The field gun competition also referred to as Gun Run or the Gun Run was held annually at the Royal Tournament in London from 1907 to 1999, and was contested by teams from the Royal Navy. After the demise of the Royal Tournament, the Brickwoods field gun competition was revived as a naval contest.
The 2010 competition will be held at HMS Collingwood Open Day on the 5th of June.
Currently only Wellington College and Portsmouth Action Field Gun Crews run the 'command' style of Field Gun Run.
The origins of the field gun competition lie in the Second Boer War in South Africa. The legendary story tells of the siege of the British garrison in the township of Ladysmith in 1899. In support of the British Army, the Royal Navy landed guns from HMS Terrible and Powerful to help in the relief of the siege. The Naval Brigade transported guns over difficult terrain and brought them into action against the Boers.
The Royal Navy landed two 4.7 inch guns and four 12-pounder field guns. The guns were transported inland by rail and then drawn on makeshift carriages by oxen. For the final part of the journey, sailors from the Naval Brigade manhandled the guns over very difficult terrain. One story tells of sailors carrying one of the 12 pounder guns for 2 miles after one of the wheels collapsed.
The siege of Ladysmith lasted for 120 days until February 1900. On their return home, the sailors from the Naval Brigade paraded their guns through London and appeared at the Royal Naval and Military Tournament at the Agricultural Hall, Islington. Displays of Field Gun drill continued in subsequent years.
A precursor to the competition lay in the presentation of Field Gun 'Evolutions' including one performed by Miss Weston’s Naval Boy’s Brigade from Portsmouth at the Royal Albert Hall on 21 October 1905 as part of the Centenary Commemoration of the Battle of Trafalgar. A film clip of this evolution survives from the period  (requires Real Player) which was filmed by Alfred J West for his popular 'Our Navy'  film presentations in the early 1900s.
The Interport Field Gun competition was established in 1907 and was a highlight of the Royal Tournament until the Last Run in 1999.
Information on the period 1908 to 1922 is scanty but it seems that apart from the periods of war the Brickwood Trophy was competed for each year. There have been many changes to the competition. The 1907 challenge involved a team of 17 scaling a five foot high obstacle on a 75 yard long course and returning. In 1947 the course consisted of seven "very stiff obstacles" over a distance of 440 yards each way. Today 21 strong teams compete over an 85 yard long flat track, a total run of 170 yards.
The original stipulation by Brickwood that the trophy was only open to teams from within Portsmouth continued until 1975 when the competition was widened to include bases from around the country. In 1978 with HMS Fisgard's win the trophy left Portsmouth Command and HMS Gannet's win in 1997 took it north of the border for the first time. The names of the winners of the trophy are engraved on small shields up to and including 1961 and plates for winners since 1962. Since the last war the original black ebony stand has been replaced by the present brown polished wood base. All the badges were transferred, but not, however, put back in the same positions.
Before the First World War the competition was moved from the RN Barracks to Whale Island where it continued until 1973, the following year it transferred to HMS Collingwood, it’s famously large parade ground reputed to have once held as many as 8,000 ratings is the perfect setting for the event.
HMS Collingwood itself has had a good record in the competition, having won the Brickwood Trophy 16 times between 1957 and 2006. Records for completing the course have continued to be broken. The Royal Marines set a new record in 1924 of 1 min 24.4 secs. This was exceeded in seven subsequent years and eventually in 1938 HMS Excellent achieved 1 min 13.4 secs. After the war with a different course and drill Victoria Barracks achieved I min 27.4 secs in 1954. HMS Collingwood cut that to 1 min 26.8 secs in 1962.
The record was lowered to 1 minute 19.4 secs by HMS Daedalus in 1988. HMS Collingwood beat this by running a time of 1 minute 18.8 secs in 2001.
Brickwood maintained a close interest in the competition over the years. In 1969 Sir Rupert Brickwood Bart presented the trophy and tankards and a firkin of Brickwood's beer to the winning team. In 1971 Brickwood's business was acquired by London-based brewers Whitbread & Co Ltd:
After a century this spectacle of toughness, courage, discipline and teamwork is still going strong
The field gun competition was contested by teams from the Royal Naval commands of Portsmouth, Devonport and the Fleet Air Arm (although teams from Chatham and the Royal Marines have also competed). At each performance of the Royal Tournament, two crews competed to transport a 12 pounder field gun and limber over a series of obstacles.
