OB Club Shooting

On this page: 2023 | '22 | '21 | '20 | '19 | '18 | '17 | '16 | '15 | '14 | '13 | '12 | '11 | '10 | '09

The 'Blundell's Veterans' Rifle Club' was started in 1924, following relative success at Bisley the previous year. It was renamed 'Blundell's Magpies Rifle Club' in the mid-1950s, following even greater successes at Bisley. The club's main objective is to support and encourage pupils' shooting activity at Blundell's, as part of which there are currently 2 annual fixtures: a mini-range match v School on OB Sport Weekend (late March) and Public Schools' Veterans competition at Bisley (mid-July). Whilst supporters are of course always welcome, actual firing does require previous experience (particularly to shoot at Bisley); anyone wishing to attend the OB Sport Weekend shoot on Saturday 25th March 2023, should contact Janet at obclub@oblub.co.uk. For the Bisley Veterans' match on Thursday 13th July 2023, please contact Peter Ward as below.

There is also a regular shooting practice for local OBs, both ladies and men held at Blundell’s, and anyone from the Blundell’s community wishing to be involved in this, should again contact Janet as above.

  • Magpies' President – Ben Wrey (W 1953-58)
  • Chevithorne Captain – Mark Wooff (M 1977-82): mwooffy@aol.com
  • Bisley Captain – Peter Ward (FH 1959-64): niepage@hotmail.com
  • Bisley Coaches – David Bentata (FH 1951-56) and Ben Wrey (W 1953-58)
  • Spring London Lunches – David Bentata (FH 1951-56)


Schools' Veterans' Shooting Match, Bisley 13th July 2023

The Magpies again fielded a team, and this year were much cheered to find that Blundell's cadets were present on the Common, and in the midst of making their mark in various shoots, notably the Ashburton Fours. Considering their lack of recent opportunity to practise, these cadets shot most impressively, and as they'll all still be at school next year, will have solid experience to build on. Our congratulations go to Barry Dawe for the progress the School has made in this, as in other key areas of the School's endeavours.

The Magpies followed recent custom by foregathering in the North London RC (courtesy of David Bentata) for a light lunch prior to the events of the afternoon. It had been noted that Mark Wooff, Chevithorne Captain, happened to be enjoying his 60th birthday on the day - so the assembled company duly presented him with a multi-signed card and appropriate gift (whether in congratulation or commiseration he's probably still not quite sure). A little later, the Magpies ventured out onto the Century range to meet Barry and the cadets, who were taking part in the day's concluding matches of the schools' meeting, and some interesting notes were compared between the present and past years.

Bisley, 2021: Richard and Tony
A most convivial start

Bisley, 2021: Hugo shoots
Discussion about rifles

After most school parties had left in minibuses for home, the veterans prepared to shoot. The Magpies were fortunate to have five members who were able to do so; even more fortunate was the presence of the club's only fully 'competent' member who was authorised to supervise range activity (Anthony Ward), without whom we couldn't have taken part. Yet more fortunate still was his kindness in lending his rifle to all five firers, and coaching each in turn over a period of about an hour and a half - we owe him immense gratitude, as Ben Wrey, our President, duly expressed in formal terms later on. The Magpie team was made up by two fairly venerable gents (Hugo Brooke and Peter Ward) and three comparatively youthful ones (Rob Bentata, Mark Wooff and Simon Allanson-Bailey). None had shot fullbore during the previous two years, and some had been out of it for rather longer; there was a fresh, variable crosswind, which made consistency difficult, and the situation might have been a little daunting for most. However, with the steady approach of hardened veterans, and the clearly effective coaching of Anthony, the team proceeded to score very evenly and ended with a total of 206 (6v) - which evolved with very few shots outside the inner ring, and no doubt reflected lessons learnt in the distant past at Chevithorne. It is good to note that 46 schools were represented at the Veterans' match (more than half of which were fielding two or even three teams), and that the pandemic has not had such a bad effect as had been feared.

Bisley, 2021: Richard and Tony
Rob Bentata in action

Bisley, 2021: Hugo shoots
Team with their coach

Bisley, 2021: Richard and Tony
Barry with Hugo and Gilly

Mention must be made of Hugo Brooke, who was firing 72 years after his first appearance at Bisley in the cadet pair, and being a few days' short of his 87th birthday. We believe this may be a record for any OB appearing in a representative side in any sport, but cannot be sure. It would be interesting to hear of any challengers...

Bisley, 2021: Hugo shoots
A really enjoyable day...

It was agreed that a message of loyal greetings be sent to the Headmaster as from all Magpies, both present and absent, which the Bisley Captain was asked to facilitate. It was agreed also that this had been a good year for Blundell's shooting, as both School and OBs had been at Bisley together, and that both very much benefited from their respective visits.

As in previous years, the Magpies enjoyed the support of a number of well-wishers, and as well as the 'active' participants, we were privileged to have with us Linda and David Bentata, Gilly Brooke, Katrina Page, David Kyd, George Tilley and Club President Ben Wrey, to all of whom we remain grateful for making time to be with us.

The Magpies' London Lunch Tues 7th March 2023

The sixteenth in the series of London Lunches was held in the Special Forces Club, where we have been extremely privileged to be able to dine for most of these annual gatherings. The occasion was this year graced by guests Bart Wielenga (Headmaster), Barry Dawe (CCF Commander and Director of outdoor pursuits), and Ben Boswell (Development Director); it was noted that a record number of members were present. Linda and David Bentata had as usual done a superb job with the organization, which allowed for a great atmosphere of bonhomie and genial merriment.

David as Chair briefly introduced the guests (who perhaps didn't need much preamble) and he and Ben Wrey (as President) thanked them for making time to attend the lunch despite the pressures of their busy routines at such a time during the academic year; members were indeed profoundly grateful.

Barry was then invited to speak on the current state of shooting and outdoor activities generally. He detailed a bewildering array of impressive achievements by a large number of pupils, ranging from basic military training, through leadership skills, teamwork qualifications, smallbore shooting, watermanship in various guises, qualifying with the army's cadet rifle, clay pigeon shooting, practising for the Ten Tors Challenge, and achieving the various levels of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Some 16 pupils were this year due to go to Buckingham Palace in May to receive their Gold Awards alone, which demonstrated the School's huge participation at all stages (over 150 individuals involved). As regards the CCF, the last two most senior cadets had been female, and the newly formed Royal Marine Section had seen more than 40 serious entrants, a development which was galvanising the cadets generally (the average Blundellian relishes competition!); the section was now to be known as "Keun Company" in honour of Capt. Philip Keun, an extremely brave OB who died in 1944, serving in S.O.E. with the French Resistance. It was hoped that some representation by the School at Bisley might soon be possible, although the bureaucracy of the cadet training system had become rather an obstacle to the simpler training pattern which had been required of the shooters of bygone days. Nevertheless, Barry assured the old and bold that their photographs in the mini-range still served as a focus to current pupils of what the School had achieved in past years, and the objective remained very much in focus.

