The Athelings Diary 2006
Thursday 3 rd of August
Departure day! We were up bright and early to pack our bags before having breakfast in the Army Target Shooting Club House. The luggage was weighed; many items were removed to keep to the weight limit before packing everything into our luxury coach for the short bus ride to Heathrow Airport where we checked-in successfully. We had no problems with the rifles and only the select few who had packed everything including the kitchen sink were issued with "heavy" stickers to put on their luggage. With a final hand shake from Nigel Suffield Jones we bordered the escalator to the departure lounge. Once on the plane, the teams excitement, finally beginning the trip of a life time, was shown, by the routine dance to "hot stuff" which came on the planes radio once every twenty minutes - that meant a lot of dancing! On arrival in Canada we were greeted by our chaperone; Major Tweton, who said the words we had been waiting to hear for the past 6 hours, "Welcome to Canada ". We arrived in Connaught after a short car journey, and were shown which tents we were living in for the duration of the tour. We spent the first evening socialising with the Canadian cadets and night with the mosquitoes.
Friday 4 th of August
The theme for the rest of the tour was set with an early start. After breakfast at the canteen on Connaught ranges, which was rated much higher than that of Pirbright, we had our first encounter with the yellow school bus which took us into the centre of Ottawa , the Canadian Capital. We watched the Parliament Parade, the changing of the guards for which Major Tweton got us VIP seats so we had the best view. Then we walked a few blocks to the Canadian War museum which we explored until it was time for our packet lunch. In the afternoon we were let loose in the centre to do some well earned shopping during which we made our visit to a Hard Rock Café, many of us made it our mission to visit the Hard Rock Café in every city we toured! The first day had been tiring as we got use to the heat and time difference so we headed back to Connaught at about 5pm to relax and itch our bites - poor James Lothian counted 19 mosquitoe bites on one leg from the first night.
Saturday 5 th of August
Day three was spent white water rafting. The group was split into two parties; with a guide and let lose onto the calm water where we were taught the basic strokes, and gear changes that would be necessary for us to make it through the day in one piece. The team had placed bets on the first person to fall out on a rapid with Kim Buffoni as favourite. The first time we went down a rapid, it was one of the most nerve racking moments of the whole tour, but we all managed to stay in the boats until the very last rapid, when Tom Drysdale managed to fall out and lose his paddle as a result he was able to sit back and relax while the rest of the team did all the work! When we weren't going down rapids, we had the opportunity to water fight, swim or what the guides described as "controlled drowning" - which was going down the rapids on your back swallowing just short of the amount that is needed for a person to drown! The day was enjoyed by all and was voted as one of the most popular activities of the tour.
Sunday 6 th of August
The usual early start for breakfast at 7:30am set us up for the start of our travelling around Canada visiting the major areas on the eastern coast. Our first stop en route to Montreal was at Fort Henry for a quick tour and some food. We saw a demonstration of rifle firing and the discharge of a cannon, which gave off a slightly more of a bang than our 7.62mm rifles. Once in Montreal we were given time to explorer and shop again which also meant time to find the Hard Rock Café where we had a team dinner before travelling to Fort St Jean, a large Canadian Army base where we would spend the night. We each got our own room which was a luxury. The evening was spent playing poker, which was to become one of the main socialising events while on tour.
Monday 7 th August
Before leaving the Montreal area, we visited the Montreal Lookout, a perfect place for a team photo, which took approximately 15 minutes as we had more cameras than team members for some strange reason. From the Lookout you could see just how huge the city was stretching out as far as the eye could see. In the afternoon we went on another long journey to the Canadian Air Force Base, Trenton where we again got our own room, with two double beds, TV, a bathroom and air conditioning. We felt like kings and requested that they fly us to Connaught everyday to shoot so we could live the life of luxury. Unfortunately, the answer we got was a firm no. The team took full advantage of the swimming pool; - Chris Redburn especially enjoyed the slide! In the evening we had more team bonding with a few hands of poker.
Tuesday 8 th August
We were granted a small lie before taking advantage of a very high quality breakfast after which we visited the Aircraft Museum that was part of the Trenton base. It is famous for having one of the few Halifax bombers that had been restored to its original specification. After lunch en route for Oakville , we stopped at a picturesque beach with white sand and fresh water, which meant we could swallow as much as we wanted when we went swimming, to take in some sun. The boys played a nice game of touch rugby - which wasn't violent in anyway, followed by the classic which is British Bulldog. We arrived in Oakville in the evening and were paired up and given a room. That night we spent our time between the TV room, where there was popcorn and DVD's, and the games room, which had a pool table (which became our poker table) and a table-tennis table.
