more exotic old long-arms. Modern .762 Target Rifle practice can also be undertaken on these occasions. Colchester Rifle Club has a long and interesting history, but there is not sufficient space to relate this here and, anyway, that history has been thoroughly recorded in print by a small team of members comprised of the author and his tireless researchers. The first link in the next section below will tell you more. The book is available either via our contact email on this page, or from particular booksellers. Indeed, it can be found at Amazon. We do, however, have a small number of articles that may give you an insight to the club and its activities. Do not miss
this opportunity to read a comprehensive ..........................................
History of the Club Please
read a little of what we believe makes the Colchester Rifle Club special! ............ A Century of Shooting and
of a 2008 visit by members to a famous ammunition manufacturer....................A
trip to Kynoch and of one younger member's success in 2004 ....................................Miller shoots to the Top and of another young member's success in 2008 ....................................Gold in her Sights and
an anecdote of a club outing to Bisley for full-bore practice ....................................."The
of the sad loss in 2002 of an illustrious member
Orpen-Smellie (OBITUARY) Please direct any queries relating
to the Historic Miniature Rifle Leagues to:
HARC-MRL@rifleman.org.uk Enquiries concerning the website &
historic rifle reference pages should be directed to:
Miniature-Calibre-Rifles@rifleman.org.uk The Colchester Rifle Club
has published a comprehensive ..and thoroughly researched history of the club. This beautifully produced hardback book is NOW AVAILABLE FROM STOCK TO SEE MORE OF THE BOOK OF OUR CENTURY, please click
below: FOR FURTHER DETAILS OF THE CLUB - CONTACT EMAIL: COLCHESTER RIFLE CLUB
Even in recent years, the club has hosted members who have achieved notable successes, not least of which is the winning of the Lord Roberts main National event at the Bisley annual small-bore meeting, where the competition is as great as it can be, short of at the Commonwealth and Olympic games or World Championships.
The Club has a healthy number of junior members from 14 to 18 years of age shooting small-bore rim-fire rifle. Currently, one young lady member has become Essex Junior Champion, (open to either gender - thus she beat all comers), and is being coached to National level. She will soon be in competition with the senior shooters, already matching and exceeding the scores of some of the best. Several senior CRC members also shoot in the Essex County Small-bore Rifle Association's County Team.
One member who started shooting air-rifle as a junior, and who is now in his early twenties, already shoots for England, and is now trying out for qualification in the 3-positional discipline for the Olympics in 2012.
There are a number of members who shoot their veteran and classic .22 rifles for pleasure and competition in the HARC Miniature Rifle Leagues and occasionally sojourn to the Bisley Historic Arms meetings.
In addition to the many and varied NSRA affiliated league competitons shot, there are a number of Essex based local leagues in which members shoot their modern .22 target rifles at a more relaxed, but still individually competitive, level.
The Club has members' full-bore rifle shooting sections affiliated to the National Rifle Association (NRA), with the main .762 calibre Target Rifle group shooting at Bisley and Thetford Ranges in competition. There is a significant representation of CRC members shooting in the Essex County (Full-Bore) Rifle Association's County Team.
One member recently represented England in the team shooting in Mexico in 2008 and again in South Africa in 2009. In SA, England took third place only 4 points behind the winners. A close match indeed.
More recently (2009), the group shooting historic full-bore rifles has been re-formed, and range bookings are made regularly at Colchester's Middlewick and Fingringhoe M.o.D. Military ranges for the shooting of Lee-Enfield and other classic marques of rifle in both .303-in. and transitional .762 calibres, not to mention a few more exotic old long-arms. Modern .762 Target Rifle practice can also be undertaken on these occasions.The club has an indoor range for distances up to 25 yards and a comfortable club room at the rear. There is an eight-point outdoor range for 50 yards or metres, and 100 yards, with a further 50 metre 10 point range about to be recommissioned. The site is reasonably well sheltered and outdoor ranges have covered points with a large ante-room for preparation on the main range. The club has only this year (2010) acquired the freehold of its premises and ranges, and there are plans afoot for considerable improvements to the facilities now that the club's tenure has become totally secure. One of the first aims is to increase the membership to enable these plans to be implemented to the greatest advantage.
Colchester Rifle Club has a long and interesting history, but there is not sufficient space to relate this here and, anyway, that history has been thoroughly recorded in print by a small team of members comprised of the author and his tireless researchers. The first link in the next section below will tell you more.
The book is available either via our contact email on this page, or from particular booksellers. Indeed, it can be found at Amazon.CONTACT EMAIL: COLCHESTER RIFLE CLUB
We do, however, have a small number of articles that may give you an insight to the club and its activities.
Do not miss this opportunity to read a comprehensive .......................................... History of the Club
Please read a little of what we believe makes the Colchester Rifle Club special! ............ A Century of Shooting
and of a 2008 visit by members to a famous ammunition manufacturer....................A trip to Kynoch
and of one younger member's success in 2004 ....................................Miller shoots to the Top
and of another young member's success in 2008 ....................................Gold in her Sights
and an anecdote of a club outing to Bisley for full-bore practice ....................................."The Blunderbuss"
.and of the sad loss in 2002 of an illustrious member .........................................Larry Orpen-Smellie (OBITUARY)
Please direct any queries relating to the Historic Miniature Rifle Leagues to: HARC-MRL@rifleman.org.uk
Enquiries concerning the website & historic rifle reference pages should be directed to: Miniature-Calibre-Rifles@rifleman.org.uk
The Colchester Rifle Club has published a comprehensive
..and thoroughly researched history of the club.
