Controversy at the Robin Hood Rifles NCO's Annual Dinner
The occasion of the 44th Annual Dinner for the Non-Commissioned Officers of the Robin Hood Rifles was used by their Commanding Officer, Lieut.–Colonel A.W. Brewill, to issue a scathing attack on the usefulness of miniature rifle shooting clubs in contributing towards the defence of the realm.
He quite rightly distinguished the difference between target shooting and combat conditions; but did not mention the scenarios when accurate rifle fire from some distance was required.
The local clubs, of which there were now many, challenged the Commanding Officer's views and their comments were picked up by the editor of the Nottingham Daily Express. His editorial comments were published a few days later and are presented below.
Nottingham Evening Post, Thursday, 12 November 1908.
ITEMS OF LOCAL INTEREST
At the 44th annual dinner of the non-commissioned officers of the Robin Hood Rifles, held at the Arboretum Rooms last night, under the chairmanship of Sergt. M.K. Dunn, president of the mess, Lieut.-Colonel A.W. Brewill condemned rifle clubs as useless.
He said he did not think that the rifle clubs throughout the country were doing any good towards the encouragement of the territorial force, or that the shooting at miniature targets between enclosed walls at known distances was anything but a pastime and a recreation, and it was absolute nonsense for the rifle clubs to think that they were doing any service to this country, or that they would be the slightest use in the case of invasion.
The Mayor, responding to the toast of "The City Corporation", referred to the assistance which the Corporation had rendered the Robin Hoods in regard to the range at Trent and the headquarters, and said that it was intended to level the drill ground on the Forest and lay down seed. The unemployed would be set upon this work, provided that the Local Government Board furnished a grant to help them.
The editor of the Nottingham Daily Express reported on the response of the Nottingham shooting clubs to Lieut.–Colonel Brewill's remarks and found some sympathy with them.
However, he also saw more in the Colonel's remarks than had been reported in the Evening Post.
Nottingham Daily Express, Saturday, 21 November 1908.
EXPRESS AND JOURNAL
The strictures passed recently upon miniature rifle clubs by Lieutenant-Colonel Brewill are being strongly challenged by local members of these clubs. Colonel Brewill, it may be recalled, declared that such clubs were doing no good towards the encouragement of the Territorial Force, and that they would not be of the slightest use in the case of invasion.
To that scathing criticism the members reply that the movement has the support of Lord Roberts, and that it is of distinct value in learning young men to handle the rifle and to shoot straight. There are perhaps two sides to this controversy. Any steps taken to encourage the art of shooting are to be welcomed, and on that ground the miniature rifle clubs can justify their existence. An important question, of course, is whether the man who can hit the bull's eye repeatedly on a miniature range will prove himself a good shot at, say, 800 or 1,000 yards.
Councillor Small refers to the fact that the Boers in the late war proved formidable foes owing to their skill in the use of the rifle, but would they have done so if the majority of them had been trained on miniature ranges?
The idea underlying Colonel Brewill's attack would seem to be that young men who join a rifle club may think they have done all that is necessary in the way of fitting themselves for national defence, and may therefore shirk joining the Territorial Army. Those who serve in the latter force learn the value of discipline, concerted action, and tactics in the field - lessons which, it will be admitted, cannot be learned on a small enclosed rifle range.
Rifle clubs serve an undeniably useful purpose, but it will certainly be a pity if they deter, in any way, young men from joining the Territorials. We should like to see every young man serving for a short period in the Territorial ranks; we should then have a valuable fighting reserve in case of need. As regards the efficiency of the instruction afforded by rifle clubs, that may be decided if the challenge thrown out for a match between the Robin Hood Rifles and a picked team from the clubs is accepted. It would be an interesting contest, which would go far to settle the superiority of the respective methods of training in the art of shooting.
Transcripts from Nottingham Evening Post and
Nottingham Daily Express, 1908
British Library Newspaper Archive