Only for the toughest of the tough
The famous, or perhaps, infamous, Royal Navy gun run has been with us since 1907 although the Field Gun Display Team no longer exists.
It originated way back in the Boer War when guns from HM Ships Terrible and Powerful were taken ashore fitted with axles and wheels and transported many hundreds of miles before going into action.
Although the guns were mostly drawn by oxen, the seamen of the guns’ crews had to man the drag ropes when rougher ground made it too hard even for the oxen.
In 1900 seamen from HMS Powerful took to the arena along with their oxen at the Royal Military Tournament. After that the display team became a permanent fixture at the Royal Tournament until 1990 when it was scrapped.
Back in 1962 the course was run in three stages over a 220-yard course. The 18 men in each team had to act as one man to reach the end in one piece.
The run was in three stages starting with the ‘run out’ where three rounds were fired at the finish.
Then there was the ‘run back’ after which, again, three rounds were fired.
Finally there was the ‘run home’ – a mad dash for the finishing line. All three stages were carefully timed and the figures added together. Up to 1962 the fastest time recorded was 2min 54sec by the Fleet Air Arm.
All results were signalled to ships and establishments across the world where they were eagerly awaited.
At one time there were five competing teams: Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, the Royal Marines and the Fleet Air Arm.
The gun run still takes place but on a different scale from days past.