This beautifully produced hardback book is
NOW AVAILABLE FROM STOCK
TO SEE MORE OF THE BOOK OF OUR CENTURY, please click below:
FOR FURTHER DETAILS OF THE CLUB - CONTACT EMAIL: COLCHESTER RIFLE CLUB
Please direct any queries relating to the Leagues to: HARC-MRL@rifleman.org.uk
Enquiries concerning the website & historic rifle reference pages should be directed to:
does a rifle club do to celebrate its one hundredth birthday? That was the
question posed in1999 as Colchester Rifle Club approached their Centenary.
The modern club movement can trace its roots back to 1900 since, following
the disastrous first Boer War campaign, questions were raised in the House
of Commons regarding the Army's inability to replace casualties with adequately
trained men. The Hon. T.F Fremantle, later 1st Lord Cottesloe, with Capt.
E.C.H. Grant who was D.A.A.G for musketry at Aldershot and A.P. Humphry
representing the N.R.A., were requested to undertake a fact finding mission
to investigate Switzerland's rifle club movement.
The full report appears in a history of the N.R.A., "The National Rifle Association 1850 - 1909", and makes interesting reading. In 1898 Switzerland had 3,446 rifle clubs, with a membership of 210,491 which expended 16,152,500 rounds of ammunition. 163,409 members fired what was called " a regulation course". The Swiss Government paid the clubs the value of the ammunition. If a member made the regulation score in less than regulation rounds, he could claim the value of the unexpended rounds as an incentive. After the report was published, the N.R.A. Council set about encouraging the formation of local rifle clubs in Britain and, by the end of 1900, ninety-two clubs had affiliated with a membership of over 6,000. Colchester Rifle Club was number 35.
Colchester R.C. records show a series of matches taking place on the newly opened Middlewick Range. These started on the 20 th. September 1900, between the club and the sergeants of the 4th. Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment. It was agreed that a suitable way to commemorate the club's centenary would be to organise a re-match. Club stalwart Anne then set about finding the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (R.W.R), which was not as easy as it may sound.
Over the intervening years the regiment had gone through several re-organisations and amalgamations. These led to the regiment being merged within the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers T.A., based in Birmingham. Contact was made and the challenge accepted. Les King, aided by Terence Smith, undertook the organisation and, with the permission of the Garrison Commander, Middlewick ranges were booked for the weekend of 11th / 12th September. The match was to be teams of twelve shooting at 200 and 500 yards. But the rifles and TARGETS would be of the 1900 period.
For perhaps the last time in a single match, a collection of .303's were gathered together including fifteen Long Lee's, a Martini Enfield, some early SMLE's and two Ross rifles. The assembly included a Tippins Long Lee, kindly loaned by the NRA museum. This rifle had been used by Mr. S.A Pixley in 1909 to make a record score of 105 x 105. Luke Tippins and his son John were both members of C.R.C. They lived at Mistley on the River Stour. Luke was the local schoolmaster, but his interest in rifles and ballistics led him to leave his profession and become a full time gunsmith. Many of his rifles and shotguns are still to be found in this country and others have been found as far away as Australia.
Luke was a man who did not mince his words, as anyone who has read his book "Modern Rifle Shooting" will know. He was a member of all the C.R.C. teams which challenged the R.W.R in the original matches. John Tippins won the Service Rifle Championship in 1911. He was a contemporary both of L.Cpl. H. Ommundsen and of Arthur Fulton. Ommundsen won the King's Prize in 1901 and was five times winner of the Service Rifle Championship between 1905 and 1913. He also won the Bisley Grand Aggregate three times and was runner up twice between 1900 and 1912. Until four years ago, Arthur Fulton was the only man to win the King's / Queen's prize three times, a feat now shared by Alain Marion. In a poll taken around 1912, John Tippins was voted by his peers to be among the 10 best marksmen in the world. Sadly both John and L.Cpl Ommundsen were to be killed in the first year of the Great War. John, aged 27, shot through the heart while fetching water for a machine gun.
THE CENTENARY MATCH
The R.R. of Fusiliers' team were to travel down to Colchester on the Friday
evening. Saturday morning was intended as an introduction with an informal
match using the Fusiliers' SA 80's
on the electronic target system. The afternoon was to be spent shooting
.22" Long Lee and S.M.L.E.
trainers to familiarise their team with rifles which only two or three
of them had previously experienced. Things did not work out according to
plan! One of their vehicles broke down on the A14, and it was 5.30 am before
they arrived at Colchester Garrison. Col. Sgt. Sean McGarr still managed
to appear on the range at 8.30 and explain that his team had not yet enjoyed
2 hours sleep. It was therefore agreed to shorten the day in order that
they could rest a little longer. Saturday turned out to be one of the hottest
September days on record and the C.R.C. members, who had decided to dress
in period costume for the match, were beginning to doubt the wisdom of the
When the Fusiliers arrived, justifiably bleary eyed, they set to zeroing the SA 80's, which had come straight from being serviced. This having been done, lunch was abandoned, and time was found for a 40 round shoot on the electronic target system. We were pleasantly surprised how well these rifles performed. Several tight groups and respectable scores were achieved, including a creditable 37 hits out of 40 for Les , who then announced that in the heat of the "rapid fire" moment he had put one round on Terence's adjacent target and that he'd anyway only been issued with 38 rounds! Some of our guests were beginning to show signs of nervousness.
