There will be no quarter asked – and none given – as Pompey and Plymouth go head to head at Fratton Park tonight.
But whatever the passion in the League Two play-off semi-final first leg clash, it will surely not match the blood-and-guts intensity of Pompey-Plymouth clashes in a much-missed annual race to the line.
Those were the annual command field gun contests in which Devonport and Portsmouth would go to the limit and beyond in the battle for Royal Tournament supremacy.
Together with the Fleet Air Arm, they were the mainstays of the post-war clashes that upheld the tradition of a trial of strength and strategy born out of a conflict from the Victorian era.
The official Royal Navy record charts its beginning thus: ‘The origins of Royal Navy Field Gun lay in 1899, in the Second Boer War, and in particular the epic 119-day Siege of Ladysmith.
‘As the British Army was besieged by Boer fighters in the garrison town of Ladysmith, Natal, the Royal Navy landed guns from HM Ships Terrible and Powerful to help in the relief of the siege.
Special carriages and mountings for these guns had been improvised by Percy Scott, before the Naval Brigade manhandled six field guns each weighing nearly half a metric tonne over rough terrain to assist their opposite numbers of the British Army.
‘The gallant defenders were helped enormously by the arrival at the last minute, of Captain the Hon Hedworth Lambton of the Naval Brigade with his 280 Blue-Jackets, four 12 pounders and two 4.7 inch guns. After the siege of Ladysmith was finally lifted on February 28, 1900, Her Majesty Queen Victoria I sent a telegram: “Pray express to the Naval Brigade my deep appreciation of the valuable services they have rendered with their guns’’. Displays of this magnificent feat began in London that year.’
Whisper it quietly in these parts, but Devonport more often than not had the edge in the years that preceded that fateful moment when the tournament was ended in 1999.
Let’s hope history does not repeat itself tonight.