RAF Cranwell Polo Tournament

May 11, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

RAF Cranwell Polo Tournament

I'm fortunate to be in the position of being able to spend much of the summer watching or umpiring cricket and photographing polo.

I haven't always photographed polo, I started in 2007 after bumping into the polo manager from RMA Sandhurst when I was taking photos at Royal Windsor Horse Show. I was invited along to photograph at Sandhurst, one thing led to another and then I was photographing military polo.

The season opener is a tournament played at RAF Cranwell in early May and I've been fortunate enough to cover that event a few times. For obvious reasons, this season's tournament has been pushed back to September, but for now, here are some photos to give a feel for what goes on.

Going to Cranwell for the event is a treat, I'd applied to join the RAF but had been turned down because I have asthma, so spending a few days there is rather special. As a photographer, it's one of the event's I'll cover for the sheer enjoyment and not for the income.

The tournament usually has entries from several local clubs, usually a team from Ham in south London, two or three RAF sides, the Hackett Army Polo Team and the Army Reserves, so there are two days of play with a formal dinner in the middle. As weekends go, it's pretty good.

The first time I turned up, I didn't have a clue where I was going. I pulled up at the gates in front of College Hall and looked around for an idea of where to go. fortunately, someone was getting a pizza dropped off and I was able to ask. The guardroom is half a mile further up and once I'd been there, finding my way to my accommodation has been easy. Although I did drive in through the wrong entrance once.

RAF badge on the wrought iron gates at RAF CranwellThe RAF Badge on the gates at RAF CranwellThe RAF badge on the RAF Cranwell gates

RAF Cranwell College HallRAF Cranwell College HallA general view of College Hall at RAF Cranwell in early morning sunshine.

RAF Cranwell College Hall side view.RAF Cranwell College HallA general view of RAF Cranwell College Hall from the side photographed early on a Sunday morning.

Although the main gates are in front of College Hall, the gate guardians are on the other side of the road, there's a a Jet Provost and one of the 55 Squadron HS Dominies. The Dominie was a thrill to see. My father had been a flight inspector at the De Haviland/Hawker Siddeley factory at Broughton and was likely to have worked on this airframe. I lived about a mile from the end of the runway as a teenager and although I didn't see this one fly, I saw most of them.

Jet Provost gate guardian at RAF CranwellJet ProvostThis Jet Provost T5A is a gate guardian at RAF Cranwell. The airframe was built as a Provost T5 in 1971 and was upgraded to the T5A standard in 1975. Having flown 97% of its rated airframe life, this asircraft was withdrawn from service and now stands opposite the 55 Squadron Dominie T Mk 1.  

 Hawker Siddely Dominie T Mk 1 as a gate guardian at RAF Cranwell Hawker Siddely Dominie T Mk 155 (R) Squadron Hawker Siddely Dominie T Mk 1 as a gate guardian at RAF Cranwell.<br/>The Dominie was based at RAF Cranwell from 1996 until the last fight in January 2011.<br/>The last flight of a dominie on the military register was in February 2011.<br/>This aircraft is XS727.

Polo is played at the back of College Hall on a very nice ground that gives some very good sight lines for taking photos.

Polo played at RAF Cranwell.RAF Cranwell Polo groundA general view of the RAF Cranwell polo ground during a match, looking towards College Hall

The games can be really very fast and entertaining although for some others, not so fast.

A single polo player at speedRAF poloAction from the RAF Polo Association's season opening tournament played at RAF Cranwell.

Polo at RAF CranwellBritish Army poloAction from a polo match featuring the Hackett Army Polo Team

Polo action at RAF CranwellRAF poloThe Saturday of the RAF Cranwell Tournament with two players challenging for the ball/ All eight hooves are off the ground.

Polo action at CranwellRAF poloThe Saturday of the RAF Cranwell Tournament featuring the RAF vs Army Reserves

Polo actionRAF poloThe Saturday of the RAF Cranwell Tournament featuring the RAF polo team.

Polo Action at RAF CranwellRAF polo vs Army ReservesThe Saturday of the RAF Cranwell Tournament featuring action between the RAF polo team and the Army Reserves team.

Cranwell poloRAF polo at CranwellThe Saturday of the RAF Cranwell Tournament featuring the RAF polo team and Rutland Polo Club

polo action at RAF CranwellPolo played at speedAction from a polo match with an RAF player closest to the camera galloping towards the ball.

Action from the RAF Cranwell Polo TournamentBritish Army PoloA British Army plo player is moving towards the camera, the rider is about to strike the ball. Action from the RAF Cranwell Polo Tournament.

Something to watch out for during the RAF Cranwell polo is the gliding, the next field along is used for a gliding club and it's busy throughout both days of the event.

Two gliders against a dark skyGliding at RAF CranwellTwo gliders circling above the RAF Cranwell polo field and standing out against a dark overcast sky. The RAF Polo Association's season opening tournament played at RAF Cranwell

A red and white glider against a blue skySchleicher ASK 13A red and white Schleicher ASK 13 glider of Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association under a light overcast at RAF Cranwell during May 2016.

Sometimes you can get really lucky with air traffic. 

A spitfire flying in the distanceSpitfire LF Mk. IXcSpotted in the far distance, Spitfire LF Mk. IXc was spotted at RAF Cranwell for the RAF Cranwell Polo Tournament, the traditional opening event of the military polo season.

I'm sure it's coincidence, but I have only seen the Battle of Britain Memorial flight aircraft at the polo when the RAF is playing.

Between games, it's good to catch up with friends and take the kind of team photos that sponsors like to see.

The RAF polo teamRAF polo team shotPolo played at RAF Cranwell on 19th May 2019 featuring the RAF polo team

The British Army Polo TeamHackett Army Polo TeamThe British Army Polo Team at RAF Cranwell for the RAF Cranwell Polo Tournament, the traditional opening event of the military polo season.

RAF polo team on their horsesRAF Polo TeamThe RAF polo team on their horses and lining up before a game.

Between the two days play is the tournament dinner. It's a good opportunity to wear a black tie (although I wear an MCC tie) and celebrate. The more robust players keep going into the small hours, but I'm a snowflake and duck out relatively early.

The RAF polo Club dressed for dinner at RAF CranwellDressed for DinnerMembers of the RAF polo club dressed for dinner in front of the college building at RAF Cranwell. Photographer Peter Meade is in the group.

At the end of the tournament, as many teams as possible gather in front of college hall for tournament photos.

Polo Tournament teamsRAF Cranwell Polo Tournament TeamsTeams from the RAF Cranwell polo tournament 2016 lining up for a tournament photo at the end of the competition. The teams are standing in front of the College main door.

I really hope I can get there in September.

 

Stay safe, stay well.

 

 

 


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