The Headmaster then reported on the general situation at Blundell's. He alluded to the recent semi-final of the schools' rugby cup, in which Blundell's had lost in an exciting and hard-fought game against Trinity School, Croydon, and which had shown the energy and spirit which characterised the Devon youngsters' commitment to whatever they did. Pupil numbers were very healthy, and other areas such as girls' cricket displayed the same focused determination. It was very noticeable that parents globally were keen to send their children to the School; there were some 120 foreign pupils from countries in several continents - the Blundell's campus was arguably the most diversely populated area in the whole of Devon. The School remained aware that there must always be a steady level of investment in the future and this was why there had been an additional facility for the music school, constructed in the area of Big School, which was calculated to allow the continued expansion of the excellent musical tradition. Although there were many factors presenting difficulties in running the organization - the cost of living and possible political strategies by governments, for example - we should never forget that education was about producing good citizens. The real test of survival was whether parents judged that the outcome of education was worth the outlay, and by that standard he felt that Blundell's was in a fair position to go forward and grow in what was undoubtedly a very competitive market.

Janet Wooff, OB Club Secretary (herself an active Magpie) then took the opportunity to remind members about the coming Sports Weekend, during which there would be a mini-range match against the School on 25th March, and about the OB Day programme on 10th June, at which it was hoped the Magpies might occupy two tables, as we had in previous years. (Although no match against the pupils was planned for that day, the School had kindly offered to open the range between 9.45-10.45am for any Magpie who wished to shoot a practice card or reminisce, before Chapel at 11am)

At this juncture, in view of our being a Blundell's group, and finding ourselves in a particularly appropriate location, it had been agreed that we should pay our respects in the form of a toast to the late Capt. Philip Keun. Following a short verbal summary of Capt. Keun's life, the part he played in the operations of the French Resistance, and the manner of his death and posthumous honours, we felt privileged formally to be able to celebrate our proud memory of this most distinguished former pupil.

As time was limited for many whose journeys home necessitated a fairly early start, our best attempts were made to engage with so many friends we'd not been able to meet until that point. Several more hours would have been necessary to do this properly, but our remaining minutes were well used in exchanging best wishes (maybe also a little banter), and in thanking Linda and David for their meticulous hard work in bringing about such an enjoyable reunion event.

Apart from those mentioned above, guests included: John Batten, Alex Brook, Hugo Brooke, David Condy, Lt Col Tim Courtenay, Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Tim Motion, Col Jim Muir, Richard Price, Alec Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Mark Wooff.


The Magpies' London Lunch Tues 1st March 2022

The fifteenth annual Spring Lunch, organised by David and Linda Bentata, took place in the Special Forces Club, fortunately under normal conditions (i.e. pre-pandemic) for the first time in three years - and very good it was to see so many old friends and a number of honoured guests. David fired the first round down the range by his announcement that he and Linda had married earlier this year. The delight and general excitement stirred by this good news was added to by the confirmation after a few minutes that Gilly and Hugo Brooke had pre-empted them, by having married late in 2021. Some venerable members were thereby so fazed as to need a measure of wine to calm their excitement...

Ben Wrey, President, then rose to welcome our official guests, noting that members were very appreciative of the time and effort these guests had been kind enough to spend, in order to be with us. He noted the obvious continuing keenness of those pupils competing in smallbore winter leagues, and their increasing success in these, as well as with the recent achievement of all cadets who set out to classify with the SA80 at Straight Point range in Lympstone. Another excellent morale-booster was the emergence of a dedicated team of Magpie ladies who met periodically in the Blundell's mini-range, to hone their skills whenever the virus had allowed (being in fact the only Magpies who fired at all during 2020). The Magpies had been able to field a team in the 2021 Schools' Veterans match at Bisley, and the remarkable record of Hugo Brooke, having spanned 70 years of shooting at Bisley (and now being the oldest OB ever to have shot for the School) was given an honourable mention in the NRA Journal. He hoped that (DV) the OB mini-range events planned for the present year would go ahead as per programme and noted the innovative addition of a match in late March as part of the annual OB Sport Weekend. Ben also took the opportunity to present Peter Ward, the Bisley Captain, with a fine English pewter tankard - etched with the School Crest and 'The Magpies' title - in generous acknowledgement of services to the club; Peter expressed his grateful thanks, pointing out, however, that the recent shoot could not have happened without the total support of Anthony, his brother.

The Headmaster then spoke of the situation at Blundell's, which continued to impress him with the energy and flexibility with which the pupils and the community in general had endured and survived the last two years of unusual pressures. Overseas representation was still strong - German parents, for example, were clearly persuaded that the education offered was of good value - and the proportion of girls was gradually increasing to around 40% of the whole. An area of slight concern lay in the level of dependence on fee income for the School's viability, and some movement towards diversification would probably benefit the organisation in the mid-term future. There was a good deal of outward-bound training going on, and it was understood that a Royal Marine section was being planned for the CCF (clear approval was noted amongst one or two OBs at this point). Musical activity was also very apparent throughout the campus, as befitted the School's tradition, and it was noticeable that there were several ongoing joint ventures with other schools. Bart pointed with justifiable pride to the increasing Blundellian involvement with local people and institutions, and stated that the direction of the School's thinking should be towards the positive benefits it could bring to the wider local community, through engagement with it. A key local appointment recently had been that of Community Partnerships Director Charlie Olive, former Housemaster of Old House, who would work from the Development Office to help the various objectives of the School, to be aligned more effectively with those of local organisations. Bart also kindly acknowledged the positive influence of the Magpies as a conspicuous group within the OB presence, which he saw as a good example of the lifelong affection which former pupils could feel towards their Alma Mater.

Tim Mycock was then invited to speak on the current situation with shooting, as managed by Barry, assisted by himself, as the country emerged from pandemic restrictions. There were some 150 cadets engaged in the process of learning to shoot, which would hopefully result in most of them qualifying with the SA80 cadet rifle in due course. Postal competition was continuing with the West Kent Rifle League and elsewhere, and plans were in hand to enter the Devon League as skill levels increased. There was a slight possibility that Blundell's might appear at Bisley this year, although this depended on a number of factors. In a wider context, the CCF was a vibrant area; the probable inception of an RM section, the effort towards training for the Ten Tors (over 160 in the running, from which a team of 12 would be selected) and for the various levels of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, were all components of this; other popular interests were kayaking and mountain biking.

The Chairman then thanked our guests for their contributions, and noted how gratifying it was that after three years we'd been able to welcome them to the traditional lunch 'in the flesh', and moreover how good it was to see several prominent newcomers. As ever, time pressed for those who depended on trains for their return journeys, and the little remaining leeway was seized by everybody to catch up briefly with those they'd been unable to talk to earlier. There was general agreement that Linda and David had brought off one of their most successful and enjoyable Lunches to date, and much gratitude was expressed in their direction.

Those attending the event included: David Bentata (Chair), Linda Bentata, Ben Wrey (President), Bart Wielenga (Headmaster), Tim Mycock (Asst. Shooting Master to Barry Dawe), Ben Boswell (Development Director), Janet Wooff (OB Club Secretary and active shooter), Mark Wooff (Chevithorne Captain), Hugo Brooke (Past President), Gilly Brooke, John Batten, David Condy, Lt Col Tim Courtenay, Cdr Martin Knapp, Col Jim Muir, Richard Price, Alec Rainey, Peter Ward (Bisley Captain), and David Willoughby. Apologies were received from Amber Oliver, David Kyd and Tim Motion.


