Signal boosting

Clay Shooting’s correspondent Ollie Harvey reports from the Royal Signals Corps Championships in Dorset

As the Royal Signals celebrated their 99th anniversary on 28 June, I joined the troops at Blandford Camp for the annual Corps Championships. Against the stunning Dorset backdrop, familiar faces from the competing regiments were enjoying four days of training and competition.

Friendly competition between teams and individuals was evident, but the emphasis was firmly on encouraging new shooters; Olympic shooters Matt Coward-Holley and Augusta Campos-Martyn dropped in from nearby Compton Abbas to inspire the new recruits of the range. 

The Signals Team captain, Major Lee Forrester, who was pipped by a single clay in 2018, managed to claim High Gun this time around. The Royal Signals have won four out of the past five Army Champs, but alongside the talented shooters among their ranks, a surprising number were taking on the course as first-time shots. 

The layout was expertly managed by Gaz Hall, and kindly supported by CPC Laporte. Coward-Holley and Campos-Martyn both remarked at the quality of the course, comparing it to leading shooting grounds from around the country. 

Andrew Madden and Nathan Horrison were both clay novices at the start of competition; neither had held a shotgun before the opening day. However with barracks just 300m from the first trap and subsided entry thanks to the Sport For All scheme, the draw of the range was strong.

Andrew said: “We work here at the garrison so we were able to take a week off and come out and enjoy the sunshine. I’d never shot a shotgun before Monday so this was a great opportunity to try something new and a bit different. 

Nathan agreed: “This was my first time and as first it was quite difficult. Everything you learn from a military perspective pretty much goes out of the window. It’s so different that you basically need to learn from scratch.” 

Be The Best 

The military put newcomers through a thorough training programme before allowing them onto the range. Andrew explained: “The morning of the first day was modular.

We were shown a powerpoint and covered CPSA modules one and two. Then in the afternoon we had our first crack at shooting. It didn’t fill me with much confidence as I could barely hit the target whatsoever. But as the week’s gone on I have seen signs of my own progress. 

Matt Coward Holley was at the shoot providing inspiration and support for newcomers and experienced clay shooters alike

“The first day was quite emotional,” remarked Nathan, “It was quite frustrating but afterwards it became far more straight-forward – although it must be said my scores still weren’t great!” 

Having the likes of Coward-Holley and Campos-Martyn on hand to share their experiences was undoubtedly a draw for first-timers, regardless of their knowledge of the sport. But experienced shots from the Signals Team, such as Lee Forrester and last year’s High Gun, Major Lewis Matthews also provided valuable support throughout the week. 

“The guys with the experience have been out on the range giving hints and tips and they seem really happy to help,” says Andrew. “Maybe later down the line I will look into getting involved with the Army team. But for the time being I’d like to complete CPSA modules three and four and get my range safety qualifications. 

A draw of the event was the informal atmosphere. Shooters took to the range as equals and soldiers weren’t pulling rank, establishing a camaraderie as they navigated the course together. 

“I’ll be back next year if I get the chance. It was great just to get hands on a shotgun. It’s is a relaxed atmosphere and a good week of shooting. We’re blokes, so any chance to shoot something is good!” Nathan says. 

Next year’s Corps Championships will be the Royal Signals’ centenary. This will be an opportunity to see how the regiment has evolved since 1920 and the progress being made by Royal Signals shooters entering the sport. Over and out. 

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