Maritime Reserves Field Gunners win Soapy Watson Trophy

Each year the Maritime Reserves enter a team into the annual Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity Brickwoods Field Gun Competition. The Field Gun competition, which dates back to 1907, has its roots in the Boer war, when naval guns were mounted onto carriages and transported cross country for more than 100 miles to relieve the siege of Ladysmith.

This year, 23 teams, which are known as crews due to their naval origins, entered the competition from across the military, including places as far as Naples, Gibraltar and Cyprus.

The Maritime Reserves Crew is made up of personnel from across the country who come together to compete in this annual event, including Maritime Reserves Crew Captain, CPO Ralf Swindell of HMS King Alfred, who, at 59, was the oldest person running in the competition this year. He said: “I have been on the crew since it was founded 10 years ago and seen it become more experienced on track each season. It’s been great to be part of this journey, and if I can come back again next year and run at 60, I will!”

Crew members need to be physically fit to take part in ‘the gun run’ as it requires grit, determination and a level of team work which exceed those in any other sport. For the Maritime Reserves, this means a series of training weekends followed by an intense two-week training period at HMS Collingwood prior to the competition.

Maritime Reserves Field Gunners

AB2 Chris McMillan, an Electrical Contracts Manager and a member of the Mine Warfare Branch, signed up to the Maritime Reserves Crew after hearing about Field Gun for the first time at his local unit, HMS Dalriada. When asked about his experience on the crew, he said “The commitment and courage people show in front of the gun and limber is amazing. It’s terrifying at times but the feeling you get from it is absolutely fantastic!”

Field Gun Officer, Lt Cdr Nick Carter, a member of the Media Operations branch and an experienced Field Gunner, said: “Field Gun is a very unique sport, it really brings out the best in people and relies heavily on team cohesion. Unlike in football or rugby, where an outstanding player can carry a team, everyone on the crew plays a critical role, and if anyone gets their drill wrong, your loose the momentum and everything grinds to a halt.”

SLt Joe Jamie, who has taken a break from his work as a tree-surgeon to run on the crew, went on to add: “it’s a brilliant experience! Hard work, a great team and incredible camaraderie. I would recommend it to anyone!”

Maritime Reserves Field Gunners

AB Glen Sweeny from HMS Calliope, who works usually works in the Emergency department of Darlington Memorial Hospital, took part in Field Gun for the first time this year. He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic! Full of speed, aggression and danger. It fits me perfectly! I love it!”

Following two weeks of intense training and a series of heats, the Maritime Reserves Crew qualified for the 3rd plate final, running against crews from HMS Raleigh, Gibraltar, Naples and ARRC. In what was one of their best runs of the season, the crew crossed the line a fraction of a second ahead of HMS Raleigh, and went on to win the Soapy Watson trophy for the first time.

No 1 trainer, CPO ‘Ziggy’ Huntington said: “I am extremely proud of what the crew have achieved over the past two weeks. We have had our share of ups and downs this season, but they remained committed and focussed throughout, and worked very hard. I couldn’t’ have asked for more than 8 clean runs and a win in the final!”

Maritime Reserves Field Gunners

Winning the Soapy Watson trophy was especially significant for crew member AB Rory Penfold, who ran as a wheel number on the Maritime Reserves crew this year. Indeed, the third plate trophy was named after close family friend, Soapy Watson, who sadly passed away last year after many years of dedication to field gun.

Lifting the trophy on the podium was an especially proud moment for Rory who said: “I felt honoured receiving this trophy, not just because of the great team achievement, but also because of the man it was dedicated to. As my Dad’s best friend, Soapy was a big part of my life growing up, and inspired me to run Field Gun”.

For more information about the Maritime Reserves Field Gun crew, or to sign up to the distribution list for next year, contact Lt Cdr Nick Carter or find us on Facebook @MaritimeReservesFieldGun

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