Dick Horrocks – President of the English XX Club

On behalf of the English Twenty Club and its members, may I wish every success to John Webster and his vice captain, James Watson, and the England Rifle Team travelling to the United States of America to participate in the the America Match 2008. The Club is proud to be able to field such a strong team under his leadership, which should provide the opposing teams with very stiff competition, a close match and every chance of victory. Good shooting and good luck!

John C Sigler – President NRA of America

On behalf of the National Rifle Association of America and its nearly 4 million members, I would like to welcome you to the 2008 Spirit of America National Fullbore Rifle Prone Championship. I congratulate you on your selection as England’s representative in this match. This distinction is one for which many strive but which few achieve. You have every reason to be proud of this accomplishment.

Thank you for making the trip to the NRA Whittington Center, in Raton, New Mexico. Founded in 1973, the NRA Whittington Center is the most comprehensive shooting facility in the United States of America today. I am confident that you will enjoy these wonderful shooting grounds. Please do not hesitate to let our staff know if there is anything we can do for you during your stay.

Our countries have shared a rich tradition of shooting competition for many years, a shared tradition which I foresee continuing well into the future. We share a common thread within our organizations, both being founded in the mid 1800’s by statesmen and military leaders to improve civilian marksmanship. I am confident that we can work together to ensure that our sons and daughters are afforded the same opportunities to enjoy the shooting sports. 

I wish you the best of luck throughout the 2008 Spirit of America National Fullbore Rifle Prone Championships and beyond, and I thank you for joining us in the spirit of friendly competition.

John G M Webster – Team Captain

It is a great honour to be asked to captain one’s country and I am grateful to the Council of the English XX club for affording me this privilege. It is also a great pleasure to be returning to the Whittington Center in Raton to compete in the 2008 Spirit of America Matches, culminating in the America Match against Team USA. Having been fairly and squarely beaten in the 2004 version as captain of that year’s GB touring team, I and my team are under no illusions as to the task that confronts us.

When I was selecting this team, I mentioned that I was looking to get even for that defeat in 2004. “Forget 2004” came one reply; “What about 1776?” he added, admittedly with a wry smile. I can assure my shooting friends – and our American hosts – that any mental meanderings that I may exhibit from time to time do not rival the “madness of King George III”, but we are determined to give of our best in what I fervently hope will continue to grow into one of the great international target rifle matches.

The relationship between the English and the Americans is indeed special, as the originator of that phrase – Sir Winston Churchill – was very well placed to know, being the offspring of parents of each nationality. Having spent almost 20 years living in America, my personal experience is very much in concert with this view. Much has been written about this relationship. Most often cited is that we are two nations divided by a common language, an observation that extends even to our sport. ‘Pits’ and ‘Butts’ refer to the same part of a rifle range, but mean very different things depending on which side of the Atlantic you come from. I am certain that any claim to the occupation of ‘Butt Supervisor’ would raise more than a few eyebrows in polite US company, whereas an Englishman would struggle to understand why anyone would voluntarily spend valuable leisure time ‘in the pits’. My personal favourite on this subject is the book ‘Over Here’ by Raymond Seitz, a former US ambassador to the Court of St. James (to give it its proper title). His core observation was that the English are more inclined to think ‘vertically’ – with all our history, traditions and customs – whereas the American tends to think ‘horizontally’, as evidenced by the spirit of optimism, competition and entrepreneurship that is so evident in the American way of life.

So if I may revert to type for just a moment, as a former denizen of Connecticut, I still marvel at the inner strength, dignity and composure of Nathan Hale, the great American hero, whose last words before his execution towards the end of 1776 are reported by his admiring British captors to have been “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”. If (as I would like to imagine) he is looking down on the proceedings between the old foes on September 14th 2008, I like to think he would approve of the keenness of the competition, the drive for excellence and the will to win, but at the same time recognise that it is these very things that now bring us together, and that the rivalry is tempered by the bond of friendship and a common interest.

That we have this opportunity at all, I have some people to thank on behalf of my team; our hosts, The Bald Eagles Rifle Club in general and Al Coots in particular, and my team officers, Vice-Captain James Watson and Adjutant Jon Underwood, all of whom have worked relentlessly to make it all happen, as well as various sponsors, advertisers and supporters whose contributions are acknowledged elsewhere. I have no doubt that whatever the outcome, we will all find something special in the experience.