Cat no. 331

The Punt Gunners

Running time~28:29 Colour Sound c.1973 The Wash

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Punt Gunners in The Wash.



The titles of this film are shown over sunset shots of the Wash. Throughout, the skills and ethos of the punt gunner are illustrated by stills and by readings from the works of Sir Ralph Payne Gallwey, 1890 - 1896.

Dr. James Robertson Justice introduces the film. He speaks from in front of an outbuilding. He talks of his pride of being a man in a million as of only 55 punt gunners in Britain. The punt gunners featured talk of the challenge of the sport. Stills illustrate something of the history of punt gunning from its invention by Colonel Peter Hawker in 1816 to the time of Ralph Gallwey in 1890. Little has changed since his Letters To Young Shooters written between 1890 and 1896. The dangers of punt gunning are emphasised and are illustrated with shots of the punt gunners bailing out. On a map, the commentator shows the routes out down the Nene outfall cut into the Wash as far as eight miles or more. Problems can be caused by the tide and by bad weather. A sequence of the punt gunners rowing home in a snow storm illustrates this point.

Back on the shore a gunner cleans his gun whilst his companion sweeps snow off the punt. The punt sets off through ice flows. The commentator explains that this weather is the best for punt gunning as the birds are slightly off guard. If the weather is too bad then punt gunners don't put out to sea. On shore, the preparation of a charge is shown. Black powder, suitable because it is slower burning, and heavy shot are used to make a massive cartridge several times larger than a cartridge for a twelve bore shot gun. The punt is launched and the breech- loading punt gun mounted. The punt gunners also load the cripple stoppers, two twelve bore guns carried to kill any birds left injured by the punt gun. The punt sets off down the river at the ebb tide.

Small waders can be seen on the mud, including widgeons. The birds are disturbed by fighter aircraft flying overhead. Down river the gun is loaded with caution. As the trip continues, various scenes are shown. The punt gunners meet some shore shooters and a man digging for lug worms. After reconnaissance from Big Annie a tower that provides the 4 1/2 mile marker, the team stalk some widgeon. They are disappointed when the birds fly off. Many of the birds stalked are watched for fun, as their species are now protected. these include shellducks and Brent geese. The team stalk a group of seals, which shuffle off the mud banks. A baby seal follows the punt out of curiosity. Almost at low tide a group of widgeon provides the shot of the day, bagging twelve birds. These are stowed under the sides of the punt.On the journey home the punt gunners illustrate the signs of pollution, mainly from oil, and discuss the effects. There are no longer any mussel boats or shrimp boats putting out in these waters. There are no longer any clams or cockles to be caught.

Featured People:

Lawrence Thompson; punt gunner; Toby Bromley; James Robertson Justice

Ashley Manor Films

Toby Bromley; Roger Upton

Toby Bromley; Roger Upton

Howard Kennett

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