A Shot in the Dark PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ian Mitchell   
This year, 5th Billericay Scout Troop hosted the annual Billericay & Wickford District, Scouts Night Hike. Traditionally the format was just a walk in the dark (as well as being a walk in the park), however this time it was decided to add a new dimension to the event, you could say the organisers decide to take 'a shot in the dark'. This year the event was based upon the Navy Field Gun race that used to be an integral part of the Royal Tournament – a much loved and missed forces promotional event. The challenge laid down by the organisers was for each troops team to build a cannon to a provided specification, with the firing mechanism being of their own design. The objectives were to get the cannon around the course and to then fire a tennis ball as far as possible.

For the weeks proceeding the event onlookers and neighbours of local Scout halls would have heard strange construction sounds and seen visions of UFTBs (Unidentified Flying Tennis Balls). As the event approached the competition heated up, with leaders even trying to find out about the 'opposition', frantically tuning cannons and practicing at taking the cannons apart, over obstacles and reassembling them again.

On the night (Friday 13th November!!!) each troops team had an allotted starting time and once kit and navigation skills where checked, the Scouts, with cannons in tow, were sent on there way. The event contained four stages firstly an assault course to navigate the cannon through, with fiendish obstacles, such as gates to cross and narrow gaps to squeeze a cannon that is over two metres long and 1 metre wide through. Once the Scouts had reached 'the front line' they were given the location of an undercover agent, deep in enemy territory (well, the woods around Brentwood).  If they were brave enough to go only 'where Eagles Dare', they had to find the agent and acquire plans for the enemies secret nuclear weapons factory, without being caught by enemy storm troopers. Many Scouts diving in muddy ditches to evade capture; dozens of them coming home dirty. Fortunately for those teams that got caught they weren't tortured, only lost some points in the overall event competition and had a minor dent in their pride. Once they had relocated the armaments dump where they had previously left their Cannons the Scouts (tired and weary complaining that this was a 'Bridge to Far') they had to get themselves and their cannons back to HQ on Greens Farm lane and fire shells (tennis balls) to destroy the enemies weapons factory. It turned out hard to spot who had shot the furthest in the dark at 2am in the morning as some of the cannons fired their tennis ball a rather long way.

Throughout the night everyone kept an eye on the weather as storms were promised by the Met Office, however this was probably the real 'Great Escape' as fortunately the rain held off until everyone was back safe. Once completed and utterly tired the Scouts got a hearty, warm meal and bunked down in the hall for the night. In the morning it was decided to have a 'shoot off', so that each team could see how the other cannons worked. The ingenuity of the Scouts in how to propel a tennis ball was very impressive, with a bit to much science for a hobby being applied (who said they don't listen at school). In daylight it was clear to see that the best cannons could send a tennis ball over two hundred metres, impressing all who watched.

So if you were out and about on Friday 13th around the Billericay / Brentwood area and wondered why a group of 10-14 year old's dived into a bush as soon as they saw you, or you were star gazing and saw a small, round, fluffy object fly by, perhaps, just perhaps you inadvertently took part in, or witnessed the goings on of this event. The question now on everyone's lips is how do we top this at next years event. As one of the last Scouts to leave said “It'z Cold, how do we escape from that!”.
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 November 2009 20:13