During their penultimate week of Year 12, six Salisbury Sixth Form students decided to take on the challenge of the Junior Leaders Field Gun Competition with the Royal Navy at HMS Collingwood. In a team comprising of students chosen from UTC South Wiltshire and Salisbury Sixth Form College, students learned the skills and techniques of field gunning.
The week began with us all boarding HMS Bristol, a decommissioned war ship off Whale Island in Portsmouth, and getting as settled as possible in the bunks which were to become ‘home’ for the week. It was a lot to get used to, particularly when alarms to wake up started to ring before 6am on Monday morning – but nothing could have prepared us for the shock of arriving at HMS Collingwood and being introduced to our Number 1 Trainer, Alan, and the field gun we were going to drag around, lift, build, and fire for the week.
Training days were long and hard, but students from Salisbury Sixth Form College soon impressed – with officers from the navy and sergeants from the marines commenting enthusiastically about how well everyone had taken to their various roles. Throughout the week, students learned about themselves as individuals, as well as playing their vital parts in the crew.
As the competition drew nearer, students persevered through injuries and exhaustion from training and the heat – all working together to ensure that the crew could be as strong as possible for the practice runs on Thursday afternoon and the final competitions on Friday.
Mr Firth visited with retired Naval Commander, David Murray, to watch the students march across the parade ground and to compete in two heats and their final in the afternoon. In the final, students excelled themselves – being judged to have run without any penalties – and although there may be some discussion about the accuracy of timing(!) came a very close second to UTC Bristol.
To end the week in the most positive way, we are delighted to have been invited, by Warrant Officer Glen Young MBE and Lieutenant Commander Matt Clarke RN, to return next year to compete again – and students have already begun recruiting new members to their crew, and are excited to begin training in September when college returns.
‘Field gun has been one of the best experiences of my life so far and has taught me so much about myself. It made me realise how passionate I am about working as part of a team and persevering through any situation. It has also clarified my ambitions on going into the navy.’ – Vicki, Year 12 Student
‘The field gun trip was really good fun and a chance to push yourself to your mental and physical limits. It was also a good representation of accommodation and life in the military’ – Gabe, Year 12 Student
‘Field gun was the best experience yet, it was such an adrenaline rush, representing South Wiltshire and the Navy’ – Che, Year 12 student