History of the Brickwood Trophy

Brickwood, the Sunshine Brewers of Portsmouth, whose business in 1970 stretched from Sussex to Dorset and north towards London, was once a familiar name in the area.

Today the brewery is only a memory, although many pubs, especially in Portsmouth, have preserved their Brickwood frontages. But the name lives on with the annual Field Gun competition for the magnificent Brickwood Trophy, which dates back 100 years.

In January 1907 the Chairman, Sir John Brickwood, wrote to Commodore A A C Galloway, newly appointed to the command of Portsmouth Barracks, asking if such a trophy would be acceptable, the reply confirmed that he and his officers would be delighted to accept.

Brickwood had had several quotations and it now chose the design submitted by Elkington & Co at a cost of £85. The intention was for the trophy to be competed for annually by sailors and marines in the port of Portsmouth. It was to remain in the borough, either at the Barracks, Whale Island (HMS Excellent Gunnery School) or Eastney.

The Brickwood Trophy is a handsome piece of work. It is an exact reproduction in silver of a 12 Pounder Field Gun and its sailor crew of seven. Originally it was mounted on a black ebony stand. It was not the first, nor the only, award for field gun competition, but it was the most elaborate and was regarded by all who saw it as "an exceptionally fine work of art". As well as giving the trophy, Brickwood also contributed £10 for prizes.

The Brickwood Trophy was first competed for on August 28th 1907 at the RN Barracks Sports Fields. The first winners were the Royal Marines Light Infantry Field Gun Crew from Forton.

The origin of these Field Gun competitions is linked to episodes in the Boer War, in particular with the epic 119 day siege of Ladysmith, where the gallant defenders were helped enormously by the arrival at the last minute of Captain the Hon Hedworth Lambton of the Naval Brigade with his 280 Blue-jackets, four 12 Pounders and two 4.7 inch guns.

Special carriages and mountings for these guns had been improvised by Captain Percy Scott of the cruiser HMS Terrible and dispatched in HMS Powerful in Durban. After the siege of Ladysmith was finally lifted on February 28th 1900 Queen Victoria sent a telegram:

“Pray express to the Naval Brigade my deep appreciation of the valuable services they have rendered with their guns."

It was Scott, then a Lieutenant, who had helped Captain Fisher (later Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord) establish a Gunnery School on Whale Island at Portsmouth in the 1880s. Later as Commander Scott he was instrumental in conceiving the idea of Field Gun competitions, the first as early as 1900.

The drill simulated that undertaken to bring a naval gun into action during the march to Ladysmith in 1899.

Information on the period 1908 to 1922 is scanty but it seems that apart from the periods of war the Brickwood Trophy was competed for each year. There have been many changes to the competition. The 1907 challenge involved a team of 17 scaling a five foot high obstacle on a 75 yard long course and returning. In 1947 the course consisted of seven "very stiff obstacles" over a distance of 440 yards each way. Today 21 strong teams compete over an 85 yard long flat track, a total run of 170 yards.

The original stipulation by Brickwood that the trophy was only open to teams from within Portsmouth continued until 1975 when the competition was widened to include bases from around the country. In 1978 with HMS Fisgard's win the trophy left Portsmouth Command and HMS Gannet's win in 1997 took it north of the border for the first time.

The names of the winners of the trophy are engraved on small shields up to and including 1961 and plates for winners since 1962. Since the last war the original black ebony stand has been replaced by the present brown polished wood base. All the badges were transferred, but not, however, put back in the same positions.

Before the First World War the competition was moved from the RN Barracks to Whale Island where it continued until 1973, the following year it transferred to HMS Collingwood, it’s famously large parade ground reputed to have once held as many as 8,000 ratings is the perfect setting for the event.

HMS Collingwood itself has had a good record in the competition, having won the Brickwood Trophy 16 times between 1957 and 2006. Records for completing the course have continued to be broken. The Royal Marines set a new record in 1924 of 1 min 24.4 secs. This was exceeded in seven subsequent years and eventually in 1938 HMS Excellent achieved 1 min 13.4 secs.

After the war with a different course and drill Victoria Barracks achieved I min 27.4 secs in 1954. HMS Collingwood cut that to 1 min 26.8 secs in 1962.

The record was lowered to 1 minute 19.4 secs by HMS Daedalus in 1988. HMS Collingwood beat this by running a time of 1 minute 18.8 secs in 2001.

The present record is held by HM Naval Base Portsmouth of 1 min 17.78 secs achieved in 2011.

Brickwood maintained a close interest in the competition over the years. In 1969 Sir Rupert Brickwood Bart presented the trophy and tankards and a firkin of Brickwood's beer to the winning team. In 1971 Brickwood's business was acquired by London-based brewers Whitbread & Co Ltd:

After a century this spectacle of toughness, courage, discipline and teamwork is still going strong.

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