The History of the Preparatory Schools Rifle Association
The Founding of the Association
In the 1860's the French were causing anxiety in Europe, leading to the formation of the National Rifle Association, the Volunteer Forces, and cadet corps in several public schools. A few prep schools were a part of this movement: shooting was taught at Temple Grove in the 1870s, while at Mostyn House there was a cadet corps in 1860.
The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 caused a much greater fervour of military zeal and the idea of inexpensive club shooting using miniature (or small bore) rifles was vigorously advocated by Major-General Luard.
At the same time that miniature rifle shooting was becoming very popular an even cheaper form of shooting became available with improved makes of air rifles.
When shooting suddenly became nationally popular A G Grenfell [Mostyn House school headmaster] persuaded the adjutant at Eton, Captain Soltau-Symons [who was secretary to the Public Schools Ashburton Committee] to arrange an annual match for prep schools using ·303 carbines at 100 yards, which was advertised in February 1905. The public interest in smaller and cheaper weapons was encouraging a host of manufacturers to produce better designs. Several prep schools, including Grenfell’s, had tried the new ·22 miniature rifles. Herbert Bull [ Wellington House] suggested that some rules should be drawn up under which prep schools could shoot matches but at that time the calibre had not become standardised and there were ·22, ·23 and ·245 rifles on the market. Bull’s suggestion, like Grenfell’s ·303 proposal, elicited small response.
At this moment A.G. Grenfell met an enterprising Manchester sports dealer called Robert Ramsbottom. His specialty was air rifles and he had helped to form and equip over 300 clubs in the membership of the North British Air Rifle Association. He and Grenfell jumped at the chance they offered each other; in July1905 all 411 prep schools were circulated with an invitation to join the Preparatory Schools Air Rifle Association and with it went an invitation to a free trial of Ramsbottom’s air rifle kit: two rifles, stop butt, targets and pellets. The novelty, low price, the free trial and Ramsbottom’s organisation did the trick and 99 schools had joined by December. Grenfell was secretary but Ramsbottom’s firm did the work.
Meanwhile the ·22 users asked Captain Soltau-Symons to arrange a meeting of interested headmasters in December 1905. Thirty came, one of whom represented fourteen others. This meeting agreed to set up a Preparatory Schools Rifle Association and it was intended from the start to incorporate the Air Rifle Association already formed. In February 1906 the first Annual Meeting was held and the PSRA was formally established.