Since 1907 the Royal Navy have had regular ‘field gun’ competitions. These involve teams of men dismantling a small artillery piece, carrying the components down a course and then reassembling it at the other end of the course. Teams compete against each other to see who can do it fastest and events are held with full size and half size guns. Different bases and units across the country compete and today teams usually have specially printed team shirts for events. Today we are looking at an example from the 2018 Devonport team:
The shirt is predominantly red, with corporate sponsorship from Barclays bank front and centre:
The upper half of the shirt has the white ensign and the badge of the Devonport Gun Crew:
The shirt was clearly used at an event at Canary Wharf in 2018. This was a competition with teams from across the services, including the army, held on 10th September of that year. This was a charity event that raised money for Team Endeavour and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, as can be seen by the badges on the sleeves:
The opposite sleeve has the badges of the Army and the Canal and River Trust who organised this event:
The back of the shirt is also marked up with team’s name and the skyline of Canary Wharf:
One of the biggest Field Gun competitions is the Brickwood trophy which consists of a number of stages that show how physically fit the teams need to be:
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 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 Change
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.
Time penalties are added to the running time for each contravention of the rules, which are published each year under the title “Royal Navy Field Gun Instructions (RNFGI)”. There are 38 possible contraventions defined that carry a time penalty ranging from 1 to 6 seconds. These are applied as appropriate to each team upon completion of the drill by the event’s Chief Judge.
The track is 85 yards (78 m) long, which means a total run of 170 yards (160 m).
This shirt is a beautiful piece of design and makes a nice change from the usual pieces of uniform in the collection.