BOOK REVIEW: ‘The National Rifle Association Its Tramways And The London And South Western Railway Targets And Tramways’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  The National Rifle Association Its Tramways And The London And South Western Railway Targets And Tramways

Author:  Christopher Bunch

Total Number of Pages: 323

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8

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Writing in this volume’s Foreword, Andrew Mercer (Group Chief Executive & Secretary General; National Rifle Association), notes that ‘This book is a unique reference to the close and often intertwined history of the NRA [National Rifle Association] and the Railways, from the days of Wimbledon common [sic] to the Association’s new home at Bisley’. It is an accurate precis’ of a very interesting book.

Within the volume, the previously-noted Foreword is followed by an Acknowledgements section within-which the author pays tribute to those individuals and organisations that assisted him in the book’s creation. A Preface follows. While summarising the volume’s content, the author also uses it to elaborate on the sources used, paying particular attention to the availability of substantial correspondence held by the National Rifle Association. The section titled Introduction which follows the Preface provides essential historical background to the National Rifle Association itself. The main part of the volume now appears.  This is divided into two sections (Termed Parts), these covering two specific locations and time periods: Wimbledon 1860-1889 (PART 1) and Bisley 1890-1998 (PART 2). Sections within each PART (Termed Chapters and numbered sequentially) cover specific time-periods and subjects.  Where necessary, the Chapters are further-delineated into Subheadings dealing with a specific topic. Three Appendices follow Chapter 10 (The Bisley Camp Tramway from 1923). These cover such diverse topics as ‘….Personalities referred-to with the Text’, a specific locomotive and the various types of motive power used on the Bisley tramway. A small Bibliography follows Appendix 3, and is in turn followed by the volume’s Index, its final section. The volume contains numerous photographs (some in colour, the majority; monochrome), together with Maps, Plans, Drawings, Tables, Diagrams and assorted Ephemera. All are clearly reproduced and informatively captioned although many do not carry indications of their origins. No mention of their existence is made in either the Contents page or in the Index. Curiously, although site-specific Maps are provided, the volume contains no General Ordnance Map of Great Britain to indicate exactly where in the United Kingdom, Wimbledon Common and Bisley might be located. In its absence, a casual reader can have no idea as to precisely where these localities might actually be. It is an unhelpful omission.  Numerous Quotes appear within the volume. None carry citations, in the absence of which their authenticity is open to question, and their historical usefulness substantially reduced.

While this volume is well-written and very informative, for this reviewer, it was let down by the small things; the details, especially in regard to of the afore-mentioned Quotes and, to a lesser-extent, the Index. As already noted, the Quotes contain no citations in support of their authenticity, while the Index entries can best be described as ‘piecemeal’. While reviewing the volume, this reviewer had occasion to seek Index entries on Crystal Palace (page 19), Vizianagram (page 133) and Collin Moynihan (page 134). No entries were found, while the Index entry for Australia, although noting that these occurred on pages 23, 129, 137 and 209, omitted mention of an entry on page 132. There were other, similar, examples, with an Index entry for Jennison on page 28 omitting mention of an earlier entry on page 27. As they may be representative of larger ommissions of an unknown size, the discovery of such ‘errors’ does little to engender confidence in the Index. Several errors of punctuation were also noted, the most obvious of these being the omission of two commas in the title, specifically after the words Association and Tramways. Whether a colon should have been placed after Railways could also be debated.

The details outlined-above notwithstanding, this volume was a delight to read, and bids fair to become the Standard Reference Work on the NRA, Bisley and Competitive Target Shooting in the United Kingdom. As such it is likely to be of interest to both Military and Social Historians and target-shooting enthusiasts of all persuasions. Members of the military may also find it of interest. Railway enthusiasts with an interest in both the London and South Western Railway and obscure, little known tramways, may also find it worthy of their attention. Railway modellers may also find the volume’s photographs and plans useful.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this book an 8.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘The National Rifle Association Its Tramways And The London And South Western Railway Targets And Tramways’