From the start line in front of the Royal Box, the crews pulled the guns and limbers to the end of the arena where they turned and carried themselves and the equipment over a 5 foot wall. The guns and limbers were then dismantled and carried to the top of a ramp on the "home side" of a 28 ft "chasm". The crew set up a wire and traveller so all 18 members of the crew and their equipment could cross the chasm. The team and equipment then passed through a hole in the "enemy wall" at the end of the arena. Each crew then fires three rounds to end the "Run Out". The average time for the "Run Out" was 85 seconds.
The second part of the competition (the "Run Back") involved the crews taking all their equipment back over the 5 ft enemy wall and then back across the chasm. Once all the crew and equipment were back on the home side of the chasm, the wire and traveller were dismantled and three more rounds were fired in a rear guard action. The average time for the "Run Back" was 60 seconds.
In the final stage, the "Run Home", men, guns and limbers passed back through the hole in the home wall and then the teams "hook up and pull for home". The clock was stopped as the teams crossed back over the start line. The average time for the "Run Home" was 21 seconds. To the reader - this is Command Field Gun, not Brickwoods Field Gun.
Brickwood Field Gun.
The competition simulates the drill which would have been undertaken to bring a naval field gun into action during the march to Ladysmith.
1st Advance, 1st Wheel Change The limber is lifted, its wheels and drag ropes are shipped and it is run forward. The gun wheels are exchanged with the limber wheels. The gun and wheels are heavy! The gun is brought to the back of the limber and connected, then both are run forward.
2nd Advance, 1st Action The gun is unhooked and the limber is run to the 70 yard line where it is turned or spun to face the start; its wheels are removed and it is dropped to the ground. The gun is run to the end of the track, turned and stopped. The gun is fired three times, each shell being run to the gun from the limber by the fastest man in the crew.
1st Retire, 2nd Wheel The limber wheels are shipped and it is run back and hooked to the gun. Both are then run towards the start, stopped and lifted together to exchange wheels. This is the heaviest lift of all and life gets very difficult if the gear is dropped 2nd Retire, 2nd Action Gun and limber are run towards the start line, separated and stopped. The gun is fired three times as quickly as possible.
3rd Retire and Finish The limber is run back and hooked to the gun then every member of the crew strains to accelerate the gear over the finish line. This is not the best time to fall in front of the gear because it is very heavy and cannot be stopped.
Result Time penalties are added to the running time for each contravention of the rules. There are 34 possible penalties. The track is 85 yards long, which means a total run of 170 yards.
Previous Winners of The Brickwood TrophyEdit
- 1988 HMS Daedalus
- 1989 HMS Daedalus
- 1990 HMS Nelson
- 1991 HMS Sultan
- 1992 HMS Dolphin
- 1993 HMS Seahawk
- 1994 HMS Thunderer
- 1995 HMS Sultan
- 1996 HMS Collingwood
- 1997 HMS Gannet
- 1998 HMS Collingwood
- 1999 HMS Neptune
- 2000 HMS Heron
- 2001 HMS Collingwood - the current record holders with a time of 1 min 18.88 secs 
- 2002 HMS Heron
- 2003 HMS Collingwood
- 2004 HM Naval Base Portsmouth
- 2005 7th Air Assault Battalion REME
- 2006 HMS Collingwood
- 2007 HM Naval Base Portsmouth
- 2008 HMS Sultan
- 2009 HM Naval Base Portsmouth
- 2010 HM Naval Base Portsmouth
Notes and referencesEdit
- www.royaltournament.org - Information Website
- The Birmingham Military Tattoo
- Portsmouth v's the Fleet Air Arm Video of the"Last Run" at the Royal Tournament in 1999. Note the unofficial black armbands worn by all the team members to mourn the end of the historic competition.
- "Runnin with 3/4 of a soddin ton" A video of Portsmouth Field Gun Teams Training in the 1970s. Shot at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in Portsmouth Harbour
- Portsmouth Action Field Gun Photos and Video
- Field Gun 100 Festival Royal Navy website to mark the 100th anniversary of Field Gun in 2007
- Portsmouth Field Gun Association
- Devonport Field Gun Association
- Fleet Air Arm Field Gun Association
- Portsmouth Action Field Gun 2001
- Field Gun - A Century of History
- Field gun runs (Royal Naval Museum, Information Sheet No. 28)
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