Lieutenant-Colonel Larry Orpen-Smellie, who has died aged 72, was one of the country's leading rifle shots; indeed, he put shooting so high on his list of priorities that it may have cost him the chance of more senior rank.
In 1957 Orpen-Smellie was selected for the Army in all five disciplines of the Inter-Services matches in a single year - an honour achieved by only two other people. He captained the Army VIII, from 1968 until 1982, and shot target rifle with increasing success; he represented England in the annual National Match 17 times and in the MacKinnon 15 times. He also shot for Great Britain in the Kolapore on 10 occasions and in the Palma four times. He travelled with 20 Great Britain overseas teams between 1952 and 1996 and captained two of them: the first to Canada in 1975, the second to New Zealand and Australia in 1984. At the same time he continued, throughout his service, to shoot small arms competitively.
Herbert John Orpen-Smellie, known from childhood as Larry, was born on January 18 1930 at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. His father was killed at Dunkirk in 1940, and his mother took her son to live with her parents at Colchester.
Orpen-Smellie demonstrated the beginnings of his lifelong interest in marksmanship as a boy, by taking the heads off all the tulips in the garden with an air rifle. He took up the sport more seriously while at Wellington, where he shot for the VIII, and was first selected for Army teams while still at Sandhurst.
After being commissioned into the Essex Regiment in 1949, he was posted to the 1st Battalion in Colchester as a rifle platoon commander, where he soon gained a reputation as a competent subaltern. He also attracted a degree of notoriety for his pranks, which included lowering a thunderflash down the chimney of the Officers' Club during a ladies' bridge evening which he judged needed livening up.
The 1st Battalion was sent to Korea soon after he joined them, but arrived shortly after the ceasefire was announced. By his early twenties Orpen-Smellie was shooting service weapons and target rifle regularly for the Army, England and Great Britain.
His reputation as a marksman led to his posting as a skill-at-arms instructor at Hythe in 1952. He returned to the 1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment, in Hong Kong in 1954 before applying for a secondment to The Parachute Regiment. Two years later he passed P Company selection and, after a spell as Air Training Officer, was posted to join the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, as Adjutant.
During this tour the Essex Regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Anglian Regiment, and Orpen-Smellie accepted an offer to transfer into The Parachute Regiment in 1958. In 1960-61, Orpen-Smellie was at the Pakistan Army Staff College at Quetta, before being posted to Malaya to be chief instructor at the Malay Infantry Instructor's School at Port Dickson. He became fluent in Malay, which was often used at home in later years for conversations that his children were not supposed to understand.
Orpen-Smellie returned home to regimental duty in 1965 to command a company in the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, and deployed with them to British Guiana. He later became second-in-command of the battalion for operations in Ghana, Cyprus and Northern Ireland.
He was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in 1978 and posted chief instructor of the small arms wing of the School of Infantry, the successor to the former school at Hythe and now based at Warminster.
Orpen-Smellie was appointed OBE in 1980 for his services to military shooting.
His final few years in the service were spent commanding a wing at the Military Corrective Training Centre at Colchester. After retiring in 1984, Orpen-Smellie continued to be extremely active, particularly as a member of the Committee of the National Rifle Association.
He was elected a vice-president of the National Rifle Association in 1997. Orpen-Smellie looked every inch a soldier: a ramrod straight back, bristling moustache, twinkling eye and a purposeful stride. He celebrated his 70th birthday in New Zealand with a bungee jump.
He married, in 1954, Jean Watson, an international target rifle shot in her own right, whom he met at Bisley. She survives him, with a son, Giles, the current Regimental Lieutenant Colonel of the Parachute Regiment, and a daughter, Jane, who now shoots for Wales.
Orpen-Smellie died on May 17.
Courtesy of the Daily TelegraphRead More