Late afternoon saw everybody transferred to our Layer Road range for a barbecue and the practice with our .22" training rifles. The Fusiliers then "retired" to experience the bright lights of Colchester, as recently advertised on television, and ready for the following day's match. Sleep never seemed high on their list of priorities!
Sunday morning dawned, a little cooler and with a hint of cloud. Some of our guests had an unfortunate experience with a curry the previous evening and were nursing sore heads amongst other things. Being trained soldiers they persevered.
The Fusiliers mounted the firing point and it was an education to see the expressions on some of their faces as they inspected the rifles with which they were required to compete. Did men really shoot these things in the OLD days? Many of our team had only fired the rifles once themselves, but that was another story. Suffice it to say that what should have been a two-hour trip down to Bisley for a practice two weeks earlier, turned into a five hour nightmare with two changes of coach. The trip included going in the wrong direction along the A12 looking for diesel, before spending time viewing traffic from the hard shoulder of the M25. This whilst awaiting the third coach.
Colchester shot first with the Fusiliers spotting. The course of fire was 3 sighters and 10 rounds to count. Giving a maximum score of 50. It was agreed that no sighters would count until the first bullet hit the target. This turned out to be a wise precaution. The last of the 200 yd. details saw Colchester with a team total of 502 .The highest individual score being 45 from J. B. The Fusiliers' total was 467, their highest scorer being Cpl. Richards with a 47. This was also the highest score at that range, a very good score for anyone with these rifles. Cpl. Richards confessed that he had shot .303" before in the cadets, perhaps a little more recently than most of our own team members' cadet experience.
All then moved back to 500 yards where Les proceeded to put up a 50 x 50. This feat was achieved using a Long Lee with it's original Metford barrel. The best score from the Fusiliers being a 45 again by Cpl. Richards. The totals for the range were 467 for C.R.C. and 309 for the R.R. of Fusiliers. The final scores were 969 for Colchester and 721 for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
One notable member of the Colchester team was Steve , who shot in the 1999 Palma Team and also won the South African State Governor's Prize during the recent England Tour. Another was Andrew, a Life Member of the Club, a double Queen's Prize winner and Commonwealth Games Gold medallist. Andrew was heard to say that he had not needed to hire period dress. What he usually wore was perfectly representative! Both these world class shots assured all present that they were not proficient with the Service Rifle of the 1900's.
followed a picnic lunch and the cutting of a Centenary cake. Informal speeches
were made by the club's President, Hugh; by event organiser Les, and by
Col. Sgt. McGarr for the Fusiliers. The Fusiliers presented the club with
a regimental shield and a fine statuette of their mascot and fusilier handler
(currently one of their team as it happened). The R.R.F. team members then presented each of their Colchester counterparts
with a regimental cap badge surmounted by its red and white hackle.
Colchester returned the gesture with a presentation of the club shield and the promise of specially designed wire badges linking the Colchester and Regimental crests. These had been held up in the post. Newly struck hundredth anniversary medals were presented to the three highest aggregate scorers from each team. The teams parted with a genuine feeling that the event had been well worth all the hard work, and with an expressed wish that another hundred years should not pass before a rematch!
.....................Colchester Rifle Club.....................Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.....................
Gold ~ Les King .....................Gold
~ Cpl. Richards
...........................Silver ~ John Birkin.................Silver ~ W. L/ Cpl. Birch. .....................
...........................Bronze ~ Steve Penrose .............Bronze ~ Col. Sgt. McGarr.....................
NAME..200 yds.500 yds...Total......................NAME...200 yds..500 yds...... Total
Tucker ____41 ____46 ____87 .....................L/Cpl
Rowley _39 ___24 ______63
Cerrino. ___43 ____28 ____71 ....................L/Cpl Johnson _41 ___14 _____55
Penrose ___42 ____45 ____88 .....................Fus. Patton. ____36 ___22 _____58
Ireland ____42 ____33 ____75 .....................Fus. Johnson ___33 ___27 _____60
Birkin _____45 ____46 ____91.....................Fus. LeMaster _32 ___11 _____43
Hunt ______44 ____27 ____71.....................Cpl. Richards __47 ___45 _____92
King ______44 ____50____ 94.....................W/L/Cpl. Birch __42 ___43 _____85
Bolton ____39 ____27 ____66 .....................W/Fus. Stuart ___12 ___13 _____25
Smith _____44 ____44 ____88.....................Cpl. Gauntlet ____12 ___21 _____33
Harvey ____44 ____40 ____84 .....................Cpl. Carruthers __38 ___26 _____64
Russell ____38 ____47 ____85.....................C/Sgt. McGarr __43 ___29 _____72
Little ______35 ____34 ____69.....................Fus. Clarke ____37 ___34 _____71
TOTALS __502 ___467 ___969.....................TOTALS _____412 __309 ____721
It had been a superb weekend, which could not have taken place but for the considerable efforts of Les, Terence, Col.Sgt McGarr and others too many to mention. We would also like to thank the Garrison Commander, their R/Sgt. Major and particularly the Range Staff.
Further thanks must surely go to Essex Police, the N.R.A., and Mike of the Herts. and Essex Shooting Association for helping to make it all possible
Some say that the best things only happen around once in every hundred years. Anyone who knows Les King reasonably well will be more than aware of his great organisational abilities. He is more than capable of arranging an outing that will be long remembered by those taking part. Those memories would become even more poignant when he accepted help and advice from a friend and colleague.