Schools' Veterans' Shooting Match, Bisley 15th July 2021

The Veterans' match this year was shot under strange circumstances. For the second year running, due to the pandemic, there had been no Schools' Meeting, and in 2021 even the Service Rifle competition had been cancelled, and the Imperial Meeting necessarily curtailed in certain respects. Despite the uncertainty, in April the decision was taken by the Magpies to enter a team for the Veterans' match, and when the time came the advertised shoot did happen. There were 45 schools represented by Former Pupils' clubs on the Common, and between them they raised 89 teams; the atmosphere on the firing point was notably free of the 'rule book', and the range staff were extremely helpful in encouraging the competitors safely to complete the shoot with a minimum of fuss. The Magpies had hoped for a full complement of five firers, and although one was prevented from attending at short notice, we nevertheless felt we'd flown the Blundell's flag as we'd intended.

Of those who attended the shoot, Hugo Brooke, Richard Price, Robert Bentata and Peter Ward actually shot, whilst the support party included Linda Smith (Hon. Member), Gilly Cox, Katrina Page, David Bentata (Chairman) and Ben Wrey (our new President). The key figure in our team, however, was Tony Ward, who despite not being able to shoot personally (past rugby injury, m'lud) was not only kind enough to act as coach to all the firers in the team, to lend his own rifle to them for their use in the match, and to lend them all manner of shooting kit which they might have forgotten to bring, but above all to bring his 'Certificate of Competence', without which none of us could legally have shot! (Most of us had owned one once, but they'd all expired.) His efforts were described as 'heroic' by more than one person present, and we are all profoundly grateful to him.

Bisley, 2021: Richard and Tony
Richard shoots, Tony coaches (Century Range)

Bisley, 2021: Hugo shoots
Hugo in action (2nd from right), 70 years on...

Although the weather was dull, with a strange pall of grey cloud remaining overhead for most of the match, at least the rain held off, and the ageing Magpies managed to scrape together an average of 42 ex 50 (total 168) which, considering they'd not touched a rifle for two years, could have been a lot worse... We did look out for the Clifton FPs, with an eye to the Anstey Salver, but it seemed they hadn't entered the match this year. One remarkable triumph on a personal level was enjoyed by Hugo Brooke, whose age at that point was 84 years 11 months. The previous record of longevity for a veteran firer had been another former club president, Dr Herbert Price, who'd shot in 2005 at the age of 84 years 6 months. Hugo therefore now bears the laurels (or the mickey-taking, depending on your viewpoint) for the oldest OB to shoot for the School; a careful look at the records we have does suggest this is valid since 1902, but it is pretty certainly so for the last 60 years. As it happened, Herbert's son Richard was present as a team member, and he agreed that his father would have been very happy to hand the crown to such an excellent fellow as Hugo; Herbert's wide grin must have flashed into several of our minds as he spoke. It was also noticed that Hugo had first appeared as part of the Blundell's Bisley team in 1951, which meant he'd been shooting there for 70 years!

One of the strongest elements of the Magpie teams over the years has been the support of the ladies behind the firing point. Two have actually been awarded honorary membership in recognition of their work behind the scenes, but others have loyally endured bad weather and talk of 'shop' with stoic equanimity. (There are, of course, now many lady Magpies in their own right, and we hope that perhaps one day a handful may venture onto the Common.) This year was not the best environment at Bisley given the pandemic, but the team was grateful for their uplifting presence - who else, for example, would have had the instinctive tact not to mutter when any poor shots were marked on the target? What greater support could a shooter wish to have?

Bisley, 2021: Magpie group
Magpie group behind the firing point:
L to R (rear) - Katrina, Richard; (front) - David, Linda, Gilly, Ben. Photo by Rob Bentata

One feature of our usual routine during past years had been to hold an informal dinner in the evening, but Anno Domini has more recently forced us to socialise in the middle of the day, in view of the distance many have to travel back home later on. At a short review of the shoot in the North London RC clubhouse it was agreed that a message of Loyal Greeting should be sent to the Headmaster of Blundell's as from all present, representing the Magpies in general. The Bisley Captain was thus tasked, and was honoured to write to Mr Wielenga accordingly.
It was an added boost to Magpie morale about this time to hear news from Barry Dawe of excellent performances by Blundell's pupils over the last few months in the West Kent Rifle League (surpassing previous efforts), and to feel that despite the current restrictive environment, Blundellians are still forging ahead with traditional sporting skills in the way they always have. The incipient 'zoom' talks on the School's shooting history by Mike Sampson are another sign of interest to engage Magpies and others, and such activity during these adverse times reveals the healthy state of the sport in the Blundell's community, from which OBs continue to draw great encouragement.

Perhaps the final comment on the day's shoot should be left to the combined Magpie party, standing on the steps of the North London RC following the match:

Bisley, 2021: group on the steps of the North London RC
All smiling! Maybe we had a good photographer, but our pride in the Blundell's tradition felt very real...

Blundell's Magpies 'virtual' Lunch 9th March 2021

(Owing to the unusual restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it was decided that, as last year's Lunch had of necessity been cancelled, the chance should be taken this year to hold a 'virtual' event, with participants being linked to each other by means of the internet. The offer by Ben Boswell, Development Director of Blundell's, to make available the facilities of the School's IT Dept. was seized with much gratitude; Ben's own offer to act as net enabler was equally quickly taken up.)

David Bentata as Chairman welcomed everybody to the Lunch, and asked Hugo Brooke, Club President, to say Grace. This was done in style, in verse, combining respect with appropriate observations on the circumstances of our coming together.

David then spoke about the impact of various factors on the usual course of OB shooting. OB Day would not take place this year, but there was reason to hope that the Veterans might be able to field a team in July during the Bisley Imperial Meeting; he had personally ensured that there would always be a rifle available, one he had given to his Bisley club on that express understanding. He believed there were also one or two other Magpies who still owned target rifles and remained certified as competent. Hugo felt that despite the recent difficulties there'd been in finding enough team members, mainly due to their increasing average age, it was essential that we should maintain a presence at Bisley, even if only social in nature. He proposed that there should be a lunch meeting in one of the principal clubhouses on Ashburton Day, if a member would be kind enough to host it, and that a team should be entered for anyone who might be able to shoot in the Veterans' match later in the afternoon. David suggested that there were probably several young OBs from the last decade or so who could be interested in participating in target shooting, and it was agreed that an approach could well be made to some of them during the next few months. (The NRA were not making any definite plans as yet, but hoped to stage the Imperial Meeting in some form during July, as was usual; outline details and application systems could be available by early April.)

David offered the idea (with only the merest hint of a grin) that Magpies who'd noticed they'd been spared the expense of two successive London Lunches might consider passing a little of their savings on to the School, which was in some need of charitable subvention in these trying times.

At this point, Hugo then announced that he would be stepping down as President, and that Ben Wrey had kindly agreed to assume the office as soon as might be agreed. David thanked Hugo for his valuable services over the last six years, and duly welcomed Ben Wrey as his deservedly acclaimed successor.

