UTC Portsmouth Run the Gun!

Eighteen students from UTC Portsmouth represented the college at the recent Junior Leaders’ Field Gun (JLFG) Competition held at HMS Collingwood, Fareham.

The competition, which is aimed at 16-24year olds, was originally conceived to inspire a younger generation of field gunners by targeting participation at trainees who had recently joined the Royal Navy.  Since then it has been successfully expanded to include cadets, local colleges and, most recently, University Technical Colleges. Having competed as a combined team with UTC@Harbourside in 2018, UTC Portsmouth was delighted to be rewarded with a full team place in the 2019 competition.

Within the college JLFG is run as an enrichment activity over the Summer term; team members complete icebreaking activities and field gun related fitness sessions as well as learning some traditional navy ‘dog-watch’ sports and seeking sponsorship/organising kit.

The week of the competition itself is an immersive residential experience built around Royal Navy Ethos (Teamwork, Leadership and a ‘Can do’ Attitude) and Core Values (Courage, Commitment, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity and Loyalty).  Students spend the week living onboard HMS Bristol, Whale Island and are transported daily to HMS Collingwood where experienced field gun trainers coach them through all aspects of the JLFG Run. A typical day starts with ‘Call the Hands’ (an alarm call) at 0530 followed by a march to the dining hall for breakfast.  Field gun training takes place from 0800-1700 and, following a return journey to Whale Island for dinner, there are activities in the evening before ‘Pipe Down’ (lights out) at 2230. 

Junior Leaders’ Field Gun is all about inclusiveness and students must learn to work effectively as a team if they are to manhandle the ~820kgs of equipment safely and efficiently up and down the track.  It is hard work (imagine push-starting a small car for 4-5hrs a day) but it is the collective effort required to complete the task that is the catalyst required to rapidly develop team cohesion. Regardless of personal ability, the team will only achieve results if individuals focus on the specific functions of their allocated role within it. 

Being a team member in the JLFG Competition is genuinely a unique opportunity which offers students a fantastic opportunity to develop their soft skills and significantly enhance their CV.  All of the students who attend return better for the experience and, for some, it is life changing.

Student Fin McCaig said, “Competing in the Junior Leaders’ Field Gun Competition was an incredible experience; there really is nothing else like pulling a 500kg, 100-year-old,  gun up and down a 85-yard track. Staying onboard HMS Bristol was one of the highlights for me as I loved the routines and learning to get along with everyone in close quarters.  The week was exhausting and I didn’t know many of teammates that well before the competition but I feel that we really bonded well as a team and I’d definitely do it again if I was given the opportunity.  

Vice Principal James Doherty said, “Sending a team to participate in the Junior Leaders’ Field Gun Competition is another example of the strong links we have with the Royal Navy and the way that students benefit from our Employer-Partner relationships.  Watching the students work so hard for each other in the finals was a real pleasure to witness, it is amazing to see how much these individuals have grown in confidence in such a short space of time.