Guns and bullets seem to have been central in the life of my distant relative, John Tippins, an expert rifleman who won many medals during his all too short life. Ironically, it was also a bullet – an enemy bullet fired by a German soldier in the first World War, to be precise- which put an end to his existence.
John Tippins was born in Windsford, Somerset, on 20th March 1887, the second and last child of Luke Ricketts Tippins (who was my second cousin four times removed) and his wife, Rose Anne (née Ellingham). John’s only sister, also called Rose, was three years older than him, and became a qualified teacher with certificates in science and art who went on to become headmistress of several schools in Essex.
But John’s life was shaped not by education, but by guns, a passion he inherited from his father. Luke Tippins had been involved with firearms for a long time. He had even been involved in a shooting in the early 1880’s when his wife’s former fiancé, Albert E. Sanders, shot at Luke and Rose shortly after their marriage in Westerham, Kent. Sanders was arrested two weeks later, with signs of the shooting still blatantly evident on his body. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Luke was a schoolmaster in Mistley, in north-east Essex, but despite his sentimental mishap between he and Sanders shortly after his marriage to Rose, he professed a true love for firearms. He became a founding member of the Colchester Rifle Club, an organisation which his son would join soon after. John was an excellent shot, and went on to win the 1911 Service Rifle Championship. A year later, he was voted by his peers as one of the best 10 marksmen in the whole world! Like himself, another great contemporary rifleman, Captain Ommundsen, would perish in the Great War.
John started shooting at the age of 16, undoubtedly instructed and guided by his father. Thereafter, his shooting career went up like a rocket. He won so many medals and badges that by the end of his life his Regiment TF army jacket was almost completely covered by them.
Sadly, John’s shooting skills and expertise rendered him no more immortal than the rest of his comrades. He was killed shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, on 26th November 1914. Reports claim that his heart was pierced by an enemy bullet while he was fetching water for a machine gun. His death reached home soon thereafter, but it was even reported as far away as Melbourne.
Photos: copyright of the Colchester Rifle Club. No copyright violation intended. 🙂