Washington County Durham


Memories of a Washington Sailor

Royal Navy Field Gun Race / Artic Star Medal

Washington Man in Royal Navy Field Gun Race at The Royal Tournament, Earls Court

Devonport Field Gun Crew - 1966

Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport - Field Gun Crew, 1966

  AB Thomas Copeman - Top of Image

In 1966 Washington's Tom Copeman (an ex-pupil of Usworth Colliery Junior School and Usworth Secondary School) was awarded a prestigious and highly prized place in the Devonport Crew to take part in the world famous, fast and dangerous, Royal Navy Field Gun Race held annually at The Royal Tournament in Earls Court.

Tom says,"I was fortunate to be 'running crew' for Devonport in 1966 and 1969.  1966 was really special because we were performing at Earls Court the same time England were winning the World Cup at Wembley.  I found it truly magical performing in front of 12,000 people every day for 3 weeks.  I'm still a member of the Devonport Field Gun Association and still in contact with lads I ran with over 48 years ago.  We are all a little heavier around the waist line but when we get talking we can still put the Gun & Limber over the walls in record time."

"The crew member above my right shoulder is Darby Allen, the first black rating to run Field Gun.  Some of the crew ran with me again in 1969.  There were 50 ratings making up the crew, plus all the back room staff, with 18 members in each of the 'A' and 'B' crews, the others were reserves."

By kind permission of Tom Copeman

Washington's Tom Copeman in Training for the 1969 Royal Navy Field Gun Races

Devonport Field Gun Crew - Training, 1969

Devonport Field Gun Crew in Training - 1969

Tom says, "That’s Taff and me on the back of the box.  We were 1st Wheels through the hole in the wall on the Run Home.   If we got stuck, then everyone piled into the back of us and there was a big snarl up.  Thankfully it didn't happened to our crew at Devonport or Earls Court.
We were a pretty good team, even if I say so myself."

By kind permission of Tom Copeman

Royal Tournament Medals

Medal - 1966

Medal - 1969

Tom Copeman's Medals for the Field Gun Competitions of 1966 & 1969

By kind permission of Tom Copeman

The Course & The Race Procedure

 Schematic Diagram of a Field Gun Competition Course

The Wheels Crossing The Chasm


From the start line in front of the Royal Box, the crews pull their guns and limbers to the end of the arena where they turn and carry themselves and their equipment over a 5-foot (1.5 m) wall.  The guns and limbers are then dismantled and carried to the top of a ramp on the 'home side' of a 28-foot (8.5 m) chasm.  The crew set up a wire and traveller so all 18 members of the crew and their equipment can cross the chasm.  The team and field gun then pass through a hole in the 'Enemy Wall' at the end of the arena.  Each crew fires three rounds to end the 'Run Out'.
Approximate time for a Run Out: 85 seconds.

The second part of the competition, the 'Run Back', involves the crews taking all of their equipment back over the 5-foot (1.5 m) 'Enemy Wall' and then back across the chasm.  Once all the crew and their equipment is back on the 'home side' of the chasm, the wire and traveller are dismantled and three more rounds are fired in a rear guard action.
Approximate time for a Run Back: 60 seconds.

In the final stage, the 'Run Home', men, gun and limber pass through the hole in the 'Home Wall' and then the teams 'hook up and pull for home'.
The clock is stopped as the teams cross back over the start line.
Approximate time for a Run Home: 20 seconds.


Tom Copeman sends Best Wishes to his 1966 Shipmates.

Devonport Field Gun Crew with names, 1966


Tom Copeman sends Best Wishes to his 1969 Shipmates.

Devonport Field Gun Crew with names, 1969


The Arctic Star - Awarded for Service North of the Arctic Circle during World War II

Thomas Winter Copeman (son of Richard & Elizabeth Copeman; father of Tom) also served in the Royal Navy.
He was Stoker 1st Class on the County-Type Heavy Cruiser, HMS Kent when it operated in the hazardous Arctic Ocean during World War II.  For this service, protecting Russian Convoys and preventing German warships from entering the Atlantic, Tom Snr was awarded The Arctic Star. An image of his actual medal appears opposite.


The medal is awarded for service above the Arctic Circle by members of the British Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy.  It is a retrospective award, coming nearly seventy years after the end of World War II.
Following formal approval by HM Queen Elizabeth II, the first Arctic Star medals were presented to veterans of the Arctic Campaign at a ceremony in London, on the 19th March 2013.

Brave Men

By kind permission of Tom Copeman