Support our mission
 
Ten-year-old Amy Hillsden pulls back her compound bowstring as she prepares to fire an arrow at a nearby target. Hillsden, from Dagenham in Essex, was shooting at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers club grounds near the base. About 40 percent of the 50 or so club members are local British citizens.
Ten-year-old Amy Hillsden pulls back her compound bowstring as she prepares to fire an arrow at a nearby target. Hillsden, from Dagenham in Essex, was shooting at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers club grounds near the base. About 40 percent of the 50 or so club members are local British citizens. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Ten-year-old Amy Hillsden pulls back her compound bowstring as she prepares to fire an arrow at a nearby target. Hillsden, from Dagenham in Essex, was shooting at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers club grounds near the base. About 40 percent of the 50 or so club members are local British citizens.
Ten-year-old Amy Hillsden pulls back her compound bowstring as she prepares to fire an arrow at a nearby target. Hillsden, from Dagenham in Essex, was shooting at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers club grounds near the base. About 40 percent of the 50 or so club members are local British citizens. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Colorful arrows lined up against a wall at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers club grounds.
Colorful arrows lined up against a wall at the RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers club grounds. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
A British archer prepares to release his arrow at a target during a Liberty Archers tournament just outside RAF Lakenheath recently.
A British archer prepares to release his arrow at a target during a Liberty Archers tournament just outside RAF Lakenheath recently. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Bows fired at the recent RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers tournament ranged from manufactured compound bows to handmade wooden models.
Bows fired at the recent RAF Lakenheath Liberty Archers tournament ranged from manufactured compound bows to handmade wooden models. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Sherwood Forest may be the home of Robin Hood and his bow-toting merry men, but when the Lakenheath Liberty Archers take to a forest they’re after a tougher target than Prince John.

During a recent daylong tournament at their off-base range, the archers hunted velociraptors and stegosauruses, among other targets.

Members of the Liberty Archers club have been shooting longbows, compound bows and recurves for more than 20 years.

Although bow hunting isn’t allowed in England, club vice president Master Sgt. Jeffrey Fortner of RAF Mildenhall said archery is very popular here.

“It’s a lot bigger sport here than I thought it’d be,” said Fortner, who has shot archery for more than 25 years.

“If you wanted to, you could go to an archery competition every weekend,” club secretary Beth Knight said.

Knight said many people don’t realize that though they can’t bring guns to England, they can bring their archery gear.

Her husband, club president Master Sgt. Jimmy Knight, is deployed to the Middle East. Club rules require the president to be an active-duty servicemember.

The club’s popularity has spread from the base into the local community. About 40 percent of the 50 or so members are British citizens from the local area, said treasurer Randy Borden.

“They’re probably the glue that holds the club together, with so many people coming in and out,” said Borden, who’s worked at the base auto hobby shop since 1986. He’s been with the club since 1987.

The club shoots at three-dimensional targets, ranging from a full-sized bison to birds and fish, and even a few dinosaurs. They’ve got dozens of different targets in their “zoo.”

Many of these targets were spread out during their mid-November tournament over the few dozen acres just northeast of the base that make up their leased land. Some unusual targets were included, such as a monkey and a fish.

They hold three tournaments during the year, drawing archers from all over the country — and even mainland Europe.

Club members also have attended many national and international tournaments throughout England and Europe.

Knight, who only started shooting archery in 1996, won the European women’s title in 2000 and a women’s world championship in 2001, as well as two English Field Archery Association wins.

Her daughter, Betsy, started shooting at age 11. It’s a hobby that’s shared by whole families, she said. “It gets them out, it gets them together,” she said. “It’s something enjoyable to do.”

It’s also a hobby that’s different each time an archer draws back his bow string, Fortner said.

“Every arrow you let go is different,” he said. “Every target you shoot is different. It doesn’t get boring.

“It’s real primitive — it’s personal. It’s just you; you don’t depend on anyone else. It’s all your skill and ability.”

Archery also allows bow hunters a chance to get out into the woods again.

“Many Americans [in the club] are frustrated hunters just wanting to keep their skills honed,” Borden said.

“You get out in the fresh air and shoot new animals,” Knight said about their targets. “How often can you get out and shoot a velociraptor?”

Want to join the merry band of archers?

The Liberty Archers meet once a month, shooting at their club range just across the A1065 from the aircraft viewing area at the northeast corner of RAF Lakenheath.

Dues are 25 pounds per year for a single person or an entire family. Members also are required to join one of the British national archery associations, as those memberships come with insurance. Club treasurer Randy Borden said that a membership in the association runs as little as 10 pounds for a single person or 20 pounds for a family.

Club dues are used for upkeep of targets.

Those interested in the Liberty Archers can contact Borden at the Lakenheath Auto Hobby Shop at DSN 226-5180. The club also has a Web site: www.geocities.com/libertyarchers

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up