Inter-Port Field Gun Competition - A brief history
By Richard Thompson (aka Thommo-the-Phot)
This article was first published in a Field Gunners Association Newsletter 2006
From information I have gathered using my collection of “Royal Tournament” Programmes, the following years are quite relevant to the History of the Inter-Port Field Gun Competition.
Up until and including 1905, the “Royal Naval and Military Tournament” was held at the Agricultural Hall, Islington.
The main Naval involvement for several years had been from 40 ratings drawn from HMS Excellent, carrying out Cutlass Drill, and a Gun Drill Display, comprising as follows:
“The Guns are brought in and, after a short march round the arena, are cleared for action and one round is fired. Both Gun Wheels are shifted. The Guns are then taken round the arena at the double and advance in close order, reversing twice whilst in close order, they then wheel into the centre and Salute.”
Gradually the display was annually improved upon, using 9-pounder and 12-pounder Guns (the same guns that are used in both the “Command” and “Brickwoods” competitions!).
The following is the chronological evolvement of the competition, as we came to know and love it:
1900 - 4.7” Guns were hauled into the arena by four span of Oxen and Sailors, the animals were then “out-spanned as though out to graze”, the Sailors fired one round, and then manhandled the Guns out of the arena.
1903 - additional to the display around the arena, the seamen from HMS Excellent introduced an obstacle in the shape of a 4’ Wall over which the guns and limbers of a four-gun battery were taken.
1905 - the seamen of HMS Victory (R N Barracks) added a further obstacle in the form of a bridge, too narrow for the guns to be hauled over in a ‘normal’ manner.
1906 - on the 17th May, the Royal Naval and Military Tournament moved to and opened at Olympia, and the men from both establishments (Excellent and Victory), in a combined display, took the guns over no less than two walls and two bridges.
1907 - the first competition was held, two crews of eighteen, coming from Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham, competed at each afternoon performance (a display similar to the original was put on for each evening performance), as follows:
“Starting from one end of the arena, the teams first negotiated an obstacle of planks fixed 18-inches from the ground. Then, having reassembled the guns, they crossed a 4-foot wall and on arrival at the other end of the arena fired one round. The race was continued on the return journey, the team first crossing the original starting line being awarded one point; the team which secured the biggest number of points throughout the run of the Tournament
winning the Trophy.”
1908 - the Inter-Port Competition was livened up by the substituting the plank obstacle with a “Chasm”.
The two ‘Ramps’ were placed 7’ 6” apart, and the men had to pass the gun and limber over the chasm without the use of any other appliances!
1909 - Inter-Command Challenge Cup was first awarded.
1912 - the chasm was replaced by a single ramp, for both the outward and homeward journeys.
1913 - the two ramps returned, with their gap lengthening to 30-feet, with both men and guns being required to cross the chasm by means of sheer-legs and a wire jackstay. With a 5-foot wall at either end of the arena, the course and conditions remained virtually the same until the end of the competition in 1999.
Spot the difference for the Wheel Numbers, though!
At the evening performances, “The Royal Navy Field Battery Display” was carried out as follows:
“The display consists of various movements carried out by a Naval Battery of six 12-pounder 8cwt. Field Guns.
1. The Entry and Salute.
2. Battery in action, facing Royal Box.
3. Guns dismounted and remounted.
4. Gun and Limber wheels exchanged.
(The procedure adopted in the event of damage to the gun wheels).
5. Gridiron March and Half-Batteries brought into action.
6. Dismount and retire with gear.
(The method of abandoning guns during a temporary retirement, leaving them useless to an enemy).
7. Marching with disabled Gun Carriage.
8. Gridiron March.
10. Tableau. Star.
11. March Past at the double.
12. Reverse at close intervals.
13. March Past and Salute.”
1915 to 1918 - 1st World War, therefore no Tournament, which recommenced in 1919
The Evening performance saw the choreographed display replaced by more competition runs sometime before 1928, possibly when the two other trophies were introduced.
1924 - The Aggregate Time Challenge Cup, and the Fastest Time Cup were introduced.
1926 - Individual “Silver Medals” were introduced - initial winners being HMS Excellent.
1927 - first time one crew were awarded all three trophies (HMS Vivid, Devonport).
1936 - No Competition at the Royal Tournament
(reason why at the moment remains unclear!)
1940 to 1946 - 2nd World War, therefore no Tournament, which recommenced in 1947.
1947 - Naval Air Command replaced the Royal Marines in the competition
(12 runs for each Crew)
1949 & 1950 - Final year at Olympia, followed by the first year at Earls Court
1952 - Bronze medals introduced for the runners up Crews
1960 - Chathams final year in competition
1961 - Competition runs upped to
16 for each Crew
1962 - 3 minute barrier broken
(by FAA - 2 mins 54 secs)
1965 - Copenhagen Cup first competed for
(having been presented at the British Trade Fair, Copenhagen the previous year)
1977 - Least Penalties Cup introduced -
initially sponsored by Plymouth Gin
1993 - Royal Tournament cut from 3 to 2 weeks, hence
Competition reduced to 14 runs per Crew
1999 - THE END (Sadly!!!)
Pompey’s post War Clean Sweeps (of the 3 major trophies!)
- 1948 - 1957 - 1970 - 1975 - 1981 - 1984 - 1986 - 1987 - 1997 -
I have managed to gather the above information from a number of sources,
however, if you know any of it is incorrect, please let me know, and I'll rectify it!
Royal Tournament Programme Collection - Richard Thompson
The Story of the Royal Tournament - Lt. Col. P. L. Binns
GUNS AND GUTS - Richard A. Wilson
The Brickwoods Trophy - Whitbread Historian