OB Club Shooting

The 'Blundell's Veterans' Rifle Club' was started in 1924, following relative success at Bisley the previous year. It was renamed 'Blundell's Magpies Rifle Club' in the mid-1950s, following even greater successes at Bisley. The club's main objective is to support and encourage pupils' shooting activity at Blundell's, as part of which there are 2 annual fixtures: a mini-range match on OB Day v. the School (mid-June), and Public Schools' Veterans competition at Bisley (mid-July). Whilst supporters are of course always welcome, actual firing does require previous experience (especially at Bisley); anyone wishing to attend the OB Day shoot should initially contact the OC Blundell's Cadet Force, Capt. Barry Dawe, at b.dawe@blundells.org. For the Bisley Veterans' match, please contact Peter Ward as below.

  • Magpies' President – Hugo Brooke Esq
  • Chevithorne Captain – Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay: timcourtenay@btinternet.com
  • Bisley Captain – Peter Ward: niepage@hotmail.com
  • Bisley Coaches – David Bentata and Ben Wrey
  • Spring London Lunches – David Bentata

The Magpies' London Lunch 14th March 2017

This year's Lunch was again held in the awesomely impressive surroundings of the Special Forces Club in London, and was arranged and chaired by David Bentata, closely supported by Linda Smith (former Governor of Blundell's). We were very honoured to have as our principal guest Mrs Nicola Huggett, Head of Blundell's, whose presence at a fairly pressurised time in the School's calendar was very much appreciated by the Magpies. Other guests included Gilly Cox and Marion Augustin; apologies and good wishes were received from Di & Mike Chandler, Amber Oliver, Mike Jones, Barry Dawe and Dr Peter Jones. Apart from those already mentioned, attenders were Chris Barker, John Batten, Hugo Brooke (President), Lt Col Tim Courtenay, Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Tim Motion, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Anthony Ward, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.

Following a most lively and sociable session in the bar, guests were gently prevailed on to move into the dining room, where a fine meal awaited them below the portraits of a small selection of the world's military heroes, decorated in the service of the Crown. After a most convivial hour or so (during which the hues of reminiscence grew ever rosier), David asked the Chevithorne Captain, Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, to pass on from Barry Dawe a substantial amount of encouraging news about the achievements of many different pupils in smallbore and air rifle competitions held by various clubs and organizations in the last few months. OBs recognised quite a number of names, including Jessie Zhu, Will Curtis, Ed Rees and Will Scripps, and sensed that a formidable centre of shooting excellence was gradually being built up. Two staff members, Tim Mycock and David Driver, had joined the shooting activity, and there was a possibility that the School might be represented at Bisley this year, either in the Imperial Meeting or in the NSRA meeting which followed. Barry also wished to reassure the Magpies that the School's mini-range had recently been inspected as per routine by the Army's SASC team, and had been passed as fit for purpose.

All expressed their thanks to Barry for this valuable update, and for the hard work he was putting in to both shooting instruction and supporting Blundell's generally. One or two OBs were less enthusiastic to learn that the OB Match (June 17th) would be shot 'without jackets or slings', but accepted that the emphasis of the occasion would be more on social bonding than pure marksmanship. The man who wondered ' how he was going to get out of this one' was not identified, but it is hoped he'll still appear for the bonding bit.

David then invited Mrs Huggett to tell the Magpies something of the current situation at the School. This she did in impressive style, and her pride in the obviously outstanding contributions of a range of departments and individuals was palpable. In academic and sporting fields there was much to be spoken of; in less conventional areas there was also a great deal to say, her message being that she saw Blundell's as a medium in which all talents should be nurtured, and in which all ways should be explored to create a rounded personality, whose positive influence on the community could be as effective as possible. She believed, as did Barry, that the supportive presence of former pupils was a most valuable resource, for which the School was grateful.

Our President, Hugo Brooke, then rose to thank the Head most sincerely for having made time to be at the Lunch despite the intense demands of her job, and to observe how much the Magpies (now generally a fairly venerable bunch, after all) appreciated her visit and the insight she had brought into the current state of play at Blundell's. We would all go away very encouraged by what we had learnt. The occasion was brought to a formal close by the proposing of a toast to the School, then by another to absent friends - several of whom were in poor health, and to whom all our best wishes were directed.

(It was noted by one or two of the less eminent OBs that Hugo had abstained, no doubt out of delicacy, from his store of risqué tales, and their shirt cuffs remained unwritten on.)

Chris Barker took the opportunity to let OBs know of certain shooting matches planned during the Spring, which they could be eligible to enter if they wished.

As always, the time remaining for catching up with old friends ebbed away inexorably, and the majority soon had to hurry away to scramble for waiting trains... However, the Lunch was undoubtedly amongst the most enjoyable occasions ever savoured by the Magpies, and our huge gratitude is owed to Linda and David for setting it up so effectively.

Blundell’s Magpies Public Schools Veterans Shoot, Bisley on Century Range 14th July 2016

The Magpies were back at Bisley on 14th July to compete in the Schools' Veterans rifle match. As a new idea, the majority of OBs and supporters foregathered for lunch at the North London Rifle Club, where some planning could be done for the late afternoon shoot, but more importantly, where people could socialise away from the immediate pressure of the firing point. This proved an excellent innovation, albeit that a few could not be there quite so early, and the presence of a number of ladies made for a delightfully civilised interlude.

During the afternoon the party visited the Century Range, bumping into a number of old friends including James Postle, who was still maintaining important connections with the Athelings and the schools' shooting scene in general. The cadet matches finished mid-afternoon, and those of our party who wished to practice before the match itself were able to do so, once they had worked out the arcane system of target booking.

The performance of the Team itself was moderately creditable, or would have been had enough firers taken part: of the six Magpies who had turned up, sadly three were unable to shoot by reason of bodily infirmity. The remaining three therefore bore the burden of the day, but Chris Barker, Hugo Brooke and Peter Ward had two important advantages: not only was the redoubtable Ben Wrey on hand to coach, but Chris was kind enough to let the others use his magnificent Musgrave rifle. The final score was 130.9v, not a bad effort for a trio of fairly long-in-the-tooth chaps. The atmosphere to the rear of the firing point was one of jocular camaraderie, sweetened by the input of the ladies; supporters included David Bentata, Linda Smith, Mike and Di Chandler, Marion Augustin, Katrina Page and Gilly Cox.

The weather was good to us, and as the length of the shoot was briefer than usual for our attenuated ranks, the Magpies moved gratefully once again into social mode, returning to the North London RC for a quiet 'one for the road', before dispersing their various ways home. It was agreed that a message of loyal greeting should be sent to the Head of Blundell's, and the Bisley Captain was requested to undertake this agreeable task. Sadly (for us at least), it was understood that the Clifton Veterans had shot rather better than we had, and we had therefore to cede the Anstey Salver for a further year.

Bisley 2016
The Magpie Veterans and support group behind the firing point (taken by Mrs Di Chandler): rear (l to r) Peter Ward, Chris Barker, Ben Wrey, Mike Chandler, Katrina Page, Linda Smith, David Bentata and Hugo Brooke; seated in front, Marion Augustin and Gilly Cox.

After the departure of some of the party, half a dozen folk retreated to the comfort of the Worplesdon Hotel, where a comfortable meal was enjoyed and yet more of the nation's problems were put to right. It was generally agreed that, despite the lack of team numbers, the day had been one of the most enjoyable anyone could remember. A resolve was made to approach the numbers problem by attempting to interest recent Blundell's leavers in a subsidised 'invitation package', to be arranged for the day of the Veterans' shoot in 2017... (watch this space!)