Wednesday 9 th August
Day 7 was the day that many had been waiting for since we had read the tour's itinerary, Wonderland, the Canadian version of Disney land, with a theme park and a water park in one. We arrived just as the park was opening, which didn't unfortunately mean there were no queues. We aimed to get around all of the roller coaster's and go in the water park in the afternoon but this turned out to be a bad plan, as the park was huge and with about 13 roller coaster's with a queue time of an hour for each meant that we would need a few days in stead of just one. The brave members of the team tackled the ride known as the bungee swing, which let you freefall before swinging you out into the park. The day at Wonderland was enjoyed by all, just a shame about the lack of time to visit the whole park. In the evening we had a team dinner at a local restaurant were we managed to get free desert for the vice captain as it was her "birthday". More games of poker followed.
Thursday 10 th August
We were back to the early morning routine to get into Toronto and not get caught in to much traffic. Our first port of call was the CN Tower where the elevators that took us up to the viewing area were some of the fastest in the world, travelling at a few stories a second. Most of the team managed to stand on the glass floor and everyone was amazed by the view from the top. After the Tower we bordered a boat for a tour of Toronto and the island just off from it. While we were waiting for a boat to travel back to the city, the team entertained themselves by running through sprinklers or in some cases dragging each other through them. Poor Anne-Marie forgot that the ground gets slippery when wet and managed to fall over into the mud. We were given some free time in a large shopping centre to get some last minute presents as Toronto was the final major city we were to visit. We travelled back to Oakville for an evening BBQ once it had been scrubbed clean by Tom Drysdale and Chris Redburn, their punishment for being a minute late. The night was enjoyed by all with games being played on the grass outside our accommodation
Friday 11 th August
Day 9 was an especially early start to get to Niagara Falls , about 50 miles away. We toured the Falls on the Maid of the Mist and marvelled to see how big the falls actually were. The waterproof ponchos that we were issued would also come in useful when it rained back at Connaught . After the tour we were let loose to explore, some took this as an opportunity to visit the arcades and Ripley's believe it or not; while others took it as a chance to sit down and relax. One thing was for sure though, the tour of the Hard Rock Café's continued. On the way back from Niagara we visited another old British fort- Fort George where we got a chance to practise our marching, dressed as riflemen of the British Army.
Saturday 12 th August
Saturday was a long day for the bus driver, we had to travel all the way back to Connaught . The team slept on the bus before, on arriving at Connaught , getting straight down to the business of issuing the rifles we would use for the Canadian Cadet Meeting.
Sunday 13 th August
Our first day practising with our new rifles had us shooting at 300yds and 500yds, with the majority of the team adjusting quite easily. We had been warned that the flags used in Canada were different to the ones used in Bisley but the team managed well with a large number coming off with possibles. The fact that there was no wind also helped. After firing we gave the rifles a good clean and put them back into our moveable armoury, the "rent a van". In the afternoon we had free time to play football with the Canadian cadets. In the evening the RCACNRT held their annual BBQ and party games which were enjoyed by all.
Monday 14 th August
Day 12 brought more much need practise with the Canadian cadet rifle, this time at 600yds. More impressive scores were put in, with Sian Williams not dropping a point all morning. In the afternoon we enjoyed a special visit to the local driving range to play crazy golf and to practise our driving. Matt Millar managed to get his drive perfect, reaching a good 200yds, but other, Daniel Cummings, struggled with the concept of the club hitting the ball and the ball travelling through the air. His club ended up further forward than the ball as he let go in mid swing. We had free time in the evening and an early night ready for the first day of competition.
Tuesday 15 th - Thursday 17 th August
The Canadian Cadet Championships whose format was different to the competitions we are use to as cadets back in Britain , not only did we shoot but we also had to do our share of butt duty. All the team found this as a bit of a novelty, enjoying the time to relax while we marked targets and to run around wearing the cavlar helmets which were standard in the butts. The wind had got up from the previous day so some of the team's scores suffered a little, but not James Lothian, who won the 500yds detail of day one and in the end the Championship. As a team we did very well, getting the top two overall places and all of us in the top 50. We lost the second stage of the Rex Goddard, but our lead from the first stage meant that overall we won the Trophy. On the Friday night, the Canadian cadets threw an end of competition disco which was probably the first disco in many years that our team had attended without alcoholic beverages but this did not hinder the dancing, with Julian Cromarty showing everyone a trick or two.