David then invited Bart Wielenga, Headmaster of Blundell's, to say something of the current situation at the School. Bart had been on a cricket tour with some pupils over the Christmas/New Year period in 2019/20, and after returning just before the initial lockdown, had been unable in general to leave the School site since then. Things had been tough, as for everyone else, and pupils' lives had been disrupted, but he felt proud that in the main Blundell's had risen to the challenge, and demonstrated not only a positive influence on the wider community, but considerable evidence of personal growth and character development amongst individual pupils. The School's medical department had made its resources available to the NHS for testing and vaccination purposes, which had been acknowledged as an extremely valuable local aid, particularly for the vulnerable, and a wide programme of education had been kept up as far as possible within the School despite obvious constraints. The reduction of normal schooling patterns had caused severe financial difficulty, but careful management had prevented worse consequences. Some buoyancy was provided by the resident foreign contingent of pupils, for whom return to their own countries was sometimes impractical for short periods. He noted that support for the Blundell's style of education was evident from continued registration, often at the age of 15 or 16, by German parents, and also by those in Kenya and India, from which nations some very promising pupils had emerged. Commenting on the 'exam debate', Bart suggested that people shouldn't be distracted by talk of 'grade inflation', as assessment was professionally carried out on a fair, individual basis, and all would receive 'like for like' consideration. Broadly speaking, the School faced the future with renewed confidence.

Barry Dawe was then invited to update the Magpies on both outdoor pursuits and shooting, both of which came under his aegis. In spite of the pandemic, cadets had paraded through the autumn for routine basic training, and had engaged in an impressive range of structured activity. Charitable fundraising in connection with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award had well exceeded £11,000, and some dozens of youngsters had embarked on training for the Ten Tors Challenge, and on other leadership and personal development courses. Sadly, the event itself had been cancelled, but hopes were high that the next attempt would yield good results. Many OBs would have watched the memorable 2020 Blundell's Remembrance Day service broadcast on the internet, which had rightly emphasised the School's part in the national sacrifice during the wars of the last two centuries.

As to shooting, the pupils competing in the West Kent Rifle League had achieved 10 gold medals; there had been 3 medals in the Prince of Wales' competition, and one in the Thorne Challenge. A master, Tim Mycock (late RA), was busy encouraging competitive spirit by organising house tournaments in archery and mini-range shooting, which were proving very popular. Barry remarked that the current pupils still looked with admiration at the achievements of their forebears (a point he'd kindly made on previous occasions), and as an illustration held up a picture of the Bisley team of 1956. As at least five gents shown as teenagers in the picture - now in their early 80s - were currently looking in from their screens, the depth of his compliment was only accentuated by its poignancy. Barry added that the continued shooting by the ladies' team up until the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 - described more fully in the 2020 report - was a bright feature of the Magpies' otherwise restricted field of activity, and he was sure they'd be on the range again as soon as permitted.

After an hour's enjoyable shared interchanges, David thanked the Headmaster and Barry for their welcome contributions to the virtual 'meal', and bade farewell to all who'd logged on. A goodly number of glasses were raised in acknowledgement of the final curtain on a satisfying and merry meeting.

* * *

Those present included David Bentata (Chair), Hugo Brooke (President), Ben Wrey (President-elect), Bart Wielenga (Headmaster), Barry Dawe (OC Blundell's CCF), Ben Boswell (event facilitator), John Batten, Rob Bentata, David Condy, Lt Col Tim Courtenay, Gilly Cox, Diane Chandler, Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Col Jim Muir, Christine Muir, Dr David Rutter, Linda Smith, George Tilley, Peter Ward and Janet Wooff (also OB Club secretary).

Apologies were received from Chris Barker, Alec Rainey, Tony Ward, David Willoughby and Mark Wooff.



The Magpies' London Lunch 5th March 2019

The 2019 Lunch, organised and chaired by David Bentata, was attended by a full complement of members and guests, including the Headmaster, various distinguished luminaries and ladies, and the unflagging quota of rank and file. The venue was again the much revered Special Forces Club, the associations with which continue to fascinate and inspire succeeding generations.

David opened by thanking all present for their having made time to join the proceedings, for which he and Linda were very appreciative. He then asked Hugo Brooke, the Magpies' President, formally to welcome our guests, and to say (a most delightful and appropriate) Grace. Hugo then took the opportunity to present Magpie badges, of the type recently designed by Col. Tim Courtenay and Barry Dawe, to three people: Diane Chandler (in confirmation of her honorary membership, already conferred in 2018); Linda Smith, as a further honorary member (in recognition of her many years' support at events and her help in the arranging of successive annual Lunches); and Barry Dawe himself, in grateful acknowledgement of his hard work over the last five years in creating a highly competitive and clearly popular shooting activity at the School - in addition to the CCF programme and wider outward-bound events generally, for which he was also responsible.

David then invited the Headmaster to update us on the current situation at Blundell's. We learned of the three main sources of catchment (loyal local families, families moving to Devon from elsewhere in the country, and families from abroad), and the importance of proving to all of these that a Blundell's education could match that from anywhere else in the UK. He felt that we were holding our own both in academic areas and in a wider context, citing successes in mathematics and other specialist competitions, and being especially proud of the performance of the current rugby sevens squad - there were hopes of repeating our Rosslyn Park achievement this year. He spoke with particular pride of a recent appearance by the School Choir at the Carnegie Hall in New York, which he had personally attended. He then commented on the positive role which former pupils played in the Blundell's community, kindly mentioning the particular focus which the Magpies seemed to him to bring towards their group identity within that community.

Barry Dawe was then asked to brief the Old and Bold on the present state of shooting. We learned of a number of notable successes in mini-range competitions, including individual winners of leagues and postal matches, and of the continuing growth of shooting as a sport - now occurring most days of the week to accommodate numbers. Range work with the army rifle (5.56mm) was continuing within the CCF syllabus, but there was some disappointment with the provision of target rifles (7.62mm) to most schools by the MoD for fullbore target shooting . It appeared that the availability of these weapons was subject to random allocation in any given year, and even to the vagaries of government health and safety administration; most schools would be lucky to get two rifles at one time! Nevertheless, pupils were continuing to enjoy their shooting, and rising to the challenge they needed to improve standards. Barry generously stated that the example of previous generations of Blundellians was an inspiration to the current one. (More than a handful of OBs present must have blanched inwardly here, recalling occasional disastrous shoots in the past, but hey, let bygones be bygones...)

David then rose to thank our guests for their informative contributions, and spoke for everybody in acknowledging the honour they had paid us in terms of their time, at a stage in the School's year when things had begun to get seriously pressurised. He also spoke with gratitude of the support given in earlier years by the former Head, Nicola Huggett, and mentioned that he and Linda had visited her recently at Cheltenham College. Nicola had issued a general invitation to Blundell's to visit for a shoulder-to-shoulder smallbore match - so, the gauntlet had been thrown down!

With the inevitable travel constraints, Magpies and their guests were soon forced to wend their various ways, though not before taking extra moments to enjoy the company of many good friends, not now seen so often as of yore. Apart from those mentioned above, the Lunch was attended by Chris Barker, Robert Bentata, David Condy, Gilly Cox (guest), Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Tim Motion, Col. Jim Muir, Alec Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey. Apologies were received from John Batten, Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, and Tony Ward.



The Magpies' London Lunch 6th March 2018

Report on the annual London Lunch, held on Tuesday 6th March 2018, in the Special Forces Club.

The twelfth Lunch in the current series proved to be a most remarkable occasion, not only because the available space was almost packed to capacity, but through the Magpies being honoured to have both the current Head, Mrs Nicola Huggett, and her chosen successor, Mr Bart Wielenga, as guests. Truly, David Bentata and his partner Linda Smith managed to create an unusually memorable event this year, which all will recall with much pleasure in the future. The Magpies were also very pleased that our newly welcomed honorary member, Mrs Diane Chandler, could be with us; a few moments of silence were observed before the meal for us to reflect on her late husband Mike’s life and achievements.