OB Day 2016 Shooting: Magpies vs Blundell's

OB Day shootingOn OB Day the now traditional shooting competition between the Magpies and the Current school shooting team was as competitive as ever. With four members in each team this year, we witnessed a very close match and the school narrowly came out victors – even with the Magpies raising the stakes by requesting shooting jackets and slings. Best shot went to Jessie Zhu whose 99 clinched the victory in yet another close match, though Hugo’s two targets both mid-nineties showed he has not lost any of his skill. The day as in previous years has forged the links between the current team and those Blundellians who have inspired them so much.

Until next year!

OB Day shootingOB Day shooting

The Magpies' London Lunch 8th March 2016

Our annual Lunch this year, the tenth in the series, was again held in the Special Forces Club, where guests may dine surrounded by the portraits of some of the most distinguished and heroic men and women who have served the nation in times of war and crisis. The event was, as before, arranged by David Bentata, with the able support of Linda Smith (a Blundell's Governor), and also chaired by David.

The Magpies were graced by the presence of three delightful ladies, being Linda, Gilly Cox, and Di Chandler; we were also much honoured to welcome as guests Barry Dawe, SSI of the School's cadet force, and Cormac Oliver, the current Captain of Shooting. Sadly, owing to unforeseen circumstances, Mrs Nicola Huggett, Head of Blundell's, was unable to attend as planned; she nevertheless sent her apologies and heartfelt best wishes to the assembled company.

Following an initial RV in the Club bar - whence the camaraderie seemed so absorbing that the House Manager had some difficulty getting the OBs into the dining room - there followed a most pleasant meal, at which the glow of many happy memories, no doubt augmented by the passage of the years, became manifest. There were toasts, including to the School, and speeches by the great and the good: David, having welcomed everyone to the meal, handed over to Hugo Brooke, the newly appointed Magpie President. Hugo then spoke in his inimitable style, and amongst other things revealed a little-known link between the late, much-respected science master Joe Panther and shooting.

David then briefly sketched out the current season's planned shooting events, and invited Barry to update the Magpies on the shooting scene at Blundell's. Clearly much was happening there, and a number of individual successes were noted and duly applauded. It was hoped that the full-bore target rifles would be received back in good order before too long, and on this basis there should be a Blundell's presence at the Mere Cup (West Country schools') match in May. In June the OBs would be invited to compete on the mini-range against the School (18th), although neither Barry nor the Chevithorne Captain (Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay) felt it appropriate to comment on the chances of the Magpies regaining the laurels this year. However, Col. Tim did point out that the theme of OB Day was to be 'girls' sport', so he hoped the School might be able to locate a lady former pupil or two whose youth and clear eyes could influence the Magpies' score for the better. It was confirmed that the Magpies would enter a team in the Public Schools' Veterans match at Bisley on 14th July.

Finally, thanks were warmly expressed to David and Linda, whose efforts had enabled the London Lunches to continue so successfully for the last ten years; the gathering reluctantly dispersed as the pressures of the wider world asserted themselves, but all felt they had been greatly encouraged not only by the meeting with old friends, but also by the strong and close connection everyone felt with the School and its pupils of 2016.

Apart from those already mentioned, other attendees included John Batten, Robert Bentata, Mike Chandler, David Condy, Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey (a total of 19 people).

OB Day 2015 Shooting: Magpies vs Blundell's

Magpies 361 - Blundell's CCF 377

Magpies vs Blundell's CCF, OB Day 2015
The Magpies Tim Courtenay, Peter Ward, Ben Wrey, Hugo Brooke and David Kidd with Cormac Oliver (winning team) and Monty Crowe best young shot with 97 out of 100.

Magpies vs Blundell's CCF, OB Day 2015
Sam Taylor, Jefferson Sin, Will Curtis, Monty Crowe, Peter Ward, Mack Butterfield, Tim Courtenay, David Kidd, Will Scripps, Cormac Oliver, Hugo Brooke and Ben Wrey.

Magpies vs Blundell's CCF, OB Day 2015
Cormac Oliver receiving the winners trophy from Ben Wrey.

Report on the Ninth London Lunch, held at The Special Forces Club, London March 2015

The ninth in the series of London Lunches took place in the Special Forces Club on 3rd March, graced for the second year running by Mrs Nicola Huggett, the Head of Blundell's. The event was organised by the Magpies' Principal Bisley Coach, David Bentata, through whose membership of the SFC the venue had been made possible.

Magpies' London Lunch, March 2015The Lunch continued the tradition of reflecting at leisure on aspects of schooldays which still carry some considerable feeling of achievement, not least due to their association with much-admired personalities, sadly long departed from us, who helped so strongly to shape our attitudes and direction in later life.

We were fortunate to be able to hear from Mrs Huggett, who spoke with great pride of various recent achievements by a number of groups and individual pupils in academic, sporting and other significant areas of school activity, and from whom it became clear that the Blundell's of 2015 is very much a thriving and exciting organic entity, amply fulfilling the hopes of Peter Blundell as expressed in his shrewdly-designed will.

We were also privileged to have as guest Barry Dawe (SSI, late RM) from whom we heard most encouraging news about the interest in marksmanship being shown by cadets of all ages within the School, and about the prospective weapon states for both small- and full-bore shooting. In particular the competitive nature of the classification exercise seemed to be bringing out the best in many pupils, and it was noted that the number of 'marksmen' (i.e. the most accurate grade) was greater than that of other groups.

Magpies' London Lunch, March 2015David Bentata thanked both the Head and Barry for their time and courtesy in travelling to London during a busy period of the school year, and for their positive message from our Alma Mater. He also noted (after some peripheral consultation) that we would be free to refer to Barry as 'Baz' without risk of offending. He pointed to the OB Day schedule for 20th June, and confirmed that there would be a mini-range match on the day, at which the Magpies could attempt to seize back the trophy won by the current pupils in 2014. Polite coughing was noted at this juncture, and several venerable gents present much regretted their unavailability to shoot, but nevertheless looked forward to attending the convivial lunch in the marquee.

David then reminded the Magpies that at least one team would be entered in the Public Schools' Veterans match at Bisley on July 9th, and that another could be arranged if enough members made their likely attendance known in advance. If required, a practice shoot could also be arranged earlier in the afternoon, but again, prior notice would be needed. As an aside, he recommended the bringing of wet-weather gear as the best insurance against actually having to endure rain. Oh, and yes, hopefully there would very likely be some socialising afterwards...

The gathering dispersed after a good session of both formal and informal discussion of many things, and all seemed pleased to have had the opportunity to meet old friends and once again to solve the world's problems without apparent difficulty. Magpies' London Lunch, March 2015Grateful thanks were proffered to David Bentata for his energetic work in continuing to arrange such lunches, despite recent episodes of poor health.

One snippet emerged during the lunchtime obiter dicta, which was that Alex Rainey had written another book, entitled 'Sword and Lyre'. This is set in ancient Greece, and combines the author's staple profession of archaeology with his love of classical culture.

There were a total of twenty people at the Lunch, being five honoured guests and fifteen Magpies. These included David Bentata (in the chair), Mrs Huggett (Head), Linda Smith (governor), Diane Davey, Gilly Cox, Barry Dawe, Chris Barker, Hugo Brooke, Mike Chandler, David Condy, Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Cdr. Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Peter Moore, Alex Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.

