This year 3rd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR) invited seven Livery Company teams to compete in Canterbury on 29th October. The Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants was up against the Paviors, Needlemakers, Cutlers, Haberdashers, Coopers and the Order of St George.

The Builders’ Merchants, led by the Master Steve Turner, comprised Past Master Andrew Day, Court Assistant Andy Williamson, and Liverymen Dave Moore and Mike Rigby.

After a welcome and brief from the Commanding Officer Lt Col Andy Betts in the Officers Mess, we received our kit and assembled in teams to compete at a number of stands covering seven important activities. The stands were 81mm Mortar; Camouflage & Concealment; General Purpose Machine Gun; Combat Signals; Anti-Tank; Observation Post; and CQB (shooting concealed enemy soldiers in the woods).

We worked well as a team, and were quick learners. We assembled aerials quickly and efficiently so we could call field headquarters and disassembled it (Combat Signals). We assembled the General Purpose Machine Gun without losing any fingers. We assembled the surprisingly heavy 81mm Mortar, sighted and aimed it to fire.

Crawling through a low-roofed tunnel, we hid beneath camouflaged netting in forward concealment to identify incoming vehicles, distinguishing carefully between hostile and friendly vehicles. PM Andrew Day shone at that, while Court Assistant Andy Williamson proved adept at knocking out both moving and stationary tanks on the video using the shoulderheld Javelin anti-tank weapon.

In the Observation Post we used the latest night-sight and infra-red equipment. Really impressive! And the team excelled at recalling eight objects in a particular order observed with just a brief glance. Each member of the team achieved this.

Then in Camouflage & Concealment we had to spot 10 objects that had been hidden in the field and low lying bushes and trees in front of us. We learned the disorientating effects of seeing – mostly not seeing – them out of context and at unfamiliar angles, and the tendency to see what you expect to see. Not seeing the obvious in full view was a humbling experience for some, but it was an insight into the considerable skills of the sniper’s art of hiding in plain sight.

The final stand was a timed ‘run’ through the woods where 10 enemy soldiers were lying in wait for us. Using rifles adapted to fire plastic balls, we were marked for kills, aggression and speed against the clock. Each of us had to shoot all 10 concealed soldiers in or behind bushes and beside trees along a winding trail. The team did well on shooting, scoring 48 kills out of 50, but less well over the uneven ground against the clock. Builders’ Merchants came third overall, and first in the antitank rankings.

After we removed the very sticky camouflage paint and got cleaned up and changed we were entertained in the Officers Mess with a dazzling display of drumming in the dark lit up by UV light. Then we had the prize giving, and a fine curry supper and drinks with our kind hosts, the officers and men of 3 PWRR.

It was an impressively well organised, informative and entertaining day, and it’s worth saying that the men of the PWRR were doing this in their own time. We had a great day and were very appreciative of their kindness and the opportunity.