150th Imperial Meeting

Sixteen prize lists, multiple medals, and just a few whiskies later, it’s safe to say that OSRA has exceeded itself at the 150th Imperial Meeting. This commemorative Imperial has positioned OSRA well and truly in the spotlight, both on the scoreboards and with the striking club clothing that each Old Suttonian wore around Bisley camp throughout the meeting. The true achievement of the club, however, is not defined by scores or ties, but rather in the strong camaraderie that developed throughout the Meeting. We truly are a team in every sense of the word.

The Imperial Meeting is a lengthy affair, comprised of a variety of different competitions that in themselves comprise various aggregates over the ten-day event. For simplicity, the headings of this article should help orientate the reader within the complex structure of the Meeting.

The Veterans Match (17th July)

The Imperial began for OSRA with the remarkable – if not surprising – success of the Schools Veterans. With two full teams entered – one fewer than in 2018 – all the OS were looking forward to reuniting at Bisley. What the seasoned OSRA marksmen could never have expected was for Harry Pawlik and Harriet Aburn to steal the show, with their exceptional scores of 50.6 (ex 50.10) respectively. Harry won on countback, claiming the OSRA Veterans Champion shield, but both Harriet and Harry should be immensely proud by their performances, especially after so long apart from the Bisley ranges.

Overall, the B team scored an incredible 245.20, positioning fourth in the Second Team Aggregate, whilst the A team scored 240.20 (ex. 250.50). We hope to see these talented B Team shooters return to represent OSRA at Bisley before the 2020 Veterans.

The Pre-Grand (18th-19th July)

On the back of this, the OSRA Imperial team – formed from Anthony Bromley, Tom Fermor, Chris Pawlik, Chris Dale, Chris Youngman, and Ted Ervine – had much to prove. Fortunately, in the Pre-Grand competition, which is a collection of practice shoots in anticipation of the Grand Aggregate, Chris Pawlik stormed ahead with an impressive score of 48.4 in the Admiral Hutton (900x). Chris Youngman was hot on his heels, scoring a 49.6 and 47.5 at 500x and 600x respectively to get on the prize list for the Century competition. This was a brilliant start to the Meeting, with OSRA already bagging some much-deserved medals.

Youngman

Chris Youngman glancing at his sights before taking another shot

The Grand Aggregate (19th-24th July)

The subsequent 11 shoots, all individual competitions in their own right, comprise the Grand Aggregate, which is often considered to be the most challenging competition of the Imperial, despite lacking the prestige of the Queen’s Prize. Over the course of five days, the OSRA contingent shot in a variety of wind conditions, from still to fishtailing, and confronted the extremes of English weather, from searing heat to incessant rain.

There were nevertheless some particularly impressive performances. Chris Pawlik, showing once again that he prefers long range to short, found the bull at 900x in the Duke of Cambridge, coming 38th with a score of 49.6. Chris Youngman and Anthony Bromley came 100th and 55th respectively in the Times with their scores of 48.4 and 50.5, whilst Anthony also had a good Conan Doyle shoot with 49.7. Ted Ervine, shooting in his first Imperial, met this high standard by scoring a 49.4 at 600x in the Wimbledon match. For such a young marksman – and indeed for any marksman – this is exceptional shooting.

Pawlik Plotting

Chris Pawlik, the master plotter

In between shoots, the team stayed at the Sgts Mess campsite with Durham and Exeter. It was here on the first Friday that we held our inaugural Imperial BBQ in the characteristic British summertime weather. OSRA members, Dom Murray and Richard Cantillon, and long-time fan of the club, Lizz Bradley, travelled up for the occasion, which ended, as always, in the Surrey clubhouse. It was around this time that Chris Pawlik and Chris Dale, tired of drinking beer with the other shooters, discovered the large selection of whisky on offer at the North London clubhouse. It is said that in the following week, the bar staff had to dash out to restock their whisky supplies in anticipation of their return in the evening.

Overall, in the Grand Aggregate, Anthony Bromley came 152nd with a score of 720.66, reaching the rank of A class; Tom Fermor came 432nd with 699.43; Chris Pawlik came 570th with 682.35; and Chris Dale came 627th with 670.38. Ted Ervine, with his Conan Doyle score not having been counted and therefore his low ranking in the Grand, was actually the third best shot in the club, with a total score of 683.33.