The venue in which most of our recent Lunches have taken place is of course truly awesome, and several of our number took the opportunity to look carefully at the portraits and citations which remind us of the selfless sacrifices which great men and women have made in the cause of our common freedom.

After an initial social session in the bar, with considerable diplomacy the local management were able to shepherd the voluble company into the dining room, where a most attractive menu awaited them. During the course of the meal, chaired by David Bentata, Hugo Brooke, our President, who asked Mrs Huggett to bring us up-to-date on how things stood at Blundell’s, addressed the company. She gave an in-depth and fascinating insight into many individual and group achievements of recent months by pupils, ranging from academic feats through sporting attainments (including rugby) to a bewildering number of different activities such as drama and 'outward bound' in which Blundellians had been excelling themselves. (No doubt, one or two older listeners may have thought privately “couldn't have happened in my day, old boy".) As always, the Magpies were struck by the Head's irrepressible pride in her pupils, and she was energetically applauded for all the intensive support she was giving to encourage them to go forward in so many areas.

Mr Wielenga then accepted the opportunity briefly to introduce himself; as current second master he looked forward to renewing his acquaintance with the Magpies, whom he saw as an unusually well established element amongst former pupils, in the future. (He might have been about to add some reference to our intellectual substance, but on catching a vacant eye or two, may have decided discretion was the wiser option.)

The President then rose to thank both the Head and her successor for making time to be at the Magpie Lunch, at a point in the school year, which was well known to be rather busy. On behalf of everybody, he wished her well, though also a little wistfully, in her planned move to Cheltenham College. He noted wryly that this would be the second Headship of a great Cheltenham school which would fall to a past Blundell's teacher within a few years. He commented on the steady support which she had given both to School shooting and to the Magpies, having attended the London Lunch most of the years of her headship, and having been especially kind in her observations about the club during public occasions at Blundell's.

David Bentata felt moved to describe the very real resources which the Head had ensured would be available to Barry Dawe and the cadet force to enable them to channel the obvious resurgence of interest by encouraging such youthful energy to focus on excellence. He then called on Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, the Chevithorne Captain, to relay from Barry a large and encouraging account of facts about recent School shooting successes. The names of individual gold medal and various league winners were read out, and Magpies were impressed by the School's attainments in the NSRA and Staniforth competitions since last summer. However, the most significant aspect of Barry's report was the expansion of interest - he was having to make the mini-range available on up to four days a week, so great was the uptake. Another important development was the increase in military full-bore shooting (using the 5.56mm army rifle); at a recent CCF camp Blundellians had outshone most others, and four of the School's leading marksmen had been encouraged to fire the Light Support Weapon, which for cadets was an unusual privilege. The Magpies were again impressed, and asked Col. Tim to relay their appreciation, both for the report and for what Barry was clearly working very hard to achieve for the School.

It seemed that just as the home fires of warm reminiscence were burning most brightly, Father Time arrived to force his attentions on everyone, and waiting trains almost hooted from nearby stations; the merry meeting was thus brought to an inevitably early end, albeit that we had just about managed to snatch a word with all the old friends we'd 'vowed not to miss' on earlier occasions.

The full list of attenders included David Bentata (Chair), Hugo Brooke (President), Nicola Huggett (Principal Guest), Bart Wielenga, Diane Chandler (hon. guests), Linda Smith, John Batten, Chris Barker, Marion Augustin, David Condy, Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Cdr Martin Knapp, Ginny Knapp, Tim Motion, Col. Jim Muir, Alec Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.



The Magpies' London Lunch 14th March 2017

This year's Lunch was again held in the awesomely impressive surroundings of the Special Forces Club in London, and was arranged and chaired by David Bentata, closely supported by Linda Smith (former Governor of Blundell's). We were very honoured to have as our principal guest Mrs Nicola Huggett, Head of Blundell's, whose presence at a fairly pressurised time in the School's calendar was very much appreciated by the Magpies. Other guests included Gilly Cox and Marion Augustin; apologies and good wishes were received from Di & Mike Chandler, Amber Oliver, Mike Jones, Barry Dawe and Dr Peter Jones. Apart from those already mentioned, attenders were Chris Barker, John Batten, Hugo Brooke (President), Lt Col Tim Courtenay, Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Tim Motion, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Anthony Ward, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.

Following a most lively and sociable session in the bar, guests were gently prevailed on to move into the dining room, where a fine meal awaited them below the portraits of a small selection of the world's military heroes, decorated in the service of the Crown. After a most convivial hour or so (during which the hues of reminiscence grew ever rosier), David asked the Chevithorne Captain, Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, to pass on from Barry Dawe a substantial amount of encouraging news about the achievements of many different pupils in smallbore and air rifle competitions held by various clubs and organizations in the last few months. OBs recognised quite a number of names, including Jessie Zhu, Will Curtis, Ed Rees and Will Scripps, and sensed that a formidable centre of shooting excellence was gradually being built up. Two staff members, Tim Mycock and David Driver, had joined the shooting activity, and there was a possibility that the School might be represented at Bisley this year, either in the Imperial Meeting or in the NSRA meeting which followed. Barry also wished to reassure the Magpies that the School's mini-range had recently been inspected as per routine by the Army's SASC team, and had been passed as fit for purpose.

All expressed their thanks to Barry for this valuable update, and for the hard work he was putting in to both shooting instruction and supporting Blundell's generally. One or two OBs were less enthusiastic to learn that the OB Match (June 17th) would be shot 'without jackets or slings', but accepted that the emphasis of the occasion would be more on social bonding than pure marksmanship. The man who wondered ' how he was going to get out of this one' was not identified, but it is hoped he'll still appear for the bonding bit.

David then invited Mrs Huggett to tell the Magpies something of the current situation at the School. This she did in impressive style, and her pride in the obviously outstanding contributions of a range of departments and individuals was palpable. In academic and sporting fields there was much to be spoken of; in less conventional areas there was also a great deal to say, her message being that she saw Blundell's as a medium in which all talents should be nurtured, and in which all ways should be explored to create a rounded personality, whose positive influence on the community could be as effective as possible. She believed, as did Barry, that the supportive presence of former pupils was a most valuable resource, for which the School was grateful.

Our President, Hugo Brooke, then rose to thank the Head most sincerely for having made time to be at the Lunch despite the intense demands of her job, and to observe how much the Magpies (now generally a fairly venerable bunch, after all) appreciated her visit and the insight she had brought into the current state of play at Blundell's. We would all go away very encouraged by what we had learnt. The occasion was brought to a formal close by the proposing of a toast to the School, then by another to absent friends - several of whom were in poor health, and to whom all our best wishes were directed.

(It was noted by one or two of the less eminent OBs that Hugo had abstained, no doubt out of delicacy, from his store of risqué tales, and their shirt cuffs remained unwritten on.)

Chris Barker took the opportunity to let OBs know of certain shooting matches planned during the Spring, which they could be eligible to enter if they wished.

As always, the time remaining for catching up with old friends ebbed away inexorably, and the majority soon had to hurry away to scramble for waiting trains... However, the Lunch was undoubtedly amongst the most enjoyable occasions ever savoured by the Magpies, and our huge gratitude is owed to Linda and David for setting it up so effectively.