Friday 18 th August
We handed back our Canadian rifles and prepared our own rifles for the DCRA. Not everyone had RPAs to fire in the DCRA so some wanted to keep the Canadian rifles, others were happy to get rid of them and get back to their own rifle. We fired the warm up match in the afternoon then cleaned our rifles and ourselves before attending the Canadian Cadet Passing Out Parade.
Saturday 19 th - Sunday 27 th August
The DCRA started with a similar format to that of the Imperial meeting. A number of small warm-up competitions at the beginning before we got into the real things that counted. In many cases the people that had done poorly with the cadet rifles saw an improvement in their scores, so confidence was high. We as individuals shot remarkably well, Matt Millar equalling Jon Underwood's score at 300yds with a 50.9 dropping his last and Tom Drysdale managed to put in a 50.0. As the team was shooting so well, it became hard for the Commandant and Captain to pick the teams that would shoot the Faraday and against the Canadian Under 25 Long and Short Range Teams. We did out best but it wasn't enough to secure a victory in any of the matches. The Canadian Cadets secured the Faraday and the Canadian Under 25 Team shot exceptionally well to win both the Short Range and Long Range matches.
Monday 28 th August
With the shooting over we were all tired and some of the team felt they would like to just go home now. This was reinforced somewhat as we were drove to Algonquin National Park with rain falling since we got onto the coach and many of us did not want to spend the next 2 days paddling in the rain, but once we got going, the attitude changed completely as the camping trip was one of the best activities of our whole tour. As we arrived the rain stopped, and was not seen again for the rest of our stay. We paired up and were given a canoe which would carry us and all of our equipment for the two days. On the lake, some found it difficult to travel in a straight line; Kim Buffoni and Matt Millar travelled twice as far as the rest of us, by zigzagging to the first camping site, half an hour's paddle away. By the time we got there it felt like we had been paddling for days. The site was felt like a 5 star camp site, as it had its very own tree swing. Once we got the tents up, and had dinner, the boys competed to see how far they could swing out, how many could swing out at the same time and who could make the biggest splash. The first evening was spent looking out over the lake and up at the stars, sitting around the camp fire reflecting on the great time we have had in Canada and the telling of the odd joke or two.
Tuesday 29 th August
After a nice sleep we were up feeling refreshed and ready for a hard days paddle. The plan was to be on the water for most of the travelling to the far end of the lake which was about five times the distance that we had travelled on the first day. We got packed up after our lovely ration pack breakfast and hit the water at about 10am , paddling for much of the day with the occasional break to allow the zig-zaggers to catch up. Our second camp site was just as good as the first; with lots of space yet with the tents being closer together and our very own little beach. We sun bathed, swam and learnt how to exit and re-enter the canoe while in water, a feat done with limited success by all, especially Daniel Cummings and Matt Corrin, who forgot to keep hold of their canoe when they jumped out and could only watch as it sailed away. After supper we stoked up the camp fire and spent that night sitting round it playing games as a team.
Wednesday 30 th August
Our final full day in Canada start as per usual with an early start, we were up eating our ration packs for breakfast before taking down our tents and getting back onto the water. We had to travel the same distance as the day before and hoped that we could spend our final night at the campsite with tree swing. Unfortunately it was already occupied but we managed to find one close bye which was equally as good. Most of the team spent the afternoon swimming in the lake. We sat round the camp fire that night not as a team but as good friends whom we would remember forever. It was hard to believe that the tour was coming to an end.
Thursday 31 st August
Departure day, but we were still in the middle of a National Park. Before we could go home, we had to paddle back to the start of the canoeing trip to return our canoes so it meant a final early start to get to the coach with enough time to make the desired Tim Horton's stop for a coffee and still get back to Connaught with enough time to finish packing and cleaning. The camping trip was an experience that we will treasure for ever but the important thing now was to get packed and get to the airport. We again had little problem with the rifles but we did have problems with a few peoples hand luggage. We were instructed to put our scopes into our hand luggage because they would be protected more in there; unfortunately Sian William's scope had broken during the tour and was held together with black and yellow tape. After inspection by the Canadian authorities they would not let her through the departure gates with the scope as it resembled a "pipe bomb" so she had to check it into the hold. The departure lounge was the place for last minute photos and the signing by all of spare Athelings T-shirts as a reminder of those with whom we shared this remarkable trip. Once on the plane, many of us struggled to stay awake for take-off and sooner than we realised we were back on English soil. At Heathrow we said our final good byes to the members of the team that were flying on to Scotland and Ireland , for the rest of us it was a short bus journey back to the CCRS at Bisley to be collected by our parents.