" Let's book transport 'in the
spirit of the original' ", said Terence, " I know of a local firm
still running little charabancs ideal for our small party" he said.
"Yes." said Les, " We'll make this a trip never to be repeated!"
At around 0630 hours on August Bank Holiday Sunday, members started to arrive at Layer, bleary eyed but in good spirits, with the prospect of an unusual day's historic (and isn't that the word) shooting ahead.
Steve Hunt was one of the first to arrive for the 7.00 am planned departure. But then he had only come home at three o'clock that morning from a party. Not a moment of the weekend was to be wasted...... or so he thought! Mark Brewster, on the other hand, who had been at a stag party also until the early hours, was not going to waste any opportunity to catch up on his sleep. A coach ride was just what the doctor ordered.
The Harvey family arrived with their youngest who was about to experience his first ever ride on an autobus, well three autobuses to be precise. This must surely be a new Colchester record. We had thought that the purpose of the outing was to select a team for the Centenary Match, not a suitable coach. As the party assembled, our lovely cream coach arrived. "Dodge" it proudly proclaimed on its bonnet. Never was a truer word put into chrome print.
Our transport had been especially booked by Les, who had been most specific about our requirements. A thirty-odd seater to accommodate only seventeen people in great comfort, along with a large boot to ship about fifty rifles in large cases, ammunition and all the accoutrements of a sophisticated shooting team. This was also done in the knowledge that the return journey would be made with even more equipment. The N.R.A. had kindly agreed to a loan of scoreboards and easels for the Centenary Match at Middlewick. These would take up at least the rear set of spare seats.
"What's this", said Les." It's only got twenty seats!". Then he walked around the back, "and no boot! Where's all this kit going to go?".... pointing to about a ton and a half of ironwork and cases spread around the drive and car park. The driver looked non-plussed. But not half as much as Les!
The story unfolded. The superb vehicle in which we were supposed to have been conveyed had broken down the night before.(Alarm bells started ringing - but only faintly. They were to become louder!) This was the alternative that his boss had instructed him to use. There was an intermediate sized bus, but the large one having broken down, the boss had left for Gatport Airwick in that at about the time Steve Hunt had arrived home that morning!
assembly and luggage would patently not fit on the present vehicle. The
driver would go back to his base and get a twenty-nine seater that was there
and return to pick us up. Shooting started at eight-thirty, but we should
still be there soon after nine. Then it was suggested that a little time
could be saved if we could manage to get everything and everyone aboard
for the short trip to their Colchester base....... (wrong). 'Your base is
actually at Great Tey?. Oh well, never mind, that's still not too far".........
(wrong again). It took twenty minutes to load the kit aboard, let alone
the crew. Steve Hunt stood in the aisle at the rear, holding back the one-and-a-half
tons of equipment in case we had to make an emergency stop. He was heading
for a pressing appointment.
Each approaching bend further illustrated the point that a great weight in the rear of a small coach seriously affected the handling. As the suspension bottomed over each bump, those fortunate enough to be seated were grateful that there was enough leg room to allow them to prop their frame into position against the strange motion.
As we swung into the farmyard in Great Tey, the glorious sun accentuated the rich brown rust spots on the line of what we knew must be retired coaches parked alongside the barn. Relief showed on each person's face as they spotted the larger and marginally more modern coach last in the line. "No; that's the one that broke down yesterday" said the driver." We're using the one parked this end." To all concerned this one seemed no larger than the one from which we were now in the process of prising ourselves. "That's true", said our driver struggling to further endear himself to us, " but it has more seats on it!". "It still doesn't have a boot" exclaimed Les, only showing a relatively small degree of exasperation. The tightness of his..... lips was the only give-away of the mounting pressure. That and the comment to Terence along the lines of "even Gill told you that their coaches were quite old, and Graham, if I remember correctly, said that their vehicles looked a little tired. Don't you remember?"
Terence was trying hard to forget but, as the day unfolded, this he was not to be allowed to do. " Spirit of the original" he reminded Les.
Twenty minutes later, at around eight o'clock, we had reluctantly embarked on our second bus. It looked outwardly identical to the Dodge, but nobody walked round the front to spot that it was actually a similar body on a chassis powered by Volkswagen. More than a few of the team were showing signs of impending stress. Had they known that we were aboard a vehicle whose smaller sibling had shown a propensity to burst into flames on motorways, the angst might have been greater! The seating arrangement was akin to that found on a military transport aircraft on a parachuting mission - tight as Les's ...lips; and I don't know if anyone else noticed the sign on our twenty-nine seater that announced "TWENTY FIVE SEATS" in bold letters beside the driver. Perhaps he'd never seen it either. The seat backs were upright, legroom non-existent, and the load-master had excelled himself. Our far aft C of G allowed the pilot to pull back on the stick and give us a good impression of being launched into space! Not dissimilar to the set off of a dragster either. However, the impression lacked the aspects of acceleration and speed, but at least we were finally on our way. Or were we?
Driver: " I need to refuel, there isn't much in the tank."
Les: "O.K. where will you stop en route?"
Driver: "Marks Tey"
Les: " Isn't that in the wrong direction?"
Driver: " Yes, but that's where we buy our fuel"
Les: said nothing, thought much!
minutes later we pulled up on the forecourt and our driver disappeared for
five minutes. Already the seating was taking its toll. It was really uncomfortable,
but that sat well with our demeanour as the driver climbed back in his seat
and set off without putting any fuel into the tank!