OB Day 2016 Shooting: Magpies vs Blundell's

OB Day shootingOn OB Day the now traditional shooting competition between the Magpies and the Current school shooting team was as competitive as ever. With four members in each team this year, we witnessed a very close match and the school narrowly came out victors – even with the Magpies raising the stakes by requesting shooting jackets and slings. Best shot went to Jessie Zhu whose 99 clinched the victory in yet another close match, though Hugo’s two targets both mid-nineties showed he has not lost any of his skill. The day as in previous years has forged the links between the current team and those Blundellians who have inspired them so much.

Until next year!

OB Day shootingOB Day shooting

The Magpies' London Lunch 8th March 2016

Our annual Lunch this year, the tenth in the series, was again held in the Special Forces Club, where guests may dine surrounded by the portraits of some of the most distinguished and heroic men and women who have served the nation in times of war and crisis. The event was, as before, arranged by David Bentata, with the able support of Linda Smith (a Blundell's Governor), and also chaired by David.

The Magpies were graced by the presence of three delightful ladies, being Linda, Gilly Cox, and Di Chandler; we were also much honoured to welcome as guests Barry Dawe, SSI of the School's cadet force, and Cormac Oliver, the current Captain of Shooting. Sadly, owing to unforeseen circumstances, Mrs Nicola Huggett, Head of Blundell's, was unable to attend as planned; she nevertheless sent her apologies and heartfelt best wishes to the assembled company.

Following an initial RV in the Club bar - whence the camaraderie seemed so absorbing that the House Manager had some difficulty getting the OBs into the dining room - there followed a most pleasant meal, at which the glow of many happy memories, no doubt augmented by the passage of the years, became manifest. There were toasts, including to the School, and speeches by the great and the good: David, having welcomed everyone to the meal, handed over to Hugo Brooke, the newly appointed Magpie President. Hugo then spoke in his inimitable style, and amongst other things revealed a little-known link between the late, much-respected science master Joe Panther and shooting.

David then briefly sketched out the current season's planned shooting events, and invited Barry to update the Magpies on the shooting scene at Blundell's. Clearly much was happening there, and a number of individual successes were noted and duly applauded. It was hoped that the full-bore target rifles would be received back in good order before too long, and on this basis there should be a Blundell's presence at the Mere Cup (West Country schools') match in May. In June the OBs would be invited to compete on the mini-range against the School (18th), although neither Barry nor the Chevithorne Captain (Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay) felt it appropriate to comment on the chances of the Magpies regaining the laurels this year. However, Col. Tim did point out that the theme of OB Day was to be 'girls' sport', so he hoped the School might be able to locate a lady former pupil or two whose youth and clear eyes could influence the Magpies' score for the better. It was confirmed that the Magpies would enter a team in the Public Schools' Veterans match at Bisley on 14th July.

Finally, thanks were warmly expressed to David and Linda, whose efforts had enabled the London Lunches to continue so successfully for the last ten years; the gathering reluctantly dispersed as the pressures of the wider world asserted themselves, but all felt they had been greatly encouraged not only by the meeting with old friends, but also by the strong and close connection everyone felt with the School and its pupils of 2016.

Apart from those already mentioned, other attendees included John Batten, Robert Bentata, Mike Chandler, David Condy, Cdr Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey (a total of 19 people).



Report on the Ninth London Lunch, held at The Special Forces Club, London March 2015

The ninth in the series of London Lunches took place in the Special Forces Club on 3rd March, graced for the second year running by Mrs Nicola Huggett, the Head of Blundell's. The event was organised by the Magpies' Principal Bisley Coach, David Bentata, through whose membership of the SFC the venue had been made possible.

Magpies' London Lunch, March 2015The Lunch continued the tradition of reflecting at leisure on aspects of schooldays which still carry some considerable feeling of achievement, not least due to their association with much-admired personalities, sadly long departed from us, who helped so strongly to shape our attitudes and direction in later life.

We were fortunate to be able to hear from Mrs Huggett, who spoke with great pride of various recent achievements by a number of groups and individual pupils in academic, sporting and other significant areas of school activity, and from whom it became clear that the Blundell's of 2015 is very much a thriving and exciting organic entity, amply fulfilling the hopes of Peter Blundell as expressed in his shrewdly-designed will.

We were also privileged to have as guest Barry Dawe (SSI, late RM) from whom we heard most encouraging news about the interest in marksmanship being shown by cadets of all ages within the School, and about the prospective weapon states for both small- and full-bore shooting. In particular the competitive nature of the classification exercise seemed to be bringing out the best in many pupils, and it was noted that the number of 'marksmen' (i.e. the most accurate grade) was greater than that of other groups.

Magpies' London Lunch, March 2015David Bentata thanked both the Head and Barry for their time and courtesy in travelling to London during a busy period of the school year, and for their positive message from our Alma Mater. He also noted (after some peripheral consultation) that we would be free to refer to Barry as 'Baz' without risk of offending. He pointed to the OB Day schedule for 20th June, and confirmed that there would be a mini-range match on the day, at which the Magpies could attempt to seize back the trophy won by the current pupils in 2014. Polite coughing was noted at this juncture, and several venerable gents present much regretted their unavailability to shoot, but nevertheless looked forward to attending the convivial lunch in the marquee.

David then reminded the Magpies that at least one team would be entered in the Public Schools' Veterans match at Bisley on July 9th, and that another could be arranged if enough members made their likely attendance known in advance. If required, a practice shoot could also be arranged earlier in the afternoon, but again, prior notice would be needed. As an aside, he recommended the bringing of wet-weather gear as the best insurance against actually having to endure rain. Oh, and yes, hopefully there would very likely be some socialising afterwards...

The gathering dispersed after a good session of both formal and informal discussion of many things, and all seemed pleased to have had the opportunity to meet old friends and once again to solve the world's problems without apparent difficulty. Magpies' London Lunch, March 2015Grateful thanks were proffered to David Bentata for his energetic work in continuing to arrange such lunches, despite recent episodes of poor health.

One snippet emerged during the lunchtime obiter dicta, which was that Alex Rainey had written another book, entitled 'Sword and Lyre'. This is set in ancient Greece, and combines the author's staple profession of archaeology with his love of classical culture.

There were a total of twenty people at the Lunch, being five honoured guests and fifteen Magpies. These included David Bentata (in the chair), Mrs Huggett (Head), Linda Smith (governor), Diane Davey, Gilly Cox, Barry Dawe, Chris Barker, Hugo Brooke, Mike Chandler, David Condy, Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Cdr. Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Peter Moore, Alex Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.



OB Day 2014 Shooting Magpies v Blundell's CCF

OB Day 2014 Shooting

OB Day 2014 Shooting

Magpies 234, Blundell’s CCF 240

During Old Blundellian Day 2014 a shooting competition between the Magpies and Blundell’s CCF took place. A chance for the current Blundellians to meet the Magpies. Reading through achievements of yesteryear and then having the opportunity to meet those Blundellians was extremely inspirational. All had a fantastic competition which only a Blundellian could win. It was a lot closer than expected with the CCF running out as victors with a score 240 against 234 over the Magpies. Colonel Tim Courtenay (OH 1953-58), presented the trophies and medals and was instrumental in arranging the competition. The CCF looks forward to next year’s competition.

