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Field Gun Practice at HMNB Devonport

Gunboat Crews practise the Royal Navy’s field gun drill in preparation for competition.

Current affairs 1962 2 mins

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Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


Royal Navy field gun crews practise for the annual Royal Tournament held at Earl’s Court. The military tattoo started at Royal Agricultural Hall in 1907 and moved to the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre from 1950 with the field gun competition one of the show’s best-loved spectacles. The Royal Tournament ceased in 1999 as part of military cost-saving but an annual field gun competition is held for charity at HMS Collingwood by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

Teams hoist gun parts and negotiate walls and obstacles before assembling the field gun and running with it back to the start. The competition’s origins lie in the siege of the British garrison at Ladysmith in Natal Province of 1899 during the Second Boer War, now a part of South Africa. A naval brigade of marines and seamen from HMS Terrible and Powerful had to transport equipment, notably twelve-pounder field guns from Durban to Ladysmith, almost 200 miles over ragged terrain, to alleviate the siege by the Boer armies of Orange Free State and Transvaal. An equestrian statue to the British relief force commander at Ladysmith and Commander-in-Chief, General Redvers Buller VC can be found in Exeter in Devon.