"Problem with paying, we'll have to go to Kelvedon" At least that seemed in the right direction!...........(wrong yet again).
Up the Kelvedon slip road we went.......... and back down the Colchester bound one! This was familiar territory. Les was toying with the idea of going to see if Gill might like to come to Bisley after all! Then another forecourt - another hour. Fuelled up at last, we set off.................. for Easthorpe! It was now obvious how much longer a journey can take if much of it is made in the wrong direction. One high speed "U-turn" on the dual (spelt DUEL) carriageway later, we were convinced that things were at last moving our way..... along with the large truck that had been bearing down on us! A friendly return wave of thanks from our driver, and we settled into the familiar drone of high speed modern coach travel, plus the vibration and the oil fumes. My feet were getting a massage from the floor - a great sensation for a little while. Then I noticed how hilly Essex had become since the last time I drove the A12.
A typical sunny summer's early morning brought the customary cycle race to our trunk road, though heaven knows why. Our sluggish pace was further reduced by our inability to maintain a reasonable speed in the outer lane between successive cyclists. We were continually brought down to their speed up the hills whilst the rest of the automotive world hurled past outside. We were only able to overtake one by the good grace of the occasional motorist or trucker who slowed to allow us to move out to overtake. Some might think I am joking. But don't forget that the turn of speed of a road racing cyclist downhill is altogether a different kettle of fish. You could tell that Les's habit of organising competitions of all kinds might be getting the better of him. A competition to count the number of overtaking cyclists whilst we were on the dual-carriageway was not the most encouraging of his ideas.
The conversation turned from the concerns of each successive moment to the relative merits of routing to Bisley on the M25 either North or South about. All present this day have now seen the answer proved beyond a shadow of a doubt! The long climb out of the Dartford Tunnel at less than the minimum motorway speed illustrated the point. In fact much of Kent did the same. The southern route was considerably extended by the driver's inability to coax the coach away from the tunnel toll booths in the right direction. It was continuing with its attempts to get as far East into Essex as it could within the day. Had it succeeded in going backwards over the bridge we would have surely found ourselves in the Guinness Book of Records, which is where we thought we were heading anyway.
one professional and several amateur mechanics aboard, there were many pairs
of finely attuned and well qualified eyes and ears monitoring both our progress
and the vehicle's technical wellbeing. With a good few miles under our belt,
and more time than you could ever imagine in which to assess the situation,
the level of fumes, noise, driver ability, and a hundred other aspects were
faithfully mentally recorded. Any hint of change would be immediately registered.
Somewhere approaching the A3, having just peaked a long incline, the ensuing
gear change heralded a severe power loss. Thirty-six ears pricked up. Thirty-six
feet started mentally pedalling. (The figures credit the driver with the
same thinking as his passengers..... a questionable supposition). Before
we could apply sufficient effort to the plan there was an enormous report
(a bit like this one), and unidentified components flew out of the side
of the vehicle amongst the unsuspecting traffic.
The motor seemed unwilling to quit without at least trying to get us clear of the motorway, but it was confounded by a more easily disillusioned driver. Not that his disillusionment had anything to do with the barracking that he had earlier received from behind..... somewhere near where Ann Jelbert was sitting.
Entreaties to the driver for the conversion, of all twenty-two miles an hour remaining, into coasting towards the approaching slip road fell on deaf ears. Not surprising if he had been driving that coach for a few years! He pulled onto the hard shoulder without spotting that it petered-out in about a hundred and fifty yards...... along with the engine. The saving grace was the fact that we rolled to a halt alongside the only door in the huge wooden noise barrier stretching miles along that part of the motorway. The gap between this and the Armco was only about two or three feet. Hardly a suitable place for any of us, let alone a young Harvey in his pushchair. Both the traffic level and the sun were rising to a high level. The door opened onto a wooded valley as if we had enjoyed some fairy-tale escape from a nightmare. Steps went down to a dry river bed (drain), and a path led to a minor road passing under the motorway. Peace at last. Only the possibility of a passing policeman losing his sense of humour when finding an armoury in the back of a broken down bus caused any further anxiety. That and the fact that half the day had gone by, and we seemed less likely than ever to attain our goal! At this point Les had an idea for another competition, more to relieve stress than for any constructive purpose. The driver had walked back to see if he could find the article which had decided that it too no longer wished to travel on the bus. There appeared to be enough debris spread about to build another entire coach, but even Hugh Bolton shied away from this plan. However Les thought that we could put all the parts in a pile and see who could detect our missing parts first! The idea fell on ground almost as stony as the hard shoulder.
It had already been established (when leaving Layer) that the driver's mobile 'phone alternately either had no dial out facility or a flat battery, or perhaps the shoestring had broken. Anyway, Mike Cerrino's mobile became our only contact with civilization. Our call to the driver's boss woke him from his slumber in the Gatport Airwick coach park - or that was his story - where he was trying to cut down on the tacho time he'd amassed from the previous day's misfortunes. He agreed to drive up the M23 to rescue us, and arrived only shortly after Steve Penrose completed an impressive marathon to a reportedly nearby shop to buy a newspaper. Everybody then expressed surprise that our own misfortunes had not already been put into print in the Daily Mail. Surely the whole affair would have been a major scoop!