Range Walk

Ted Ervine and Chris Youngman representing OSRA at Bill Richards’ evening range walk

St George’s (22nd, 24th, & 27th July)

One of the major individual competitions of the Imperial is the St George’s, the first stage of which is included in the Grand Aggregate. The second and third stage is fully paid for by the NRA, and to get into the final (the third stage) is a prestigious achievement in its own right. In the first stage, which is a 2×15 shoot at 300x, Anthony Bromley scored an HPS with 75.9/75.15, whilst Chris Youngman and Tom Fermor scored 73.8 and 73.5 respectively. This meant that all three shooters went forward to the second stage.

The second stage was held at 600x, and was also a 2×15. As the top 300 competitors were through, this required a good collective score of 300x and 600x to get through to the final. With his HPS in the bank, Anthony was at an advantage, meaning that, with a score of 73.7 in the second stage, he was able to get through to the final. Chris and Tom scored 71 and 69.5 respectively, struggling with some challenging wind. Chris and Tom should nevertheless be proud to have made it this far; the second stage in its own right is a first for any Old Suttonian.

In the final, held on a drizzly Saturday morning at 8:30, Anthony, having been kept up by the festivities of the Army Cocktails long into the night, scored 72.8 at 900x. This was a respectable score under the circumstances; just to have reached the final is a feat in itself, and new ground for the OSRA. However, it was too low on aggregate to rank highly in the final hundred.

The McQueen’s

Running alongside the main Imperial events throughout the meeting, the McQueen’s is an F-Class competition (the rifle has a stand and a scope), for which shooters must snap-shoot targets that pop up randomly in two-second bursts. Chris Dale should be congratulated for scoring an HPS of 50.8 in this competition, winning him an HPS cross.

The Fulton’s Pairs

The Fulton’s Pairs is, obviously, a competition for a team of two shooters, shot within the respective class of the pair. For their excellent, consistent shooting, Anthony Bromley and Tom Fermor, representing ‘Old Suttonians A’, won the O-class Fulton pairs, and therefore two NRA silver medals. The pair should be congratulated for their excellent team shooting.

Name Class George’s 1 Queen’s 1 Prince of Wales Total
Anthony Bromley O 75.9 102.11 73.5 250.25
Tom Fermor O 73.5 97.3 72.7 242.15

The Imperial 150 Special Match (25th July)

Unique to the 2019 Imperial, due to the commemorative year of the 150th anniversary of the first meeting, the NRA organised for a day of team shooting on the second Thursday. National shooters would compete in the America match, for which Anthony Bromley was short-listed in the U25 category; the rest were able to enter as teams in the Imperial 150 match.

In the sweltering heat of the hottest day in the year, the OSRA contingent joined forces with other clubs to further increase their chances of success. Anthony Bromley and Ted Ervine coupled with Durham and Exeter to create the ‘DEOS’ teams (Durham, Exeter, and Old Suttonians), whilst Chris Pawlik joined the Ibis team, as their Tyro member.

Ervine 2

Ted Ervine shooting in his new fullbore jacket for the first time at the Imperial 150 match.

Unfortunately, the heat got to the DEOS teams, with DEOS A narrowly missing out on third place in the U25 category by three points, and DEOS B having issues with kit that hampered their performance. Anthony and Ted were nevertheless top scores for the respective teams, which is testament to the high level of OSRA marksmanship.

Chris Pawlik was not one to disappoint, though. Scoring an impressive 280/300, Chris helped the Ibis team to take second place in the larger Imperial 150 competition, missing out on the top spot by just three V-bulls. Given the extreme conditions, all shooters at this special match should be congratulated for their performances. For Chris, whose old Toyota would struggle to transport home that weighty silver medal, such an impressive score from a young Tyro, the talent of whom was spotted by the Ibis club, has made OSRA proud.

The Queen’s (23rd, 26th, & 27th)

From the perspective of Anthony himself.

More prestigious than the George’s, the Queen’s Prize is considered the height of fullbore target rifle shooting achievement. Many young riflemen and women aspire to be held aloft by their comrades in the prize-winner’s chair, followed by a mob of starry-eyed admirers throughout Bisley camp for the post-Queens festivities. Although I come from a strong shooting family – my Uncle has made it through to the final an incredible seventeen times – I certainly had little expectation of making the final for my first Imperial.

The first stage, as with the George’s, is included with the Grand Aggregate. As a 2×7 match shot over three distances (300x, 500x, & 600x), there is all to play for, but there is equally little margin for error. Usually the cut-off for the top 300 in the first stage is around 101-2/105.21. However, with fishtailing winds and extreme temperatures, the cut-off dropped to an exceptional low of just 100. As such, with a score of 102.11, I was tasked with waving the OSRA flag in the second stage of the Queen’s.