OB Day 2014 Shooting   OB Day 2014 Shooting

OB Day 2014 Shooting   OB Day 2014 Shooting

OB Day 2014 Shooting   OB Day 2014 Shooting

Report on the Eighth London Lunch, held at The Special Forces Club, London 4th March 2014

The Magpies' latest London Lunch proved to be a real, red-letter occasion, as we were very privileged to welcome Mrs Nicola Huggett, Head of Blundell's, as our special guest. Old Blundellians of a maturer age, now largely retired, may have gulped at learning that she had not only been teaching earlier that day, but was due to return to Devon for other important duties later on: our gratitude for her having made time for us was all the more heartfelt. A total of eighteen Magpies and four guests made up by far the largest attendance since the Lunches started in 2007, and reflected both the presence of the Head and the organizational flair of the Club's principal Bisley coach, David Bentata, whose tireless work on the Magpies' behalf has resulted in so many memorable events.

The occasion began with informal reminiscing in the bar, at which extensive memory banks hummed with activity, and no doubt surprised even those drawing upon them. After a pleasant meal, presided over by David Bentata, Mrs Huggett described the current breadth of academic, sporting and extracurricular achievements by pupils at the School, a phenomenon which she and many others were finding exciting and impressive, and which she saw as part of her role to project to OBs, parents and the wider world. She saw OBs as having an important role in the Blundell's community, as they were able to offer a perspective of depth which was less obvious to those intensively involved in the 'here and now'. She also commented on the recent appointment of Barry Dawes, late Royal Marines, as SSI to the School's cadet force, which was of interest to those who had taken part in shooting in past years.

David Bentata thanked the Head on behalf of the Magpies, and asked the Chevithorne Captain, Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, to make a presentation to her as from the Club. Col. Tim then produced a mounted, illuminated poem entitled 'Chevithorne Lament & Magpies in Memoriam' (effectively an ode to past shooting memories at the School's one-time local range and at Bisley). The text of the poem was tastefully executed, and the border embellished with a number of photographs of teams and individuals between the 1950s and 2010; the back of the frame was also complete with a montage of more pictures and press cuttings of school shooting memorabilia. To (only very slightly) sceptical enquiries about the exact provenance of this beautifully accomplished piece of work, Col. Tim volunteered that, though the words and selection of pictures were his alone, the finely aesthetic presentation owed much to the help of Emily in the Blundell's Development Office. The combined result was universally admired by all present, and the Head expressed her appreciation of what would be regarded as a unique and treasured heirloom. Col. Tim had kindly had a number of copies of the poem printed, which were much appreciated by diners as special reminders of a memorable day in the Club's history.

Before concluding the proceedings, David then presented the Head with a copy of "Call to Arms", the history of Eaton Hall Officer Cadet School from 1947 to 1958. A number of Old Blundellians had passed through Eaton Hall, he being one, and he had contributed material personally during the writing of the book.

For the record, those at the Lunch were Mrs Nicola Huggett (Head), Linda Smith (a Governor of the School), David Bentata (Principal Club Coach, in the Chair), Chris Barker with guest Marion, John Batten, Hugo Brooke with guest Gilly, Mike Chandler with guest Di, David Condy, Lt.Col. Tim Courtenay, Cdr. Martin Knapp, David Kyd, Peter Moore, Tim Motion, Alex Rainey, Dr David Rutter, George Tilley, Peter Ward, David Willoughby and Ben Wrey.

Peter Ward



Annual Magpies Spring Luncheon 5th March 2013

The annual Magpies Spring luncheon took place in London on Tuesday 5th March. Loyal greetings were conveyed to the Head. An informal presentation was made by Ben Wrey of a Devon Militia cap badge to the Chevithorne Captain, Colonel Tim Courtenay in recognition of his stalwart efforts to enable the OB’s to continue shooting at Blundell’s when the Magpies come down to OB Day each year. This was the 7th luncheon organized by David Bentata with record numbers of 15 attending.



David Bentata (FH 1951–56) Elected President of The Oxford & Cambridge Rifle Association October 2012

David BentataDavid Bentata (FH 1951–56) has been elected President of The Oxford & Cambridge Rifle Association and presided at the 150th Anniversary Dinner of the Chancellors’ Match where he entertained the Chancellor of Cambridge University and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge.

This association was founded in 1860, when the Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge met and decided that there should be an annual Rifle Match between the two Universities at Wimbledon, to compete for a Trophy to be named The Chancellors' Plate. The fact that the trophy actually consists of a huge silver "Stein" drinking vessel is by the bye!

The annual Varsity Match at Bisley was created after a major move to set up Rifle Clubs and to promote marksmanship and skill-at-arms particularly after the threat with the invasion by Louis Napoleon. In 1860, the National Rifle Association came into existence and, until 1889, and the building of smart houses on its edge, Rifle Meetings were held each summer at Wimbledon. In 1890 the move to Bisley, a large area of open heathland, was completed.

Blundell’s Magpies Annual Luncheon 6th March 2012

Held at The Special Forces Club

The fourteen members of the Blundell’s Magpies assembled at lunch on Tuesday 6th March at The Special Forces Club sent loyal greetings to the School and the Head Master.

The annual lunch has been held for many years now, latterly at the Special Forces Club and we look forward to welcoming other Blundell’s Magpies in future years.

The Following members attended:

  • David Willoughby (W 54-58)
  • David Condy (P 57-62)
  • Tim Motion (SH 50-54)
  • David Bentata (FH 51-56)  & Linda Smith
  • Alec Rainey (FH 52-57)
  • John Batten (SH 53-57)
  • Mike Chandler (P 60-65) & Di Chandler
  • Ben Wrey(W 53-58)
  • Peter Ward (FH 59-64)
  • Peter Moore (W 53-57)
  • George Tilley (FH 59-61
  • James Postle (Former Master 08-11)

The lunch was organized by David Bentata (FH 51-56). If you are interested in future OB shooting events please contact the OB Club and they will put you in contact with David Bentata.

Cambridge University Rifle Association 10th March 2012

Held at Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Members of the Ashburton Winning team of 1956
Members of the Ashburton Winning team of 1956

The photo above displays no less than three members of the winning Ashburton-1956 Blundell’s rifles team attending the dinner in their capacity as Alumni of Oxford University Rifle Club (OURC) and Cambridge University Rifle Association (CURA) respectively.

The particular occasion for the presence of three former members of the 1956 team was that all three Old Blundellians had participated in one or other of the first two combined Oxford and Cambridge rifle team tours of East Africa following World War II.

David Bentata (FH 51-56) (together with another Blundellian who was not available to the Dinner), Roger Cook (FH 50-55) went out on the first Oxford and Cambridge team in 1960 and John Palmer (W 51-56) and Bren Wrey (W 53-58) went out on the second tour in 1962. Members of the 1962 combined team attended the CURA dinner as it was exactly 50 years since the tour took place.

John Palmer, the Captain of the 1956 Blundell's team flanked by David Bentata (Oxford) and Ben Wrey (Cambridge)
This photograph shows John Palmer, the Captain of the 1956 Blundell’s
team flanked by David Bentata (Oxford) and Ben Wrey (Cambridge)



Special Forces Club Tues 8th March 2011

The Blundell's Magpies sent loyal greetings to the Head Master from their luncheon at the Special Forces Club held on Tuesday 8th March with the following in attendance:

David Bentata
Linda Smith
Ben Wrey
Peter Ward
Col. Tim Courtenay
George Tilley
Alec Rainey
Hugo Brooke
David Condy
Peter Moore
& guest James Postle

At the lunch a new Magpies tie was presented to James Postle making him an honorary member of the Magpies in recognition of all he has done in a very short time for Blundell's shooting.  This is now the fifth year of the Spring Luncheon for the Magpies and long may it continue.

