April is the cruellest month, and so at points it seemed: OURC braved hailstorms, frosts, endless rain and bitter winds last week in Bisley for our Easter training camp. Cruel as it might have been, it was certainly worth it for the tremendous scores and new talent seen on the firing point, and for the camaraderie it fostered — if that’s how to describe a collective huddle under umbrellas and around radiators back in the Eight.
The week got off to a promising start on Monday, with beautiful sun making position building in the garden a very pleasant experience — the Secretary was not the only committee member who took the opportunity to have a post lunch siesta on a shooting mat. This was followed by the first lessons, on plotting cards and elevation, as well as how to set up a firing point and the principles of butt marking, before supper cooked by the President began the evening’s festivities. The President himself had had an eventful day, plunging headfirst into a world of bold new fashion choices — perhaps in emulation of one A. Brooker, formerly of this club? — at the hands of the Treasurer that morning: cue eyebrows firmly raised from our coaches. Clearly he felt his dignity just wasn’t being respected enough and some imperial purple was needed…
Tuesday also saw us joined by various alumni and friends, who valiantly braved the weather to join us on the point. Hattie Mansell’s efforts were especially appreciated as she took over the cooking for the rest of the week, serving up a curry to restore some warmth to the battered group, while Tom Hendriks was a stalwart presence as a coach on the firing point and in the evenings.
As Wednesday wore on, it was not just scores that were improving, but methods of coping with the weather, with members hiding in car boots, bashas and under brollies. Gone too were the pavilions — while we did not suffer the fate of one school in seeing our pavilion blown half way across Century, the wind had proved too much for them: one newly purchased one is now just a pile of broken sticks, although BC cunningly extracted a potential scope pole from the wreckage. Tarpaulins were the new black, and gun condoms constant companions. The rainbows continued, with one alighting perfectly on Tom Hendriks’ coaching chair — we all knew his heart was gold — and so too in the evenings did the lessons, with the Secretary taking everyone through debeding and drying their rifles and BC offering some very helpful feedback on the day gone and pointers for the next.
Thursday saw us take to Stickledown and the 900 yard firing point for an experience of long range in the morning, with the key takeaway being don’t panic. Electronic targets, while allowing for much faster shooting and meaning we didn’t have to waste people on butt marking, were not always perfect, with some shots failing to show up: the NRA’s suggestion that one Derek Lowe, multiple times GB wind coach, might simply have missed a 16 minute wind change and gone from coaching Vs to coaching a miss provided much mirth for the club, if not for the frustrated coach and shooters whose shots were not being recorded. The afternoon put us back on Century for the novices’ first go at self-coaching, with coaches standing by to offer feedback and advice when it was needed. While one new member of the club noted that he had never had to think about so many things at once before, the results were highly promising, and helped give everyone a much better understanding of how the wind worked and set them up for the drills on Friday.
These drills took two parts: in the morning, we shot two team matches, with a demonstration in the middle from Derek as coach, Russell and Michael as shooters, George Twinn as plotter, Sam Sutton as Adjutant and BC as commentator of how quickly and efficiently a team shoot can and should run. One minor hiccough provided some puzzlement: Russell and Michael’s unusually low scores were eventually understood when it was spotted the electronic target had been set to an F-class target face. The team who had just shot an entire match using the same target were rather relieved to be able to re-evaluate their scores in the light of this…
With team drills thoroughly practiced and improved in the morning, Friday afternoon saw OURC running its own Imperial-style shoot, with three self-coached shooters to a target taking alternate shots in the manner of individual shoots in the summer. This was a new exercise for an Easter Bisley, and will hopefully prove a very valuable one, in comparison to the past where many OURC members’ first experience of self-coaching at all, let alone register keeping for other shooters etc as well, is in the first match of the Hopton or the Grand Aggregate.
Friday evening saw a fond farewell to TR for the week, as well as to BC and Derek, both of whose help had been tremendous, as Katherine took over the reigns with her glamorous assistant Jauncey for the first lesson on match rifle. Front- and back-gunning positions were both ably demonstrated, and OURC were introduced to scopes and their sights (which work in the reverse direction to TR sights, just to keep everyone on their toes). All this was put to good use on Saturday morning, with an influx of new coaches helping everyone get off to an excellent start. We were very pleased as well to see some new rifles, generously lent or donated by various friends and old members, being put to good use, with a rifle loaned by Si Whitby quickly scoring a possible for a shot new to match rifle. Adverse conditions did not disappear for the weekend — Ashley Abrahams proved keen on constructing wind breaks — and on Sunday rain gave way to a mist only just thin enough for us to see the targets through. Nevertheless, the match rifle experience was thoroughly well-received, with further team drills and matches on Sunday going very well indeed.
Sunday evening, as is traditional, saw OURC head to the LMRA for our end of week dinner — a splendid affair with a carvery, pudding, and much revelry and wine, egged on and encouraged by one Tom Rylands. A return to the Eight for cheese and port further heightened spirits, with some senior members of the club not making it to bed until dawn.
Nevertheless, Monday had to come, and OURC sadly wound down for the week, with a final clean of rifles, equipment and the Eight before heading home – only momentarily daunted by a burst main preventing any water from reaching the clubhouse. A fabulous time had been had by all — or at least no one is brave enough to say otherwise.
Many thanks to all our coaches and alumni who came back, very kindly offering their time to help out, and without whom the week could not run: Ashley Abrahams, Ben Craig, David Dashwood, Roseanne Furniss, Derek Lowe, Nick Tremlett, Jon Cockerill, Matt Cockerill, Tom Hendriks, Ollie Howard-Vyse, Hattie Mansell, Jonny Page, Sam Jauncey, Sam Sutton and last but absolutely not least, Tom Rylands, whose constant and kind support, as armourer, coach and general fixer of problems is invaluable and deeply appreciated. Till next year!