The Queen’s second stage is considered to be particularly special by some. As a shoulder-to-shoulder match, held over the same three distances as the first stage, but shot as a 2×10, shooting alongside fellow competitors and walking back from 300 to 600 is a rare experience in modern shooting. With steadier winds than Queen’s 1, I was able to put in a 49.2 at 300x, with slight nerves giving me a larger group; a 50.8 at 500x was testament to my calmer mindset; but a 48.6 at 600x was the result of a slight loss of concentration during the first four shots of the shoot, which I was nevertheless able to overcome to put the final six in.

With a total score of 147.16 (ex. 150.30), I remained in contention for the prestigious Queen’s final. All second-stage shooters congregate in front of a board on range 16, upon which Stats put the predicted cut-off score. The score on the board was – incredibly – 147.16, which meant that I had to wait for confirmation of whether I had made it through.

The Tie Shoot

With ten scores of 147.16 and only nine places in the final, there had to be a tie shoot. Having shot all afternoon, and tired after the lengthy Imperial 150 match the day before, I would have preferred a cold beer to another pressurised shoot. As I lied down on the point, with my uncle, Peter Bromley, register keeping behind me, not only did I feel the pressure of the tie shoot, but it seemed as though I was representing the heritage of Bromley shooting; I certainly did not want to be the tenth man and miss the final.

With five shots to count and one convertible sighter, I swiftly read the wind, hoped my elevation remained correct, loaded and fired the first shot down the range. I saw no point waiting for my nerves to get the better of me. With the first sighter appearing as a V-bull, the fight for the final was on. A slightly right bull for my second to count was succeeded by a further three V-bulls, meaning that I finished with a good score of 25.4 (ex. 25.5). As such, I won the tie shoot and landed my place in the final. With the Kent team cheering me on from behind, and marching onto the firing point to shake my hand after, this really was a shoot to remember.

Bromley & Webster

Anthony receiving his Queen’s final badge from NRA Chairman, John Webster.

The Final

The Queen’s Final is one of the major spectacles in fullbore shooting. Each of the 100 finalists must supply a scorer, who plots each shot behind the point in real-time on a large A3 score-sheet held up by an NRA-supplied easel. For this, there was no one better for the job than Tom Fermor, with whom I had shot my first Imperial back in 2015. Rocking up in his linen suit and OSRA tie, I certainly had the most striking marker on Stickledown.

As I got down on the point at 900x, it was difficult not to feel the pressure with a large audience, comprised of Old Suttonians, Durham and Exeter shooters, family, and my girlfriend. With a bowl of Pimm’s set up behind the point, the Bromley fan club clearly knew how to enjoy the Queen’s final. I nonetheless managed to meet the challenge and put on a spectacle by scoring an HPS of 75.9/75.15. The jubilant cheer from the audience as I scored the final V-Bull was a wonderful reception that I’m sure will stay with me for many years to come.

Bromley Q Final board 2

The scoreboard after 900x

After 900x, my name was on the board, which meant I was going into the 1000x shoot in a strong position. Unfortunately, as the 1000x firing point was in poor condition, I ended up with my elbow in a hole. As such, my position was naturally canted and it was difficult to maintain the bull. Having dropped four points early on, I managed to regain focus and ‘muscle in’ the final six shots, giving me a final score of 71.7. With a grand total of 293.32, I came 70th overall, which I am pleased with for my first Imperial.

Bromley & Fermor Q Final

Anthony and his scorer, Tom Fermor, after 1000x. The dream team.

It was, above all, an honour to represent OSRA at the Queen’s Final. To have my team, resplendent in their club ties, cheering me on from behind the firing point, Pimm’s in hand, and my good friend, Tom Fermor, plotting my scores with such effortless class, is an experience I shall never forget. I hope I have inspired future Old Suttonians to wave the OSRA flag once again in the Queen’s Final in the years to come.

Endnote

The 150th Imperial has been an astounding success for OSRA. To have developed from a fledgling rifle club in the 2018 Veterans to now having representation in the Queen’s Final, is an exceptional achievement. The Imperial team should be proud of their individual successes, and of their close unity as a team, which resulted in a fantastic Queen’s Final social around the clubhouses on camp.

We now look forward to autumn events, with some of our members potentially applying to the English Lions Talent Pathway programme over the next few weeks. Many members who could not make the Imperial have also already expressed their interest for next year. We hope that, as we begin to encourage new leavers of Sutton Valence to join the club – such as Ted Ervine, who came third overall in the team – OSRA will only continue to grow.

 

 

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