2014 Season Report

Our year began on 4th March with the latest in the series of London Lunches, organized by David Bentata, this year again in the awesome surroundings of the Special Forces Club. We were very honoured by being able to welcome the Head of Blundell's, Mrs Nicola Huggett, as principal guest, which doubtless explains why our numbers were at record levels (17 Magpies and 5 guests attended the occasion). During the most convivial meal, speeches were made by the Head, in which she outlined pupils' recent achievements and emphasised the importance of former pupils in the Blundell's community, and by David Bentata, who requested Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay to present to her an illuminated, framed poem entitled 'The Chevithorne Lament and Magpies in memoriam', an elegy he had compiled about the golden years enjoyed by school shooters at both the one-time local range and at Bisley. David also presented the Head with a copy of 'Call to Arms', a history of Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School, to which he had been an active contributor.

Beside David, Col.Tim and the Head, others present included John Batten, Chris Barker with guest Marion, Hugo Brooke with guest Gilly, Mike Chandler with guest Di, David Condy, Cdr. Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Peter Moore, Tim Motion, Alex Rainey, Dr David Rutter, Linda Smith (a governor of the school), George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.

In late April there took place a unique event, which was the Centenary Pilgrimage to the Great War battlefields of France and Flanders by a group of people associated in various ways with Blundell's, who wished to visit and pay respects at as many memorials as possible to the School's fallen. Though this was not a Magpie event, we are proud that several Magpies were on the trip, and that most of the organization was initiated by Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, our Chevithorne Captain. The pilgrimage proved to be highly memorable, and high points included the wreath-laying at the Menin Gate, led by Brig. Robert Tailyour, and a similar ceremony at the Thiepval Memorial, led by Brig. John Dean. The tour party's itinerary included the resting places of several members of the School's pre-1914 Bisley teams, which gave the remembrance an additional focus for the Magpies present. All who took part were very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, and plans are under way to carry out a similar pilgrimage to Normandy in June 2015 (the 71st anniversary of D-Day).

OB Day occurred this year on June 14th, and was marked by a smallbore match at Blundell's between the Magpies and current pupils. This was the first time this had happened for a number of years, and a great deal of preparation was evident on the part of Col. Tim and the new SSI to the School's cadet force, SSI (RSM) Barry Dawe (like Col. Tim, a former Royal Marine). A display of shooting memorabilia and remarkable personalities stood outside the range, including photographs of former teams, and the cadets were clearly well disciplined and proud to wear their cap badge. Those who shot had also acted as escorts to the new School Standard, an emblem which had been carried into the chapel as part of the OB service, and were therefore in smart parade dress. Unfortunately perhaps for the Magpies, this detracted not a whit from their marksmanship!

Despite the inflexible timetable during the morning, the match was successfully shot in between the end of the chapel service and the marquee lunch; the rifles were fairly light, and no slings were allowed! This may have taken the Magpies by surprise, but as a genuine test of shooting it was eminently fair. The cadets proved to be consistently steadier than their ageing forebears, and the result was a convincing win for the School (240 over 234). Col. Tim duly presented the team trophy to their captain, cadet RSM Harry Boddington, and the individual prize for top score to Ed Barlow of the School, who had achieved 70 points ex 80. All members of the School squad were deservedly presented with commemorative medals (which had kindly been procured by Ben Wrey), and the opportunity was taken for photographs...

Magpies
Col. Tim magnanimously delivers the team trophy to Harry Boddington.

Magpies
Ed Barlow, highest individual scorer. (Any tips for us wrinklies, Ed?)

Magpies
The teams together. Top left is school coach Barry Dawe, (late Royal Marines),
and seated right is Magpie Chevithorne Captain Lt.Col.Tim Courtenay, (er, late Royal Marines).

Unfortunately, only part of the Magpie presence is shown above (Peter Ward, David Bentata and Hugo Brooke with Col. Tim in the front row). David Kyd also shot, whilst David Condy, Brig. Rob Tailyour and David Willoughby were additionally present: Brig. Rob was reader of the lesson at the chapel service. However, one aspect of the time pressure of the day was that the marquee lunch for OBs was due to start before the prizegiving for the shoot could take place. Those not pictured no doubt felt their proper place was in the marquee; the truants in the frame are therefore most grateful to them for having saved the club's collective face! The Magpies felt most encouraged to see such a re-emergence of the erstwhile pride in the School's CCF tradition, and this feeling was reinforced a few weeks later when Blundell's finished top of 8 schools competing at their combined annual camp in a military skills competition.

On 10th July the Magpies entered a team in the Public Schools' Veterans match at Bisley. The weather had been quite miserable in the morning, and several of us had driven through rain to Bisley fearing it would continue likewise. Imagine our shattered cynicism when a calm band of sunny sky appeared over the Common an hour or so before kick-off - and remained in situ for the duration! Apologies to Murphy, who does sometimes work in reverse.

Our position on Century was the left-most target in use on the whole range (i.e. nearest to the club bars), and by the RV time of 17.00 we had five seasoned, in-date shooters ready to do their damnedest. With the valued services of Ben Wrey as coach, David Bentata, Hugo Brooke, Chris Barker, Richard Price and Peter Ward proceeded to fire their quota of rounds most steadily, refusing on principle to yield to the inexorable weight of increasing years (average age on the point was about 70) and notching up a total of 210.8. Hugo Brooke actually had the chutzpah to return a round unused after scoring a bull sighter. Whilst this total did not threaten to unseat the eventual winners (The Troubleshooters, with a very fine score of 248.34) it served to fly the flag where it mattered, and to remind the shooting world that Blundell's still has a presence in the scheme of things. We were greatly indebted to both David and Chris, who both brought their rifles for other Magpies to use, and to David for sharing the coaching with Ben.

Magpies
PS Veterans 2014: Brooke, Barker, Price, Cdr. Knapp, Bentata, Ward, Wrey.

Not only did we have the active team present, but there was support and encouragement in the form of our guest ladies Marion and Gilly, and just as welcome was the unexpected appearance of Cdr. Martin Knapp, following a conversation with Ben at the London Lunch in March.

Magpies
(Shooting is definitely not a spectator sport, but patient supporters are always a valuable asset...

Magpies
...particularly when there's a lot of intense, serious discussion taking place.)

The move from the range was a little slower than anticipated, mainly because the adjacent club, for whom we had to provide a register keeper, kept fielding new firers for yet more additional teams; it was nearly 20.00 before we were able to get ourselves into the bar of the North London RC and start the proper business of the evening. Luckily, the sun was still shining, so half an hour or so was spent in the reminiscence department, contemplating what had been, and in all wistfulness, what might have been (huge scope here).

From there, most of us gravitated to our old haunt of the Worplesdon Hotel for what turned out to be a very enjoyable dinner. It was unanimously resolved that a letter of loyal greeting be sent to the Head, Mrs Nicola Huggett, adding our congratulations on the performance by the Blundell's cadets at their recent CCF camp. (This was duly done a day or so later.)

A pleasant item to report is that, later in the Bisley meeting, David Bentata acted in his traditional role as adjutant to the Oxford University team in the 'varsity match, and was gratified to see his fellow members win the trophy (after a few lean years!).

2014 has for the Magpies been a relatively full and very satisfying year, balanced between particular respect for our forebears, renewed contact with current School activity, and the traditional seasonal programme. Our grateful thanks are extended to all who have enabled the various events to take place so successfully.

