Royal Navy Marksmanship Postcard

his week’s postcard is handily captioned on the back (always a bonus) and depicts a Royal Navy detachment that has just finished marksmanship practice. The sailors are clearly in the tropics and wear shorts, white flannel shirts, black socks and boots and white naval pith helmets:

Looking at the image it is clear this was taken between the wars and somewhere in the tropics! Marksmanship was a necessary skill for many sailors, but it was always secondary to their seamanship skills and so practice was often rudimentary consisting of landing parties of men and officers on remote parts of a foreign coastline and setting up an improvised range for a few hours practice. Good rifle skills were important to sailors as they never knew when they might be deployed as a landing party, armed with rifles, to a foreign shore. Rifles were also used for mine disposal, the bullets from the rifles being used to hit the mine and hopefully set it off well away from a ship. Good rifle skills could occasionally have a more tangible benefit as recalled by Gavin Lea:

We got given rifles to learn on the firing range but I didn’t need any practice for that with being brought up on a farm we always had guns. We had done our shooting for the morning and our Petty Officer came round asking if anyone wanted to take him up on a five shilling shootout which was a lot of money in those days, I was the only to volunteer and take him on. It was out of five rounds and the most bullseyes wins, I got all five bulls and he couldn’t believe it because he only got four which meant I got his five bob and was chuffed to hell with five bob in my pocket. 

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