Gunnery Training Tilbury Fort
For some time it had been planned that The Garrison would hold a 25pdr training weekend, which as well as the usual gun drill, would concentrate on the theory behind laying the guns and firing at targets that cannot be seen, so that everyone would have some idea of how the guns were used in action. I was asked by Keith Brigstock if I would help with this weekend, and we both busied ourselves learning and revising the wartime drills. After a week of frantic telephone calls to each other to discuss angles and bearing, and generally confuse ourselves, we had finally got to grips with the theory, and even produced some useful PowerPoint presentations on the subject.
I left Norfolk on the Friday evening, and headed down to Tilbury Fort, where I met Keith and Jon Catton for a meal in the local pub, before Keith and I went back to the classroom for some final preparation. We stayed at the Fort on Friday night, and the rest of the Troop turned up on Saturday morning. While the four guns and limbers were brought into action, I set up the classroom for the first lecture, and emerged to find a tot of Irish whisky thrust into my hand. Remembering what day it was, we all drank a toast to St. Patrick before beginning the lectures.
The day was divided into classroom lectures for the morning, and then practical application of these lessons in the afternoon. The first subject was the Theory of Indirect Fire, followed by a lesson on how to orientate the guns, that is to say, how to get all the guns pointing in the same direction at the same time. While some were slightly daunted by the maths involved, everyone understood the general theory, and by lunchtime we had covered the function and use of the Artillery Director as well. This is essentially a very sensitive compass and angle measuring device on a tripod, and was a vital piece of kit for a wartime battery.
After luncheon we made our way our to the guns, where we began to put the morning's lessons into practice. As was to be expected, things didn't got entirely smoothly at first, with instances where three guns would turn together in one direction, but the fourth would swing to point in an entirely different one. However, such flaws were gradually ironed out, and we were able to really get to grips with the method for orientating the guns, as well as providing some good photographic opportunities for Tim Neate, who was writing an article about The Garrison for "Military Machines International" magazine. The day was nicely rounded off with a lesson back in the classrooms on the Regimental and Battery history of 489 Bty, 124th Fd Regt RA (TA) the unit we portray, and then dinner and drinks down at the pub.
Sunday was bright but windy, straining the voices of the Command Post and gun No.s 1 as we got to use all we had learned, including Orientation, Laying the Guns, and Fire Discipline (the language of fire control) by practicing some 'shoots' on imaginary targets on the other side of the river. After packing up and a de-brief we were able to leave at a civilised time in the afternoon. I think the weekend was a great success, as everyone went away with an understanding of the methods used in indirect fire, and it was very pleasing to see all for guns with a working CP as well. Thanks must go to everyone who attended, but especially to Keith Brigstock, for tirelessly researching the correct wartime methods and producing the PowerPoint presentations and other teaching aids.