Peter Ward
Magpies' Bisley Captain

OB Day 2014 Shooting Magpies v Blundell's CCF

OB Day 2014 Shooting

OB Day 2014 Shooting

Magpies 234, Blundell’s CCF 240

During Old Blundellian Day 2014 a shooting competition between the Magpies and Blundell’s CCF took place. A chance for the current Blundellians to meet the Magpies. Reading through achievements of yesteryear and then having the opportunity to meet those Blundellians was extremely inspirational. All had a fantastic competition which only a Blundellian could win. It was a lot closer than expected with the CCF running out as victors with a score 240 against 234 over the Magpies. Colonel Tim Courtenay (OH 1953-58), presented the trophies and medals and was instrumental in arranging the competition. The CCF looks forward to next year’s competition.

OB Day 2014 Shooting   OB Day 2014 Shooting

OB Day 2014 Shooting   OB Day 2014 Shooting

OB Day 2014 Shooting   OB Day 2014 Shooting

2013 Season Report

As described in the May Newsletter, the first event of note was the annual Magpie Lunch, the 7th in the series, organized by David Bentata, our Club Coach, at the Special Forces Club on 5th March. A good turn-out (13 Magpies with 2 lady guests) ensured that a convivial time was enjoyed by the group, and a message of good wishes from Mrs Huggett, the new Head of Blundell's, was most gratefully received. The occasion was also marked by the presentation of an antique Devon Regimental shako badge by Ben Wrey to Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, in acknowledgement of his sterling work as Chevithorne Captain in liaison with the School. Sadly, as we were to learn a few days later, Ian Anderson also died elsewhere on this same day. Ian had been Captain of the VIII in 1953, and an active Magpie marksman during the last few years of his life. Hugo Brooke later represented the Club at Ian's cremation.

OB Day at Blundell's (June 15th) saw an unusual number of Magpies in attendance, partly because Col. Tim had been doing a splendid job as Chief Whip, but also because the Day had been designated as a 'Gaudy' (Ted Crowe's influence lingers yet, God bless him) for those OBs who had left the School between 1950 and 1970. In vain did the cynics point out that this group contained those who were the wealthiest, and most likely to drop off their perches soonest. Such was the response, that there were TWO Magpie tables at the marquee lunch, one graced by the now traditional Falling Plate, suitably painted with the Magpie symbol. 11 members, including Col.Tim, Ben Wrey, David Bentata, Brig.Rob Tailyour, David Kyd, Tim Motion, Hugo Brooke, David Condy, Chris Barker, David Willoughby and Peter Ward were joined by Linda Smith (School Governor), Suzie Condy, Gilly Cox and Katrina Page as guests. We were also privileged to have Emily Roffe-Sylvester, Dagmar Armstrong and Paddy Armstrong sitting at one of our tables. (As they are part of the School's permanent establishment, were they perchance just keeping an eye on us?!!) It was a very memorable day, as we heard speeches by Mrs Huggett and the well-known war reporter Robert Fox, amongst others, and the School's archivist, Mike Sampson, had worked hard to produce a most interesting exhibition of memorabilia which contained several items of particular relevance to Magpies. The only disappointment was perhaps that the School felt unable to raise a team of pupils to shoot against the OBs in the mini-range; apparently the demands of cricket were all-pervasive. (Which didn't seem to be borne out by the distinctly sparse numbers of cricketers in evidence out in the fields on the day, it must be said.)

On to The Public Schools' Veterans match, shot on Century on July 11th, luckily again in the sort of idyllic weather conditions we've seen during the recent past. Just one team had been booked, but by Murphy's Law there were 7 people who turned up, so two of us had to stand down. I had no problem in exercising captain's prerogative (quite a relief, actually) but I did feel some sympathy for Richard Price, who arrived well in time, but just after the team card had been signed. We were rather fortunate in knowing that David Bentata (Club Coach) would turn up, because he had the only rifle, and not for the first time everything depended on his letting everyone else use it, and in coaching them individually. Good job that he's such a clubable fellow!

The actual shoot, though dry, was bedevilled by a fresh, variable and veering breeze, which affected the righteous and unrighteous alike, and resulted in the top teams missing the usual quintet of possibles. The Magpie stalwarts, David Bentata, Hugo Brooke, Mike Chandler, Chris Barker and Robert Bentata, despite this being their first open range venture this season, performed with verve and panache, and although the final score of 204.8 lay rather towards the lower end of the spectrum, manifestly enjoyed the experience. Hold - I lie! In Mike Chandler's case, he had broken the amateur code and had actually been practising. Which he was constrained to admit, after he'd just scored 49.6, which was of course a very fine shoot. This impressive effort made us all feel we could face anyone on the range, and you could feel the swagger as the Magpies headed towards the bar of the North London RC to continue the day's celebrations. Thank you again to David, through whom we were able to enter the North London's hallowed portals. During a most pleasant interlude on the sunlit lawn of the Clubhouse, many snippets were exchanged and memories related of the good old days, which seem to get more and more golden the further off they recede... It was also very good briefly to meet James Postle, who is still busily involved in organizing the Athelings for their annual Canadian trip, but made time to come and socialize with us.

There was subsequently a move to the Fox at Worplesdon for dinner, to which seven of us were able to stay. Whilst the meal was indifferent (the new management operates on the principle of creating an exotic veneer, halving the volume and doubling the price), the bonhomie was - as always - excellent, and the unofficial AGM of the club rolled itself out. One item agreed was that a message of loyal greeting should be sent to the new Blundell's Head, Mrs Huggett, a sentiment from those at dinner, but felt to be equally representative of absent friends. This was done as instructed a few days later.

Magpies, 2013
The Magpies on the range: Brooke, Barker, Bentata R, Chandler, Bentata D, Price, Ward

One or two interesting statistics from the day's matches:
31 schools shot in the main Ashburton competition, which was won by Dollar Academy with 757 ex 840 (3 distances these days, no slumming it like we used to). Runners up were Epsom College with 744. There were 46 Former Pupils' clubs represented in the veterans' match, but a total of 96 teams were competing (ie on average each club had more than 2 teams firing). One school had entered 6 teams, and at least 2 others had 5. The top 3 team scores were all 248 ex 250, but the Old Marlburians clinched the title through amassing more V bulls than the others. Unfortunately the Old Cliftonians led us by a few points, so take the Anstey Salver if it still exists anywhere.

Next year we are all too aware that it will be the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, and it is the general intention for us to reflect some remembrance of this into whatever activity the Magpies take part in. It appears certain that the vast majority of Blundell's pre-1914 Bisley team members were caught up in the conflict (as of course were equivalent groups from all Blundell's sports), and thanks to John Hollands we know something of those who fell, who were wounded, and whom the fortunes of war allowed recognition in the form of decorations etc. Col. Tim intends to lead a Blundell's - orientated pilgrimage to the Flanders battlefields in April, which any interested Magpie is recommended to join (see the Blundell's website for full details). Mike Sampson (school archivist) has records of the Bisley teams of 1903 to 1914, and the carnage evident from just 2 or 3 of the ones I have seen is quite appalling, something approaching 50% fatalities, with most of the rest wounded. The trip will incorporate visits to a number of cemeteries and memorials in which Old Blundellians lie or are commemorated.