The new (and I use the word advisedly)
coach was another dog. But a significant improvement for all that. The seats
were at least as well space as the first ones of the day, and it had a boot.
The third transfer of all the equipment took place. The human chain would
have done credit to any fire-crew restricted to buckets! Our own marginally
less despondent driver took over, and we left his boss at the side of the
motorway with coach number two which was now lying on the hard shoulder
in submission with its wheels in the air. The poor chap had only just arrived
in what outwardly appeared a perfectly serviceable coach ( a point yet to
be proven) and was now languishing with a wreck.
Justice at last!
were only a few short miles to the A3 junction, but it soon became apparent
that coach number three also needed an injection of funds. Especially in
the engine department. Exhaust and oil fumes were penetrating the rear emergency
exit door seals and the engine compartment panels respectively. But it didn't
vibrate quite so much, and the seats offered much improved legroom. We were
also not threatened by a cascade of heavy items from behind in the event
of a sudden stop. Smiles returned to the faces of a group who had thought
they might never see home again - not to mention Bisley. The less trusting
amongst us were still listening carefully to the running noises, with justification,
but we hoped the worst was over. Until the prospect of the return journey
came to mind!
We arrived at Bisley with only one hour before the new lunch hour started at twelve thirty. Barely enough time for the 200 yard details. The good news was that the sun was shining and we were about to commence what we had come through hell and high water to do. The bad news was that the coach wasn't staying. It still had a party to collect from Gatwick. Would we ever see it again? Did we even want to?
Somehow, with everyone's co-operation, all the equipment was unloaded with another human chain and since it couldn't be left there, it all had to be ferried to the points with us. The prospect of having a coach which would follow us around Bisley to provide a base for our kit, and somewhere to sit in comfort between times, faded with the smoke haze as it pulled out of sight round the London and Middlesex...............
By five o'clock, we had managed to get through our day's planned Centenary shooting practice and enjoy shooting a few other rifles as well. Steve Penrose kindly put his Gemini stocked, Walther barrelled .762" at the disposal of one and all, (perhaps he already has a new barrel on order), and others were able to shoot extra-curricular rifles they had brought with them. It had earlier looked as if this might be impossible.
We had not quite finished tidying up, when that familiar cream paintwork appeared through the blue haze, heralded by the rhythmic "pfft.. pfft.." of an exhaust manifold leak. Our man was back. He had been to Gatwick, collected the other party, returned them to Colchester, waving to his boss as he went past, and then made the journey back to Bisley. Impressive - both he and the coach. Perhaps there was hope for us yet!
We loaded up, including all the N.R.A. boards and easels. The driver agreed that his tacho hours indicated a short break was necessary, and we all filed into the L & M to build up the Dutch courage needed for the return trip. We even bought him a couple of soft drinks. We must have been softening ourselves. Shortly after six o'clock the coach was boarded with some trepidation.
Bisley in the glorious evening sunshine was a treat, added to by the tour
of the caravan site to empty Les and Gill's caravan of his large purchase.
This proved to be the entire contents of the N.S.R.A. armoury, which Les
had taken time out to procure, much to the amusement and amazement of all.
This really did take up all the back seats!
The homeward journey passed almost uneventfully by comparison. The noise and fumes seemed less obvious, an indication that we should all have visited "the Donkey" before we left in the morning. Perhaps we can make such an arrangement with Alan for the next occasion. Our slow progress was slightly less painful, but showed up when the hour, which I had 'phoned home as an ETA, passed whilst we were still passing Brentwood. No matter, a little optimism never did anybody any harm, and at least we were still on the move, ..... or were we? I awoke suddenly from my gentle doze as we slowed unexpectedly........ "Only a fuel stop? at Easthorpe again? Phew!"
Through Stanway to drop Lisa and her son off near home, (Colin would come back to collect the car from Layer and save her the last few miles of torture), and we were cruising the streets of Colchester towards Layer. At least nothing could go wrong
this close to home. Then there was a tremendous thump. "What the heck was that?"....
Nothing could be seen in the dark, but at least we were still on the move. And in the right direction. We chose to take no notice.
Kingsford Park slid by in the darkness and the brakes squealed as they took the speed off for the bend round the bridge - memories of a Dutchman lying at the side of the road beside his powerful red motorcycle flashed through my mind, and my nostrils flared with that characteristic imaginary smell that comes with such memories. The bodily aroma of one, clad in leathers on a hot day, having just escaped death by the narrowest of margins.
One final burst of power up the hill, and the gateway appeared in the dim beam of the headlights. Several rushed to be ready to open the gate as quickly as possible. Another minute in this box was not to be contemplated. "Driver, where's the door handle?" .... " On the left of the door" .... "Oh no it isn't!" The memory of that awful thump came to mind. The bloody door handle had fallen off!....................
A frantic search in the dark seemed to take forever. Those in the back were clenching their teeth and fists at the same time. At last someone got a grip... a few fumbling moments and the fresh air cascaded into our airless spaceship. Or was that a spaceless airship. My mind was in turmoil. The surge for the door was expected; to be back on home soil was as if being transported to heaven. Who cared about the cars stopped in the road impatiently waiting whilst this coach blocked their way.
The gate was open and the slightly larger coach number three was tearing the branches away either side. Would the windows survive the beating; who cared, we were nearly there! One last squeal of the brakes and I was pushing at the back of the queue. Thank God it was all over.
The coach miraculously made it from one end of the drive to the other without breaking down. We all had visions of being in Layer and not being able to get the cars out of the car park. Why had we become such doubting Thomases? There was really no reason, was there?
