During the summer Adult Under Officer Alastair Smyth, from 1st Battalion the Highlander’s Alness Detachment, spent six weeks leading cadets from across the UK in an international marksmanship competition.
Alastair was part of the adult support team leading the British Cadet Target Rifle team, or The Athelings, the Cadet Forces’ Shooting team made up of the top shots across the cadets – since 1910. Alastair, who in his younger years was selected to join the UK team, has been an Army Cadet instructor for 15 years.
The Athelings took part in two rounds of competition shooting against the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. The first round was shot at Bisley Range in Surrey in July and the second in Canada in August. The 18-strong team of marksmen and women beat the Canadians in the Rex Godard competition and also came second in the Inter-services Long Range match, beaten only by the team representing the British Army.
The Athelings also took part in a number of other competitions as members of smaller teams.
Upon his return to Scotland Alastair said: “My original Athelings experience was 20 years ago and it was a shock and honour to get a phone call to ask if I would join the 2017 tour. In the first round in July it was an additional bonus for me to win Gold in the Colin Grafton memorial match and be a semi-finalist in the St Georges, with scores that were better than I managed 20 years ago. The return match in Canada was great fun. We had a short period of acclimatisation and then it was two intensive weeks of shooting in team matches and individual events. The Canadians put up a good team and were looking to get some points back, but in the end the UK came out on top.”
All the competitions were shot between 300 yards – 1000 metres (British in yards, and Canadian in metres) and the equipment used being either the cadet service rifle of the host country, or a single shot target rifle.
The first exchange visits of cadet teams took place in 1910, when parties of cadets from Australia, New Zealand and Canada came to England. Reciprocal visits by a team of Royal Canadian Army Cadets have been taking place since the 1950s.