Peter Ward
Bisley Captain

Report on the Eighth London Lunch, held at The Special Forces Club, London 4th March 2014

The Magpies' latest London Lunch proved to be a real, red-letter occasion, as we were very privileged to welcome Mrs Nicola Huggett, Head of Blundell's, as our special guest. Old Blundellians of a maturer age, now largely retired, may have gulped at learning that she had not only been teaching earlier that day, but was due to return to Devon for other important duties later on: our gratitude for her having made time for us was all the more heartfelt. A total of eighteen Magpies and four guests made up by far the largest attendance since the Lunches started in 2007, and reflected both the presence of the Head and the organizational flair of the Club's principal Bisley coach, David Bentata, whose tireless work on the Magpies' behalf has resulted in so many memorable events.

The occasion began with informal reminiscing in the bar, at which extensive memory banks hummed with activity, and no doubt surprised even those drawing upon them. After a pleasant meal, presided over by David Bentata, Mrs Huggett described the current breadth of academic, sporting and extracurricular achievements by pupils at the School, a phenomenon which she and many others were finding exciting and impressive, and which she saw as part of her role to project to OBs, parents and the wider world. She saw OBs as having an important role in the Blundell's community, as they were able to offer a perspective of depth which was less obvious to those intensively involved in the 'here and now'. She also commented on the recent appointment of Barry Dawes, late Royal Marines, as SSI to the School's cadet force, which was of interest to those who had taken part in shooting in past years.

David Bentata thanked the Head on behalf of the Magpies, and asked the Chevithorne Captain, Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, to make a presentation to her as from the Club. Col. Tim then produced a mounted, illuminated poem entitled 'Chevithorne Lament & Magpies in Memoriam' (effectively an ode to past shooting memories at the School's one-time local range and at Bisley). The text of the poem was tastefully executed, and the border embellished with a number of photographs of teams and individuals between the 1950s and 2010; the back of the frame was also complete with a montage of more pictures and press cuttings of school shooting memorabilia. To (only very slightly) sceptical enquiries about the exact provenance of this beautifully accomplished piece of work, Col. Tim volunteered that, though the words and selection of pictures were his alone, the finely aesthetic presentation owed much to the help of Emily in the Blundell's Development Office. The combined result was universally admired by all present, and the Head expressed her appreciation of what would be regarded as a unique and treasured heirloom. Col. Tim had kindly had a number of copies of the poem printed, which were much appreciated by diners as special reminders of a memorable day in the Club's history.

Before concluding the proceedings, David then presented the Head with a copy of "Call to Arms", the history of Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School from 1947 to 1958. A number of Old Blundellians had passed through Eaton Hall, he being one, and he had contributed material personally during the writing of the book.

For the record, those at the Lunch were Mrs Nicola Huggett (Head), Linda Smith (a Governor of the School), David Bentata (Principal Club Coach, in the Chair), Chris Barker with guest Marion, John Batten, Hugo Brooke with guest Gilly, Mike Chandler with guest Di, David Condy, Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, Cdr. Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Peter Moore, Tim Motion, Alex Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.

Peter Ward

Blundell’s Magpies Public Schools Veterans Shoot, Bisley on Century Range 11th July 2013

Just a brief report from the Common to let you know that the veterans' match duly took place last Thursday, luckily once again in the sort of idyllic weather conditions we've seen during the recent past.

Just one team had been booked, but by Murphy's Law there were 7 people who turned up, so two of us had to stand down. I had no problem in exercising captain's prerogative (quite a relief, actually) but I did feel some sympathy for Richard Price, who arrived well in time, but just after the team card had been signed. We were rather fortunate in knowing that David B (Club Coach) would turn up, because he had the only rifle, and not for the first time everything depended on his letting everyone else use it, and in coaching them individually. Good job that he's such a clubable fellow!

Magpies at Bisley, 2013     Magpies at Bisley, 2013

The actual shoot, though dry, was bedevilled by a fresh, variable and veering breeze, which affected the righteous and unrighteous alike, and resulted in the top teams missing the usual quintet of possibles. The Magpie stalwarts, David Bentata, Hugo Brooke, Mike Chandler, Chris Barker and Robert Bentata, despite this being their first open range venture this season, performed with verve and panache, and although the final score of 204.8 lay rather towards the lower end of the spectrum, manifestly enjoyed the experience. Hold – I lie! In Mike Chandler's case, he had broken the amateur code and had actually been practising. Which he was constrained to admit, after he'd just scored 49.6, which was of course a very fine shoot. This impressive effort made us all feel we could face anyone on the range, and you could feel the swagger as the Magpies headed towards the bar of the North London RC to continue the day's celebrations. Thank you again to David, through whom we were able to enter the North London's hallowed portals. During a most pleasant interlude on the sunlit lawn of the Clubhouse, many snippets were exchanged and memories related of the good old days, which seem to get more and more golden the further off they recede... It was also very good briefly to meet James Postle, who is still busily involved in organizing the Athelings for their annual Canadian trip, but made time to come and socialize with us.

Magpies at Bisley, 2013There was subsequently a move to the Fox at Worplesdon for dinner, to which seven of us were able to stay. Whilst the meal was indifferent (the new management operates on the principle of creating an exotic veneer, halving the volume and doubling the price), the bonhomie was - as always - excellent, and the unofficial AGM of the club just rolled itself out. One item agreed was that a message of loyal greeting should be sent to the new Blundell's Head, Mrs Huggett, a sentiment from those at dinner, but felt to be equally representative of absent friends. This was done as instructed a few days later.

One or two interesting statistics from the day's matches:
31 schools shot in the main Ashburton competition, which was won by Dollar Academy with 757 ex 840 (3 distances these days, no slumming it like we used to). Runners up were Epsom College with 744. There were 46 Former Pupils' clubs represented in the veterans' match, but a total of 96 teams were competing (i.e. on average each club had more than 2 teams firing). One school had entered 6 teams, and at least 2 others had 5. The top 3 team scores were all 248 ex 250, but the Old Marlburians clinched the title through amassing more V bulls than the others. Unfortunately the Old Cliftonians led us by a few points, so take the Anstey Salver if it still exists anywhere.

Magpies at Bisley, 2013     Magpies at Bisley, 2013

Next year we are all too aware that it will be the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, and it is the general intention for us to reflect some remembrance of this into whatever activity the Magpies take part in. It appears certain that the vast majority of Blundell's pre-1914 Bisley team members were caught up in the conflict (as of course were equivalent groups from all Blundell's sports), and thanks to John Hollands we know something of those who fell, who were wounded, and whom the fortunes of war allowed recognition in the form of decorations etc. Col. Tim intends to lead a Blundell's - orientated pilgrimage to the Flanders battlefields in April, which any interested Magpie is recommended to join (see the Blundell's website for full details). Mike Sampson (school archivist) has records of the Bisley teams of 1903 to 1914, and the carnage evident from just 2 or 3 of the ones I have seen is quite appalling, something approaching 50% fatalities, with most of the rest wounded. The trip will incorporate visits to a number of cemeteries and memorials in which Old Blundellians lie or are commemorated.

For the time being, that's the essence of what happened at Bisley last week.

I should therefore like to wish all the very best to everybody for a good rest of the year, and mind how you go - I hope to see all in good fettle next Spring!

Kind regards,

Peter Ward (FH 1959-1964)

Annual Magpies Spring Luncheon 5th March 2013

The annual Magpies Spring luncheon took place in London on Tuesday 5th March. Loyal greetings were conveyed to the Head. An informal presentation was made by Ben Wrey of a Devon Militia cap badge to the Chevithorne Captain, Colonel Tim Courtenay in recognition of his stalwart efforts to enable the OB’s to continue shooting at Blundell’s when the Magpies come down to OB Day each year. This was the 7th luncheon organized by David Bentata with record numbers of 15 attending.