My last thought as I watched the driver struggling to open the boot containing all our hardware was that the handle couldn't really come off in his hands, could it?
First published on Friday 31 May 2002:
Brought to you by the Essex Chronicle
Crack rifle shot Lieutenant Colonel 'Larry' Orpen-Smellie, who saw service with the Essex and Parachute regiments, has died aged 72 after a courageous battle against cancer.
He is survived by his widow, Jean, son Giles, Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of the Parachute regiment, and daughter Jane.
Larry, as he was known since childhood, looked every inch a soldier: ramrod straight back, bristling moustache, twinkling eye and a purposeful stride, often breaking into a double.
He was one of this country's leading rifle shots, both as a soldier and as a member of the National Rifle Association.
His final few years in the service were spent commanding a wing at the Military Corrective Training Centre at Colchester, which suddenly had a run of successes in the Army's minor units shooting competitions.
He accepted a retired officer's appointment as regimental secretary of the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment at the Essex regiment's former depot at Warley and then retired officer for lands and training in headquarters eastern district, Colchester,
He was latterly president of the south east Essex branch of the Parachute Regimental Association, and president of the Colchester branches of the Royal British Legion, the Korean Veterans Association and the Malayan and Borneo Veterans Association.
Larry, awarded the OBE in 1980, for his services to military shooting, celebrated his 70th birthday in New Zealand with a bungee jump.
It was later reported that a voice had been heard from somewhere behind him in the queue saying: ''The old boy won't go.''
He did, with the characteristic dive that he had always used when jumping from the balloon during his military parachuting days.
After his father, Major Archie Smellie of the Dorset regiment, was killed at Dunkirk in 1940, his mother, Beth, a lifelong volunteer of the St John Ambulance brigade, they both went to live with her parents in their house at Colchester, which has remained the family home.
Educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Essex regiment in 1949 and posted to the 1st Battalion in Colchester as a rifle platoon commander.
He attracted a degree of notoriety for his pranks, which included the lowering of a thunderflash down the chimney of the Officers' Club during a ladies bridge evening, which Larry judged needed livening up!
The 1st Battalion was sent to Korea soon after he joined them, arriving shortly after the ceasefire was announced.
Larry demonstrated the beginnings of a lifelong interest in marksmanship as a boy by taking the heads off all the tulips in the garden with an air rifle.
He took up the sport more seriously while at school and achieved international standard, first selected for army teams while still an officer cadet.
By his early 20s he was shooting service weapons and target rifle regularly for the army, England and Great Britain.
He returned to the 1st Battalion the Essex regiment in Hong Kong in 1954 before applying successfully for a secondment to the Parachute regiment and posted as Adjutant to the 1st Battalion.
During this tour the Essex regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Anglian regiment and he accepted an offer to transfer into the Parachute regiment's newly formed Permanent Cadre of Officers in 1958, remaining for the remainder of his service.
He went to the Pakistan Army staff college in the north west Frontier Province for 1960-61 and then onto Malaya as chief instructor at the Malay infantry instructor's school.
Larry returned home to regimental duty in 1965 to command a company in the 3rd Battalion the Parachute regiment and deployed with them to British Guyana.
He later became second-in-command of the battalion during a busy tour that included operations in Ghana, Cyprus and Northern Ireland.
In 1957 he became one of only three ever to have been selected to shoot for the army in all five disciplines of the inter-services matches in a single year.
He also shot target rifle with increasing success and, among many other achievements, and travelled on 20 Great Britain overseas teams between 1952 and 1996.
The funeral service took place at the Garrison Church, Colchester, on Tuesday, May 28.
Published Friday, May 31, 2002
England until opening a gold bullion brokership in 1825. He also became a Justice of the Peace. In 1862,
at the age of 37, he won the Queen's Prize at Wimbledon in only the competition's third year. It seems
unlikely that Stewart Pixley (Snr.) would have still been capable of making a record score with a Lee-
Enfield in 1909, when he would have been nearly ninety years of age. High achievement at rifle shooting
was evidently in the blood. .......................................Stewart Pixley is shown, right, in 1890
Extract from the archive of the Billericay Weekly News first published Friday 28th May 2004.
"Abberton teenager Alexander Miller shot to success to become the under-16s British Short-Range Rifle Shooting champion.
Sharp-shooter Miller, a member of Colchester Rifle Club, was taken aback at his national success but is delighted to be a champ.
He said: "I didn't expect it at all. I am not too bad a shot but obviously I did quite well in that competition to become champion."
The 16-year-old Colchester High School pupil fired ten shots over 25 yards at each of three cards, at the Colchester Rifle Club in Layer-de-la-Haye.
The cards were then sent off to be scored.
Miller, who was aged 15 when he fired the winning shots, has been shooting for three years and had previously competed in club competitions - but this is his first national honour. "
Published Friday May 28, 2004
From the archive
© Newsquest Media Group 2004
From the archive, first published in the Echo News Thursday 14th Feb 2008.
TEENAGER Annabelle Fearn is a Colchester shooting ace with gold in her sights.
A Colchester Rifle Club member, the 16-year-old .22 rifle shooting champion, has a burning ambition to represent England and Great Britain in a future quest for gold medals at Olympic and Commonwealth Games, plus the World Championships.
And the Colchester Institute student (studying sport and fitness) is definitely heading in the right direction if all the early signs are anything to go by.
