HELENSBURGH'S residents and visitors will have the chance to witness one of the most spectacular of naval traditions next week when HMS Neptune's Field Gun team hold their public run on Wednesday, May 24.
The 18-strong team of sailors from HM Naval Base Clyde will demonstrate the physically demanding event at Helensburgh’s pier car park with members of the public invited to attend.
The event promises both pomp and action with the team racing to drag, disassemble, reassemble and fire an antique field gun in as quick a time as possible.
Providing musical accompaniment and encouragement will be the Royal Marines Band Scotland and the West of Scotland Military Wives Choir.
Captain Craig Mearns, Captain of HMS Neptune, said: “We held the public run for the first time last year and hundreds of spectators came along.
“The team are preparing for the annual competition at HMS Collingwood in Hampshire where dozens of Field Gun crews will meet to determine the best in the country.
"HMS Neptune Field Gun team are our local team and the one which also represents Scotland at the competition.
"We hope that people will come along to the public run to cheer them and show their support.”
The origins of the event stretch back to 1899 and the Second Boer War.
During that conflict the British Army were besieged by Boer troops in the garrison town of Ladysmith.
Royal Navy ships HMS Terrible and HMS Powerful came to their aid, landing guns which were then manhandled by the Naval Brigade over many miles of rugged terrain to relieve the Army.
So impressive was the feat that Queen Victoria herself sent a telegram to the Naval Brigade, expressing her “deep appreciation of the valuable services they have rendered with their guns".
Displays of the Field Gun first began in London in 1900, with the modern day competition held in HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hampshire.
Training for the event is split into three phases – rigorous physical training at least twice a day; track training with the antique gun, which culminates in the public run; and the competition week at Collingwood, which culminates in timed heats leading to the final of the event.
As well as the seniors’ event, a Junior Leaders Field Gun competition was also introduced in 2006.
Crews from major industrial partners, cadets, the Prince’s Trust, colleges and trainees can all take part, with trainee submariners from HM Naval Base Clyde winning last year’s event.
Captain Mearns added: “The Royal Navy Field Gun helps reinforce and strengthen the key values of the service.
“It also acts as a vehicle to develop and nurture leadership, instils confidence and self-belief, and, more importantly, engenders, promotes and encourages team work.”
The HMS Neptune Field Gun public run will begin at 12.30pm on Wednesday, May 24, with another chance to catch the action at 1.30pm.
The main Field Gun competition will run from May 27 to June 4 at HMS Collingwood.