Some of the fittest lads and lassies in the Royal Navy will once again prove their mettle by taking part in the 115-year-old tradition of the Field Gun Run. 

This year’s Field Gun Competition will be held on Saturday, May 31, at HMS Collingwood in Portsmouth, and, as in previous years, sailors from HMS Neptune will be entering. 

The 18 sailors from Faslane are gearing up to begin physical training for the gruelling event, and were recently given a welcome boost with sponsorship from Lockheed Martin UK to the tune of £12,500.

HMS Neptune last won the Field Gun Competition in 1999 and is hoping to return the trophy to Scotland this year.

“We have an excellent chance this year,” said the team’s No.1 trainer, Warrant Officer Gary Nicolson.  “There is a high level of field gun skill and experience in Faslane at the moment.  The training package adds to that, making sure the crew get to a peak of physical fitness for the competition and can stand up to the rigours of hauling the gun around without injury.”

Photo: Martin Davidson from Lockheed Martin presents Captain Alistair Willis, Captain of HMS Neptune, with a sponsorship cheque for this year’s Field Gun team.

Field Gun journey

The field gun itself will arrive at Faslane in April from storage at HMS Collingwood.  This will signal the next phase of training for the Neptune team, giving them the opportunity to come to grips with the intricacy, danger and thrill of running, hauling and throwing over a tonne of spinning and sliding wood, steel and brass around the track. 

Captain Alistair Willis, Captain of HMS Neptune, said: “The Field Gun Competition upholds the key tenets of the Royal Navy, including discipline, commitment, integrity, respect, enthusiasm and honesty.

“I hope that everyone gives their support to this year’s crew, not only those working at HM Naval Base Clyde, but those in the local community too.”

The HMS Neptune team were presented with a sponsorship cheque by Martin Davidson, Acting Managing Director for Lockheed Martin UK Strategic Systems Ltd.

“We are very proud of Lockheed Martin UK’s continued seven year association and sponsorship of the HMS Neptune Field Gun team,” he said. 

“The ethos and work ethic of the teams is the same basis that underpins the key values of Lockheed Martin to perform with excellence.  I wish them all the best for this year’s competition.”

Field Gun origins

The origins of the Field Gun Competition lay in the siege of Ladysmith in 1899 during the second Boer War.

During the siege members of the Naval Brigade came to the aid of the British Army, landing field guns from HMS Terrible and Powerful and transporting them across country.

Initially moved by rail and then by oxen, the sailors later carried the guns over difficult terrain after the animals died.  Legend has it that some of the sailors carried a 12-pounder gun for over two miles.

The modern day competition, which is sponsored by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), consists of a 78 m long track, with the 18-strong team completing a timed total run of 160 m.  Teams can also suffer time penalties for contravention of the strict competition rules.