Many good wishes were received from those who were unable to attend including David Willoughby, Tim Motion, John Batten, Mike Chandler, Dr Peter Jones and his brother mike.

The Public Schools Veterans Match will take place on Thursday 14th July and those wishing to take part need to turn up in good country clothes, including wet weather gear, if appropriate, around 4.30 pm on the Century Range, reporting to Peter Ward or David Bentata (the Bisley Coach).  Shooting commences at 5.00 pm and finishes between 6.30 and 6.45 pm followed by a drink on the veranda of the North London Rifle Club, repairing to The Fox, a particularly nice restaurant in the Surrey countryside for dinner.

David Bentata



Military Reception Day Shooting at Blundell's and Chevithorne 25th Sept 2010

Magpie GroupThe mini-range match took place in the morning, and saw 3 teams competing, 2 from the OB Magpies and 1 from the school. All were coached by the inimitable James Postle, and despite playful attempts by the OBs to tweak the scores, in the end the school team pipped the nominated Magpie IV to win by 366 points to 364. The second Magpie IV limped in behind them with 338 (please don't ask!). Top scorer of the match with 99 points was David Willoughby, who thereby rather poignantly won the trophy which had been presented by his late brother, Lt. Col. Digby Willoughby, in the 1950s. Top scorer from the school team was Robin Silcock, with 98 points, who was presented with an individual trophy by Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, Chevithorne Captain. Robin also won the Brooke-Smith Tankard, which goes annually to the highest scorer on the opposing team to the Willoughby winner's. The Magpies were more than impressed when Charles Boddington, who had shot in the school side, appeared a short time later, resplendent in the full-dress uniform of cadet RSM, and commanded the school's guard of honour during the beating of the retreat by the corps of drums from a local unit of the Air Training Corps.

Magpies with James Postle     Magpies behind the old butts

Old Boys who attended the shoot included Lt. Col. Tim Courtenay, George Maunder, Mike Biggin, Peter Marten, Dr David Rutter, David Willoughby, David Bentata and Peter Ward. Other 'Magpies' who attended the day included George Tilley and Capt. Christopher Heath, who had been a member of the victorious 1946 Ashburton team.

James Postle     Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE), falling plate and James' hat

The visit to the old range was rather a nostalgic affair, and was only possible through the initiative of Col. Tim and the kindness of the current landowner of Chevithorne Barton, Michael Heathcote-Amory. The last time the school had used it was in 1980, after which it had been decommissioned, and in the 30 years since, nature had begun to reassert itself uncompromisingly. The small party of pilgrims gradually managed to identify the various firing points, and eventually found the butts, with target frames in an advanced state of decay, now almost hidden from daylight by a massive new growth of young trees. Some ancient 'falling plates' were unearthed in the mould of the butt area, and one was taken as a memento, perhaps to be used as a trophy in some suitable context. The visitors were very pleased that James Postle, notwithstanding the pressures of his busy responsibilities as housemaster of the School House, was able to find time to accompany them, which they welcomed as a symbolic link between the now-receding past and what is hoped may be a future full of promise for a new generation of Blundellian shooters.



Bisley 2009

After some 30 years of absence, Blundell’s reappeared at Bisley in 2009. James Postle brought two cadet pairs, who, despite relatively few opportunities to practise, managed to make their mark. One pair came 8th, the other 13th, out of 36 schools’ teams, but their combined scores brought them 4th place in the cadet fours competition, up amongst the great names. How James was able to coach them so effectively we can’t begin to work out, but the guy must have incredible reserves of both patience and skill. The Magpies (now a somewhat attenuated and rather elderly group of gents) were really excited by it all, and in the light of a real, live Blundell’s presence, naturally didn’t see their own performance on the range as being particularly significant. However, perform they did, in the Public Schools’ Veterans competition – and in view of their not shooting very often, not at all badly.


Team A      Team B
David Bentata (capt.) 44.2 Peter Ward (capt.) 49.8
Mike Chandler 48.2 Ian Anderson 48.2
Richard Price 45.2 Col. Tim Courtenay 46.2
Hugo Brooke 47.1 David Willoughby 44.2
Robert Bentata 45.3 Total 187.14
Total 229.10  

Although there were insufficient men present to complete the second team, keen observers of the shoot would have noticed that that team’s average score was rather better than the first team’s (no smirking at the back there, please). This may have had something to do with the presence of the redoubtable Ben Wrey as coach, but was probably also due to the gratitude everyone felt towards the Almighty, who thought fit to maintain dry weather conditions until shortly after we’d left the range, then let fly with a prolonged British version of a Monsoon. Placings of the two teams in the overall listing need perhaps not detain us unduly, except to observe that the three leading teams all scored 249 ex 250, with the final order being determined by numbers of ‘V’ bulls (the tiny area right in the middle of the target). Regrettably for us, Clifton Old Boys notched up a creditable 238, so regained the Anstey Salver, for which we and they compete each year.

Post-shoot, the Magpies resorted to the verandah of the North London Rifle Club for a civilised noggin or two, after which most of our number adjourned for dinner to a local inn. It was agreed that a message of loyal greeting should be despatched to the Headmaster by David Bentata, the Club’s principal Bisley Coach, and that the message should reflect the pride and gratitude felt by the Old Boys at the magnificent efforts which resulted in the successful return of the School to ‘the Common’.

Mere Cup 3rd May 2009

The Mere Cup was held today at Rogiet Moor Range near Newport, just beside the Severn Bridge. The match was shot at distances of 300, 500 and 600 yards under Ashburton conditions in bright and breezy conditions with only danger flags as a wind guide – but some mirage at 600!

Blundell’s entered the U16 cadet pair and a open pair competing against 6 schools and the regional Sea Cadets and Army Cadets – making 80 competitors in total.

I am very pleased to record that the Blundell’s pair of Charlie Silcock (P) and Chris Bodington (P) won the U16 Cadet Pair by 26 points, beating West Buckland in second and King Edwards, Bath in third. In the Open Pairs, 15 year olds Charlie Howe (FH) and Andrew Kellett (OH) won by a convincing 50 points, beating Exeter School, Clifton and West Buckland, completing a remarkable double; gold medals and trophies were won by both pairs.

This was in fact the first time that these four Blundellians had ever shot a full-bore target rifle over these distances and they were by far the most inexperienced of any of the cadets in the match, making their achievements all the more impressive. Three of the four had fired a 7.62 once at the zero range at Bisley and they all have had just two .22 sessions learning how to use a sling; they did very well indeed. Charlie Silcock’s first two shoots mark him out as a super talent – 29.2 at 300 and 31.1 at 500.

I hope we can ensure that these 4 are free from cricket/athletics matches etc on OB day for our match; I will do my very best but may need to enter into some negotiations! The idea of a possible walk on Chevithorne sounds good and would be very interesting.

I now feel we are in a good position and able to enter the schools’ meeting at Bisley in the summer; all four of these boys are U16, so we can enter 2 cadet pairs and combine them as a four too. I will proceed with planning for the meeting.

James Postle