David Bentata (FH 1951–56) Elected President of The Oxford & Cambridge Rifle Association October 2012

David BentataDavid Bentata (FH 1951–56) has been elected President of The Oxford & Cambridge Rifle Association and presided at the 150th Anniversary Dinner of the Chancellors’ Match where he entertained the Chancellor of Cambridge University and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge.

This association was founded in 1860, when the Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge met and decided that there should be an annual Rifle Match between the two Universities at Wimbledon, to compete for a Trophy to be named The Chancellors' Plate. The fact that the trophy actually consists of a huge silver "Stein" drinking vessel is by the bye!

The annual Varsity Match at Bisley was created after a major move to set up Rifle Clubs and to promote marksmanship and skill-at-arms particularly after the threat with the invasion by Louis Napoleon. In 1860, the National Rifle Association came into existence and, until 1889, and the building of smart houses on its edge, Rifle Meetings were held each summer at Wimbledon. In 1890 the move to Bisley, a large area of open heathland, was completed.

Blundell’s Magpies Public Schools Veterans Shoot, Bisley on Century Range 12th July 2012

Magpies at Bisley, 2012Blundell's Magpies took part in the annual match on Thursday on Century Range, Bisley. One team of 5 firers competed, all being allowed 2 sighting shots and 10 shots to count at 500 yards.

The main characteristic of this year's event was undoubtedly the execrable weather! The rain set in steadily about an hour before the veterans got down to start their shoot (conveniently for the current school cadets, who had managed to finish theirs before the deluge began), and whilst some very experienced marksmen have the kit and savvy to survive wet conditions, the majority of enthusiastic 'occasionals' don't find them so easy to endure. In fairness, heavy rain had only occurred during this match for the second or third time in the last 30 years, so we couldn't really complain, although to judge by the numbers on the range it seemed that many potential competitors had preferred to stay at home - or were watching from the comfort of some nearby clubhouse.

We were fortunate that our principal coach, David Bentata, had brought along his target rifle and that he was prepared to let the other Magpies use it (not every Bisley shot would be as generous). David shot first, then Mike Chandler, Ian Anderson, Chris Barker and Hugo Brooke performed manfully in the unusually miserable conditions, resulting in a team score of 212 with 12 'V' bulls. Individual scores were commendably steady, and the team's eventual position, whilst not in contention for the top prize (the winners being the Old Greshamians with a quietly resolute total of 250 ex 250, with 33 'V' bulls), nevertheless showed a determination not to be beaten by the elements. Top Magpie individual was Hugo Brooke, with 47 ex 50 (5 'V's), whilst Mike Chandler also displayed his customarily steadfast approach with a useful 45 (5 'V's). We were extremely pleased this year to welcome Chris, an OB of 1960s vintage who had recently decided to take up shooting, and who after having enjoyed some activity with smallbore weapons, had decided to try the open range - the Veterans' match of 2012 was his first attempt at full bore shooting, and despite Murphy's Law dictating that this would be in atrocious weather, he produced creditable results. (He also claimed to have enjoyed it, which was either very polite, or perhaps he's just another shooting nutter?)

Magpies who had sent their apologies in advance included Col. Tim Courtenay, David Willoughby, Richard Price and Mike Hallows, and warm good wishes were expressed in their direction.

Other Magpies who attended the match were Ben Wrey and Peter Ward. In point of fact, a second team had been booked, but we'd only been allocated a single target, and by the time the first five had got their rounds down the range, the assembled company were well into the first stages of exposure, and it was pretty unanimously agreed that there wasn't much point in hanging on until one or two more practices had been fired - which would have left the rest of our valiant crew with advanced hypothermia. The clubhouse beckoned, and the call was followed with unprecedented enthusiasm. On the way off the range, it emerged that Hugo Brooke had ended his own shoot with five successive 'V' bulls. This amazing fact was greeted with mild suspicion (did Ian Anderson, who had been coaching him, have access to a crystal ball? Or, worse still, had Hugo been secretly practising with intent?) but fairness prevailed in the end, and it was generously agreed that Hugo's effort hadn't been at all bad for a chap in his mid-70s.

Once back in the civilised surroundings of the North London Rifle Club (as guests of David Bentata and Ben Wrey) and after a much-needed change of clothes, the Magpies could get down to the serious business of complaining about the weather, lamenting the state of the nation and generally advising the Powers that be how they should be running everything. During this interlude we were very pleased to encounter James Postle, and to learn very positive things about Eve's first year in charge of Cheltenham Ladies' College. After some chewing of the cud, there was then a migration to the Fox at Worplesdon, where similar socializing went on over a pleasant meal until the late hour prevailed on those who had long journeys to undertake.

It is noticeable that the number of schools taking part in the national meeting, whilst the standards of the leading teams are as high as ever, has gradually reduced over the last few decades, and is now a mere fraction of what it had been in the 1950s and 60s. The number of veterans' teams is still much as previously, although this year many of the teams entered failed to field the required complement of members, which may not have been influenced purely by the weather. Former pupils of many schools seem to agree that it is sad that so many school students are now denied the positive and pleasurable experience of Bisley competition, with its emphasis on careful preparation, critically sensitive team building, and endurance through significant psychological pressures whilst focussing on a clear, long-term objective. One topic which occupied some of those present at Bisley was the poignant photograph which Col. Tim had copied of the Blundell's Bisley team of 1914: this had been taken approximately 3 weeks before the start of the Great War, and of the teenagers pictured, virtually all had either been killed or wounded within the following 4 years. I, for one, wished heartily that I had known about this whilst I was a pupil at the school, as it would have given me a greater sense of tradition and of awareness of what our forebears had gone through. We are indeed very grateful to Mike Sampson, Col. Tim and John Hollands - amongst others - for their part in enabling us to appreciate this most sobering aspect of our collective inheritance.

Peter Ward
Magpies Bisley Captain

Blundell’s Magpies Annual Luncheon 6th March 2012

Held at The Special Forces Club

The fourteen members of the Blundell’s Magpies assembled at lunch on Tuesday 6th March at The Special Forces Club sent loyal greetings to the School and the Head Master.

The annual lunch has been held for many years now, latterly at the Special Forces Club and we look forward to welcoming other Blundell’s Magpies in future years.

The Following members attended:

  • David Willoughby (W 54-58)
  • David Condy (P 57-62)
  • Tim Motion (SH 50-54)
  • David Bentata (FH 51-56)  & Linda Smith
  • Alec Rainey (FH 52-57)
  • John Batten (SH 53-57)
  • Mike Chandler (P 60-65) & Di Chandler
  • Ben Wrey(W 53-58)
  • Peter Ward (FH 59-64)
  • Peter Moore (W 53-57)
  • George Tilley (FH 59-61
  • James Postle (Former Master 08-11)

The lunch was organized by David Bentata (FH 51-56). If you are interested in future OB shooting events please contact the OB Club and they will put you in contact with David Bentata.

Cambridge University Rifle Association 10th March 2012

Held at Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Members of the Ashburton Winning team of 1956
Members of the Ashburton Winning team of 1956

The photo above displays no less than three members of the winning Ashburton-1956 Blundell’s rifles team attending the dinner in their capacity as Alumni of Oxford University Rifle Club (OURC) and Cambridge University Rifle Association (CURA) respectively.

The particular occasion for the presence of three former members of the 1956 team was that all three Old Blundellians had participated in one or other of the first two combined Oxford and Cambridge rifle team tours of East Africa following World War II.

