I bet there aren’t many of you who could claim to have a butt (not the water variety, but an earth embankment) at the end
of your garden.
My father, Owen, was fascinated by firearms, not because he was aggressive, or even defensive, but purely because of
their design, mechanics and accuracy. He was an Inspector in the Police Special Constabulary during and after the Second World War, and in the Royal Observer Corps in the later war years, and coached young policemen in the safe handling of rifles.
Our local rifle range was situated on the cliff top on the outskirts of Lowestoft, a field distance away from a busy
holiday camp. The butts, situated just behind the target to stop the bullets, were on the very edge of the cliff and
beyond them was a narrow cliff-top path and then a steep drop to the shingle beach beneath. When target practice was
in progress a red flag was raised to warn any walkers to turn back and anyone still on the beach to keep their distance.
This, and a member of the rifle club keeping an eye out, was the extent of the safety regulations.
As children in the late fifties my sisters and I, accompanied by my mother, spent spring and summer evenings in the butts.
We children patched the targets with scraps of paper and paste to repair the holes, while my mother held the marker
pole against another target to indicate to the cadets their score – rarely a bull, more commonly an inner, a magpie, an
outer, or if no hole could be found on the target, the marker pole was waved from side to side – always disappointing
news for the cadet.
When the weather was good this was great entertainment, but if the wind was blowing off the sea or it was raining, a
couple of hours could feel like a lifetime down there in the butts. After the tidying up was completed, my father and Uncle Ken would take turns in throwing their hats in the air and firing a revolver at the spinning target, which was great fun but made for rather holy hats! The previously mentioned butt at the end of our garden (with a corn field behind) was used by my father to test firearms which had been confiscated by the police. Very occasionally his wife and daughters were allowed to use Dad’s own rifle for target practice. I can assure you that our tolerant neighbours on either side were always warned before this happened. How times have changed on the health and safety front.