M: There’s a long tradition of marksmanship and shooting in Westphalia. The earliest written records date back to the 13th century, but the beginnings probably lie much further in the past. One thing we do know – gun clubs were originally set up as the community’s way of dealing with emergencies. Farmers joined forces to protect themselves from raids and marauding gangs. In the early days, they fought with pikes, swords and spears. By the 18th and 19th centuries, firearms had improved considerably, and their use was spreading.
F: The uniforms worn by members of today's gun clubs are a fairly modern invention. They only came into fashion during the 19th century. People met regularly to drill with their weapons – and in earlier times, for traditional shooting competitions called “Vogelschießen” – known as popinjay, or papingo in the English-speaking world.
M: It was the highlight of the shooting year and always went hand in hand with a fabulous party. “Vogelschießen” was originally an archery event using crossbows to bring down a wooden bird mounted on a tall pole. The crossbows were later replaced by firearms. The winner of the competition became the “Schützenkönig” – the champion marksman.
F: Of course, Lette has its own gun clubs. The “Allgemeiner Schützenverein” can trace its beginnings back to 1633. Take a look at the display case, where some of the champions’ shields are on display. These awards were actually worn by the champion marksmen. Note the distinctive shape of the shields. They bear an inscription and engraving and are decorated in various ways. The shield was worn on a chain, with a new one being added every year, until the chain was full. At that point, an old shield had to be removed – and then often went missing. That was what happened to the champion’s shield awarded in 1633.
Fotos: © Heimatmuseum Lette