David Bentata (FH 51-56) (together with another Blundellian who was not available to the Dinner), Roger Cook (FH 50-55) went out on the first Oxford and Cambridge team in 1960 and John Palmer (W 51-56) and Bren Wrey (W 53-58) went out on the second tour in 1962. Members of the 1962 combined team attended the CURA dinner as it was exactly 50 years since the tour took place.

John Palmer, the Captain of the 1956 Blundell's team flanked by David Bentata (Oxford) and Ben Wrey (Cambridge)
This photograph shows John Palmer, the Captain of the 1956 Blundell’s
team flanked by David Bentata (Oxford) and Ben Wrey (Cambridge)

Magpies Spring Luncheon Tues 6th March 2012

The Annual Blundell’s Magpies Spring Luncheon takes place on Tuesday 6th March 2012 at the Special Forces Club, London. Numbers are limited, but if you are a shooter and are interested in attending, please contact Mr David Bentata (on 01462 435341) who will be able to furnish you with additional details of venue, cost, timings, etc.

Blundell's Magpies Rifle Club 2011 Season

Shortly before Christmas in 2010 the Magpies' President, Dr Herbert Price, died at the age of 90 after a long illness, depriving us of a genial and much-loved pillar of the Club. Herbert had been the last of the inter-war Bisley shooters under Rev. Major Abigail, and his subsequent distinguished medical career was only a backdrop to his consuming passions, rugby and shooting, which he pursued with vigour until late in life. A fuller obituary can be seen on the OB website.

In March, David Bentata organized another in the series of London Lunches, this time again in the sobering ambience of the Special Forces Club. Magpies stood in silence in memory of the late Dr Herbert Price, then enjoyed an hour or two reminiscing and updating each other on a host of subjects. Beside David, other Magpies included Ben Wrey, Hugo Brooke, Peter Moore, David Condy, George Tilley, Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Peter Ward and Alec Rainey (who had published his book 'The Way of Life' – about which others present were extremely interested, if rather challenged by the complexity of the subject). Guests were David's partner Linda, a governor of Blundell's, and James Postle, housemaster of School House and manager of shooting at the school.

During the course of the meal the Magpies learned that James would be leaving Blundell's at the end of the summer term, because of the eminently well-deserved promotion of his wife, Eve Jardine-Young, to be Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College from September. Eve had been an outstanding Director of Studies at Blundell's since 2006, and had contributed in good measure to the excellent ratings the school had been given in the Ofsted inspection of 2010: congratulations were offered via James from all present. David then presented James with a Magpies club tie, as a mark of gratitude for the work he had done to rekindle interest in open-range shooting amongst Blundellians.

This interest was demonstrated a few weeks later, when Blundell's cadets shot in the Mere Cup matches in May, and achieved top places in under-18 and under-16 pairs matches, despite this occasion being their first fullbore shoot of the season. Old Boys also noted with interest that this shoot was the first time that a lady (Jenny Boylett) had shot for the school in a representative match. Another pleasing aspect of these matches was that the Anstey Salver was shot for by respective school cadets from Blundell's and Clifton – for the first time in over 30 years.

Magpies, 2011The Magpies entered 2 teams in the Schools' Veterans matches at Bisley on 14th July. We were fortunate to have dry, warm conditions, and the only drawback was a very changeable, fishtailing wind, which produced many inners ('bulls that got away'). Despite the wind, scores were generally very sound, and mention should be made of the steady performance by Mike Chandler (47.3 ex 50), Robert Bentata (46.2), David Willoughby (45.2), and Ian Anderson (45.3). Others who shot included David Bentata, Richard Price and Peter Ward; other Magpies who attended were Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Tony Ward and Chris Barker. We were extremely grateful to David Bentata and Tony Ward for their patient coaching in tricky wind conditions, and to the HAC Rifle Club for lending us a rifle. The A team score of 222.12 placed us 39th out of 51 teams, headed by a fine winning total of 249.33 by Uppingham former pupils.

After the shoot the Magpies and their guests gravitated to the verandah of the North London Rifle Club, where they were delighted to meet James Postle (at Bisley in his capacity as organizer of the Athelings); James was kind enough to present individual Magpies with Ashburton ties – which may be worn by anyone who has competed in the Ashburton match at any time. This very pleasant interlude was followed by dinner at the Fox, a favourite watering-hole of the Magpies.

As 2011 draws on, the Magpies Rifle Club seems to have had as enjoyable and well supported a season as any in the last thirty years. Nevertheless, the news that the school has now lost the most successful coach in Ashburton history is not encouraging. The average age of the active Magpie membership is now approaching 70; clearly the most valiant spirits cannot continue indefinitely. We hope to glean a handful of younger members from the recent resurgence of interest at the school, and will go on representing the Old Blundellians at Bisley for as long as we can.

Blundell's Magpies Bisley Captain - contact details: -
Peter Ward, 19 Stamford House, Great Heathmead, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1FH
E-mail: peter.ward@lcdisability.org
Tel: 01342-712232

Special Forces Club Tues 8th March 2011

The Blundell's Magpies sent loyal greetings to the Head Master from their luncheon at the Special Forces Club held on Tuesday 8th March with the following in attendance:

David Bentata
Linda Smith
Ben Wrey
Peter Ward
Col. Tim Courtenay
George Tilley
Alec Rainey
Hugo Brooke
David Condy
Peter Moore
& guest James Postle

At the lunch a new Magpies tie was presented to James Postle making him an honorary member of the Magpies in recognition of all he has done in a very short time for Blundell's shooting.  This is now the fifth year of the Spring Luncheon for the Magpies and long may it continue.

Many good wishes were received from those who were unable to attend including David Willoughby, Tim Motion, John Batten, Mike Chandler, Dr Peter Jones and his brother mike.

The Public Schools Veterans Match will take place on Thursday 14th July and those wishing to take part need to turn up in good country clothes, including wet weather gear, if appropriate, around 4.30 pm on the Century Range, reporting to Peter Ward or David Bentata (the Bisley Coach).  Shooting commences at 5.00 pm and finishes between 6.30 and 6.45 pm followed by a drink on the veranda of the North London Rifle Club, repairing to The Fox, a particularly nice restaurant in the Surrey countryside for dinner.

David Bentata

Military Reception Day Shooting at Blundell's and Chevithorne 25th Sept 2010

Magpie GroupThe mini-range match took place in the morning, and saw 3 teams competing, 2 from the OB Magpies and 1 from the school. All were coached by the inimitable James Postle, and despite playful attempts by the OBs to tweak the scores, in the end the school team pipped the nominated Magpie IV to win by 366 points to 364. The second Magpie IV limped in behind them with 338 (please don't ask!). Top scorer of the match with 99 points was David Willoughby, who thereby rather poignantly won the trophy which had been presented by his late brother, Lt. Col. Digby Willoughby, in the 1950s. Top scorer from the school team was Robin Silcock, with 98 points, who was presented with an individual trophy by Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Chevithorne Captain. Robin also won the Brooke-Smith Tankard, which goes annually to the highest scorer on the opposing team to the Willoughby winner's. The Magpies were more than impressed when Charles Boddington, who had shot in the school side, appeared a short time later, resplendent in the full-dress uniform of cadet RSM, and commanded the school's guard of honour during the beating of the retreat by the corps of drums from a local unit of the Air Training Corps.

