Last week UTC Reading joined forces with UTC Devon and sent 22 students to the Royal Navy’s Junior Leaders Field Gun Competition to compete with students from across the country.
The two UTCs united to form the team UTC Warriors in the competition, which took place 5-8 July at HMS Collingwood.
Two UTC Reading alumni, Hashavyah Osei-Bonsu and Josh Mabbs, who both took part in in the competition while they were students, both took a week off work to come and support and motivate the new team in the gruelling contest.
The competition is designed to take 16-24 year olds with no previous field gun experience and mould them within days into a competitive team. The training – by a team of qualified Royal Navy instructors – develops team spirit and promotes Naval Service Core Values: Courage, Commitment, Discipline, Respect, Integrity and Loyalty.
This is a gruelling week-long course that teaches students all the skills required to assemble/disassemble a field gun – don’t call it a canon – and its limber and race with it down a track, fire three blank shells and then race back to the start.
It’s no mean feat – the field gun and limber weigh about ½ ton and run on old wooden spoked wheels. It takes a team of 18 people to work as a tightly coordinated team to make everything run like clockwork. Mistakes would not mean just lost time in a race; in a field gun race people can easily get injured. It is brutal, but the journey the students go on over the week is just incredible.
Four days were spent in 25+ degree heat learning the range of ‘drills’ required to get across the finish line successfully. Training was led by a team of Navy field gun instructors and initially the discipline came as something of a shock, but the team rose to the challenge and by Thursday were ready for competition.
The battered and bruised team did good – they managed to beat two military teams in their first heat and on the final day won the ‘Plate’ (2nd group) competition (the overall competition being won by the Royal Engineers).
David McArthur, Computer Science teacher who was there with the team said: “What was truly remarkable was the commitment shown by the students – a number of them suffered injuries, but such was their dedication not a single one wanted to give up their place on the team. They’re already planning next year’s team, so watch this space!”
Principal Jonathan Nichols said: “An amazing achievement after a challenging but life changing week for them all. The cuts, bruises and muscle strains will fade over time, but the learning from this week will stay in the minds of these students for years to come.”