BISLEY – ESTABLISHING A CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE INTO THE NEXT CENTURY
By Julian Nettlefold
BATTLESPACE met Glynn Alger, Secretary General of the NRA and Jeremy Staples Managing Director of the NSC
The National Shooting Centre (NSC) is located in the Surrey countryside. Bisley, the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA), is the world’s best known and most varied shooting centre.
The name Bisley has been synonymous with rifle shooting excellence for over a Century. Set in 3000 acres of Surrey heathland some 30 miles from Central London, Bisley played host to all the shooting disciplines of the Manchester Commonwealth Games. The combination of the best, most modern, and largest arrangement of shooting facilities in the world with its colonial style clubhouse buildings that date back to its Victorian beginnings give Bisley a unique atmosphere. Bisley today still looks much as it did when the National Rifle Association originally moved there from Wimbledon Common in 1890.
Marksman and snipers from many of the world’s Armed Forces have been taught and trained at Bisley – it is a unique facility anywhere in the world.
Many developments in rifle technology have emanated from research and testing carried out on the comprehensive range facilities at Bisley. In 2007 the NRA developed a comprehensive plan to develop these facilities to take Bisley into the next Century, we discussed these in our interviews.
From origins on Wimbledon Common
Before we discuss the future developments, it is worth looking at the unique and rich history of Bisley.
The National Rifle Association (now the governing body of fullbore rifle and centre-fire pistol shooting in Great Britain) was founded in 1859, originally to provide a focus for marksmanship for the newly formed corps of volunteers which had been raised to meet the perceived threat of invasion by the French. The NRA was granted Royal Charter in 1894. This Royal Charter continues to this day for the “promotion of marksmanship in the interests of the Defence of Realm and permanence of the Volunteer Forces, Navy military and Air”.
The Association organised the first set of competitions on Wimbledon Common in July 1860, on land where Earl Spencer and the Duke of Cambridge, founders of the NRA, held manorial rights. Queen Victoria fired the first shot and gave a prize of £250 for the best individual marksman. This set the pattern for the Annual Meeting which has been held every year except during the two World Wars. The Queen’s Prize remains the premier award for the rifleman and the July Imperial Meeting is internationally famous. It also established the unbroken link between the Association and the Monarchy. The present Prince of Wales has held the office of President since 1977 and has shot for the House of Lords in the Vizianagram Match, held annually against the House of Commons.
The NRA Meetings at Wimbledon flourished but as the area developed there was increasing pressure to find an alternative site and the last Meeting at Wimbledon was in 1889. By that time a series of possible sites had been examined, including Richmond Park, Cannock Chase, the Berkshire Downs, Dunstable, Lewes and Staines. The Guards Camp had been at Pirbright since 1881 and the prospect of support from troops there and from Aldershot probably swung the decision. After much debate the members of Council voted to move to Bisley, and 15 months later the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, fired the first shot at the beginning of the 1890 Imperial Meeting.
“How do you see Bisley twenty years from now?” The Editor asked Glynn Alger.
“Holding the 2002 Commonwealth Games shooting gave Bisley a considerable capital investment for the Lord Robert’s Centre and the international clay shooting facility. As we now have an opportunity to bid for the 2012 Olympic shooting, we can now expand on these facilities and our existing ranges.”
“What does this plan