Magpies with James Postle     Magpies behind the old butts

Old Boys who attended the shoot included Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, George Maunder, Mike Biggin, Peter Marten, Dr David Rutter, David Willoughby, David Bentata and Peter Ward. Other 'Magpies' who attended the day included George Tilley and Capt. Christopher Heath, who had been a member of the victorious 1946 Ashburton team.

James Postle     Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE), falling plate and James' hat

The visit to the old range was rather a nostalgic affair, and was only possible through the initiative of Col. Tim and the kindness of the current landowner of Chevithorne Barton, Michael Heathcote-Amory. The last time the school had used it was in 1980, after which it had been decommissioned, and in the 30 years since, nature had begun to reassert itself uncompromisingly. The small party of pilgrims gradually managed to identify the various firing points, and eventually found the butts, with target frames in an advanced state of decay, now almost hidden from daylight by a massive new growth of young trees. Some ancient 'falling plates' were unearthed in the mould of the butt area, and one was taken as a memento, perhaps to be used as a trophy in some suitable context. The visitors were very pleased that James Postle, notwithstanding the pressures of his busy responsibilities as housemaster of the School House, was able to find time to accompany them, which they welcomed as a symbolic link between the now-receding past and what is hoped may be a future full of promise for a new generation of Blundellian shooters.

Summer 2010 Events

The first occasion of note this year was the Magpies’ London Lunch, hosted and organized at the Special Forces’ Club in the Spring by David Bentata. This was attended by 9 members (accompanied by 3 ladies), which despite the overpowering historical associations of the place, proved very relaxed and enjoyable. There was a period of silence in respectful memory of Robin Wellesley, shooting master during the 1970s, who had attended the 2009 Lunch, but who had recently died.

The OB shooters (or ‘Magpies’, as we are commonly known) did not appear at the school on OB Day, as for some reason there was no match. However, we were extremely impressed with the Blundell’s cadets’ performance in the SW schools’ open range meeting in May, where the coaching of both James Postle and Col. Tim Courtenay succeeded in producing convincing winners in both the cadet and reserve pairs competitions. We look forward avidly to seeing how those involved are able to develop their marksmanship in future years.

The Magpies entered two teams in the Public Schools’ Veterans match at Bisley on 15th July, and though a little disappointed not to be able to see a return of the school team, the 8 men who shot (average age now not too far from 70!) managed to hold their own despite a strong and very variable cross-wind which affected the performance of the righteous and unrighteous alike. Mike Chandler was the top scorer with 47 ex 50, and Ian Anderson followed closely with 46. David Willoughby also performed very creditably, his score of 45 marking a gradual ascent to form after a mere year or two of returning to the open range after a gap of some 50 years. The A team score of 209.9 was insufficient to challenge the leaders of the field, but was nevertheless enough to secure the return of the Anstey Salver, as Clifton Old Boys had achieved the lesser total of 199.

Apart from those already mentioned, other Magpies who shot included David Bentata, Col. Tim Courtenay, Richard Price, Hugo Brooke, and Peter Ward. Ben Wrey was on hand to give us his valuable services as wind coach, which clearly influenced the higher average scores of the B team... We were also very pleased that James Postle managed to spend some time with us prior to the shoot, despite the intensive task he was engaged in, before the various school teams disappeared for home following the Ashburton, of trying to select a national cadet team to shoot against the Canadians later in July.

The pattern of traditional socializing then ensued, the bonhomie of a round or two of drinks on the verandah of the North London Rifle Club being well cemented by a pleasant dinner at the nearby Fox pub, during which the problems of the NRA, the new government, and most of the universe were effortlessly solved by the increasingly jovial company.

Bisley 2009

After some 30 years of absence, Blundell’s reappeared at Bisley in 2009. James Postle brought two cadet pairs, who, despite relatively few opportunities to practise, managed to make their mark. One pair came 8th, the other 13th, out of 36 schools’ teams, but their combined scores brought them 4th place in the cadet fours competition, up amongst the great names. How James was able to coach them so effectively we can’t begin to work out, but the guy must have incredible reserves of both patience and skill. The Magpies (now a somewhat attenuated and rather elderly group of gents) were really excited by it all, and in the light of a real, live Blundell’s presence, naturally didn’t see their own performance on the range as being particularly significant. However, perform they did, in the Public Schools’ Veterans competition – and in view of their not shooting very often, not at all badly.

Scores

Team A      Team B
David Bentata (capt.) 44.2 Peter Ward (capt.) 49.8
Mike Chandler 48.2 Ian Anderson 48.2
Richard Price 45.2 Col. Tim Courtenay 46.2
Hugo Brooke 47.1 David Willoughby 44.2
Robert Bentata 45.3 Total 187.14
Total 229.10  

Although there were insufficient men present to complete the second team, keen observers of the shoot would have noticed that that team’s average score was rather better than the first team’s (no smirking at the back there, please). This may have had something to do with the presence of the redoubtable Ben Wrey as coach, but was probably also due to the gratitude everyone felt towards the Almighty, who thought fit to maintain dry weather conditions until shortly after we’d left the range, then let fly with a prolonged British version of a Monsoon. Placings of the two teams in the overall listing need perhaps not detain us unduly, except to observe that the three leading teams all scored 249 ex 250, with the final order being determined by numbers of ‘V’ bulls (the tiny area right in the middle of the target). Regrettably for us, Clifton Old Boys notched up a creditable 238, so regained the Anstey Salver, for which we and they compete each year.

Post-shoot, the Magpies resorted to the verandah of the North London Rifle Club for a civilised noggin or two, after which most of our number adjourned for dinner to a local inn. It was agreed that a message of loyal greeting should be despatched to the Headmaster by David Bentata, the Club’s principal Bisley Coach, and that the message should reflect the pride and gratitude felt by the Old Boys at the magnificent efforts which resulted in the successful return of the School to ‘the Common’.

Mere Cup 3rd May 2009

The Mere Cup was held today at Rogiet Moor Range near Newport, just beside the Severn Bridge. The match was shot at distances of 300, 500 and 600 yards under Ashburton conditions in bright and breezy conditions with only danger flags as a wind guide – but some mirage at 600!

Blundell’s entered the U16 cadet pair and a open pair competing against 6 schools and the regional Sea Cadets and Army Cadets – making 80 competitors in total.

I am very pleased to record that the Blundell’s pair of Charlie Silcock (P) and Chris Bodington (P) won the U16 Cadet Pair by 26 points, beating West Buckland in second and King Edwards, Bath in third. In the Open Pairs, 15 year olds Charlie Howe (FH) and Andrew Kellett (OH) won by a convincing 50 points, beating Exeter School, Clifton and West Buckland, completing a remarkable double; gold medals and trophies were won by both pairs.

This was in fact the first time that these four Blundellians had ever shot a full-bore target rifle over these distances and they were by far the most inexperienced of any of the cadets in the match, making their achievements all the more impressive. Three of the four had fired a 7.62 once at the zero range at Bisley and they all have had just two .22 sessions learning how to use a sling; they did very well indeed. Charlie Silcock’s first two shoots mark him out as a super talent – 29.2 at 300 and 31.1 at 500.

I hope we can ensure that these 4 are free from cricket/athletics matches etc on OB day for our match; I will do my very best but may need to enter into some negotiations! The idea of a possible walk on Chevithorne sounds good and would be very interesting.

I now feel we are in a good position and able to enter the schools’ meeting at Bisley in the summer; all four of these boys are U16, so we can enter 2 cadet pairs and combine them as a four too. I will proceed with planning for the meeting.

James Postle