The current Essex Junior Champion (boys and girls) and county D Class Champion, Fearn also won Colchester Rifle Club's C class gold medal, aggregate gold medal and 50-metre pairs gold medal with Adam French during the last year.
Just for good measure, she also shot in the National Championships at Bisley in the past two years and the English Small Bore Union title events. She told the Gazette: "My immediate aim is to compete more on a national scale and I'm working very hard towards this.
"I would love to go on and represent England and Great Britain sometime in the future in the really big events like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games and the World Championships.
"My proudest moment so far this year was purchasing my own rifle and being presented with a silver spoon for a first maximum score of 100."
New rifles don't come very cheaply either.
Fearn said: "I saved up my whole year's wages as a housekeeper at Milsom's Hotel in Dedham and splashed out £1,500 on a new lightweight rifle because the one I was borrowing from the club was too heavy.
"I practice twice a week, on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings, to fit in with my college work and it costs me between £10 to £15 every week for ammunition.
"Shooting definitely doesn't come cheaply and I am also saving up now for another £200 to buy a new pair of (rifle) sights to save me wearing out the ones I've already got by moving them too much."
Fearn only took up the sport of shooting two years ago at the age of 14, following a trip to the Tendring Hundred Show where she recorded a maximum score.
She promptly joined the Colchester Rifle Club and has improved in leaps and bounds from then on, moving from the lowest Class E to Class B as one of the finest shooters in the club.
Already competing with the Essex Juniors and Essex Ladies, she currently has another promotion in her sights.
From the archive
© Newsquest Media Group 2008
This article is taken from a Journal which we will acknowledge when its identity is confirmed
AIMING FOR THE TOP
Robert Long tells the story of Great Wigborough's sharpest shooter
John “Chalky” White, of Great Wigborough near Colchester, was 90 years of age when he died in October 1992. A soldier for most
of his life, he he has left behind a vast collection of medals and trophies for competition target shooting that covers over 60 years of the sport.
He was still shooting and winning at the age of 76 and playing an active part at that Mecca of all riflemen, Bisley, into his 80s. As a winner of the King's Medal at Bisley on three occasions, and the only soldier to do so, he deserves at least some immortality for this remarkable feat.
John White was born in Lambeth, London in 1902 and was brought up in an orphanage. He entered the Army at the tender age of 17 where he joined the Rifle Brigade, the famous Green Jackets, where his skill with the Lee- Enfield rifle was soon to be recognised. He rose to the rank of sergeant and in 1932 he won the British Army Rifle Championship in India.
Then in 1937 he reached that pinnacle of marksmanship sought after by all the competitive riflemen in the world, he won the King's Medal at Bisley for the first time! After being chaired by his fellow competitors, as is the tradition, he received a telegram of congratulations from the King.
This was to be only the beginning of a remarkable career, for he was destined to win the King's Medal at Bisley again in 1949 and 1953. But for the intervening war years, he may well have had the chance to create a record that could never have been surpassed.
At the start of World War II he was, not surprisingly, made a weapons instructor. His remarkable eyesight and skill were considered very valuable indeed, and therefore needed to teach others, which with all things considered was probably very lucky for some of the enemy infantry at the time. To have had Chalky White looking at you down the sights of his rifle would have been a rather daunting experience, if not a short lived one.
An all round sportsman during his time in the Army he also excelled at football and running even winning the
Daily Mail cross country championship in the 1920s.
Chalky White had loved music all his life and, being an accomplished musician. played the banjo in a jazz hand. This musical ability was never to desert him, even in his older years, for he was to play the instrument on Colchester Hospital radio when in his 70s. He even toured the local parishes in Essex entertaining with his banjo playing and singing at the village halls. He is still remembered in many Essex villages today.
After the war, he came to live with his wife Elsie and their young children John, Fred and Eileen in the quiet and tranquil countryside of Great Wigborough near Colchester. In 1947 he joined the Territorial Army where he was to serve for 14 years until 1961 when he was 59.
Chalky White never stopped competition target shooting and was still competing with Colchester Rifle Club at the remarkable age of 76. Indeed, that was his age when he won the club's Admiral Hutton Cup with a score of 49 out of 50 at 600 yards!
Among the hundreds of medals and trophies he had won over the years are the London and Middlesex Rifle Championship, the Aldershot Command
Championship four times, the East Anglian Championship three times and the Essex Championship six times.
In 1928 at Bisley he scored the highest possible 105. without sighters, for which he won a handsome bronze trophy. Having first shot at Bisley in 1924 he attended every year (apart from the war years) until into his 80s.
In his later years, with that wonderful eyesight sadly now fading, he turned to Bowls and played regularly with his eldest son John winning a few more trophies for his cabinet.
The fine health Chalky White had enjoyed throughout his life, for he had always been unmistakably a soldier with his upright stance, began to deteriorate. Finally at the grand old age of 90 he died at Welshwood Nursing Home, Colchester, where they still miss his singing.
John Chalky White left his entire collection of medals and trophies to the Army Museum (The Green Jackets) at Winchester. A more fitting home it would behard to imagine. His ashes, as you would expect, are to be scattered at Bisley.
They say that old soldiers never die -and some, it would appear, never ever fade away. Certainly not Grea Wigborough's famous sharpshooter.
Please direct any queries relating to the Leagues to: HARC-MRL@rifleman.org.uk
Enquiries concerning the website & historic rifle reference pages should be directed to: