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The Lovat Society

The Lovat Society

Formally established in 1994 the Lovat Society can trace its origin back a few years previous to that date. A group of shooting friends got together because they all had an individual interest in the art of sniping and fieldcraft, and the collection and study of the weapons and equipment employed, from it’s early inception right through to modern times. During those early formative days we would meet up in a Manchester gunshop or more often than not arrange a day trip to any one of the museums which held information or collections relating to sniping.  We became regular visitors to what was then the Pattern Rooms, as well as the Royal Armouries and the Imperial War Museum.

It was during one of these visits that conversation came around to the fact that between the group we very likely owned one of the best and most varied collections of sniping weapons in private hands and how nice it would be to try and bring a large percentage - if not all of it - together in one place. The seeds where sewn for the creation of the Lovat Society, however we had two dilemmas, the first being what do we call ourselves and the second, well, it’s all well and good bringing a collection together but what’s the point if nobody really benefits from it?

Lord Lovat’s Scouts

So how did we arrive at the name? Firstly a little bit of a history lesson is the order of the day. On the 12th December 1899 the 22nd chief of the clan Fraser, Simon Joseph Fraser the 16th Lord Lovat, approached the War Office with an offer to raise two companies of scouts each of which would contain men from the surrounding Scottish estates. These men would be selected for their skills with a telescope, signalling, stalking, fieldcraft and marksmanship. By early 1900 enough men had come forward to formally establish the Lovat Scouts and it wasn’t long before their skills were fully employed in trying to beat the wily Boer at his own game.

Service Through the Two World Wars

At the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 the Lovat Scouts were once again mobilised, and served with distinction at Gallipoli as well as in Egypt, Macedonia and of course on the Western front. It was during the Great War that the Lovat scouts began the tradition of supplying both Officers and men to the Army School of Observation and Sniping, a tradition that continued until after the Second World War.

During the Second World War the British Army Sniping school was commanded by Major Underhill, a Lovat Scout himself, and the Sniping schools staffed by members of the Lovat Scouts operating in Bisley, Llanberis, Northern France and latterly Holland were responsible for the formidable reputation of the British sniper of World War Two.

So hopefully it can be seen why we chose the name The Lovat Society, as it is synonymous with the skills and ethos of the sniper. Now on to the second of our dilemmas; who would benefit from seeing the collection first hand?

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The BASC and British Shooting Show connection

It was decided that wherever possible the name Lovat should once again be linked with the training of snipers, and as a result of this access to the collection was offered to the Armed Forces. Perhaps uniquely the societies collection has been made available for both classroom study and live fire demonstration and it proved to be quite an eye opener for a student to pit his L96A1 against a Gewehr 98 of 1916 vintage.

Needless to say things have moved on a long way since those early days and as our Armed Forces become ever busier in the current hotspots the time within the training schedule for demonstration or discussion has been seriously curtailed and we have spent more time supporting shooting organisations such as the B.A.S.C. at a number of Game Fairs over the last few years. It wasn’t however until I got into conversation with John Bertrand at the B.A.S.C. Gamekeepers Fair that the opportunity arose to really push the boat out with regard to displaying the collection to the wider public, and that opportunity presented itself in the form of the British Shooting Show at Newark in 2010. At that show we were able, for the first time, to put on display a total of fifty two weapons covering the period of the Great War right through to the current conflict in Afghanistan and I believe it is the first time a collection of that size has ever been brought together both inside and outside of a museum environment.

Help for Heroes

Following the success of the British Shooting Show in 2010 John was kind enough to invite us back for the 2011 Show only this time we went even further and had on display in excess of sixty weapons. As was noted earlier, the time allowed too discuss and or demonstrate these weapons with the members of our Armed Forces has sadly been curtailed, however that is not to say that the link between the name of Lovat and the Armed Forces has been severed, as The Lovat Society’s chosen charity is Help for Heroes for who we raised a total amount of £676 from the display at the 2010 British Shooting Show. Amazingly this figure was surpassed this year when we have managed to raise the fantastic sum of £744, an incredible display of generosity in light of the current financial climate which just goes to show the depth of feeling and support that the public have for our servicemen and women. On behalf of the Society I would like to say a massive thank you to all who made a donation during the weekend.

Book Recommendations

For those who are looking to improve their knowledge of the Lovat Scouts and their involvement in the development of the science of Sniping then the following titles are excellent starting points. “The story of the Lovat Scouts 1900 – 1980” Michael Leslie Melville, “Sniping in France” Major Herbert Hesketh Pritchard DSO MC and “With British Snipers to the Reich”, Captain Clifford Shore. For those looking for a more general cross section of the development of Sniping I can strongly recommend “A Rifleman Went to War” Herbert McBride, “Out of Nowhere” Martin Pegler and “Without Warning” Clive Law. Finally an excellent study of the optics employed by various nations is “Scharfshutzen Zielfernrohre und Montagen 1914 – 1945” by Robert Spielauer. Don’t be put off by the title which translates as Sniper Scopes and Mounts 1914 – 1945 as the illustrations are titled in both German and English. 

Footnote

Access to the Lovat Societies collection is available to those with a serious interest in the subject of Sniping, although as I hope you will appreciate, the very nature and value of the weapons and equipment involved means that all enquiries for access have to be considered on an individual basis and the names and details of the members will not be disclosed. For more information, e.mail the Lovat Society at lovat.society@btinternet.com

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