The word "sniper" originated from the name of a swift and small bird in India that British officers hunted for sport. Anybody good enough to shoot the birds was labelled a sniper, but the first combat sniper on the battlefield happened to be the German snipers of WWI. After encountering German snipers, the British Army immediately developed an intensive sniper training program, which is held today at Sennybridge in Wales.
Major Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard was tasked with British Army sniper training in 1915 and he founded the First Army School of Sniping, Observation and Scouting in France the following year. Major Hesketh-Prichard's school innovated the use of spotter scopes as well as the idea of working in pairs with a sniper and a spotter. Following WWI, Britain disbanded sniper training only to rediscover its utility again in WWII during the British retreat at Dunkirk. Since Dunkirk, the British Army has always had a sniper training program.
The Training Cadre
British Army sniper training classes are called cadres, and they last six weeks unless retraining is needed for some students. The sniper classes are called cadres because of the past practice of having each trained sniper return to their unit to train other snipers.
The first week of the course is spent testing the sniper trainees for weaknesses. The cadre experiences a massive amount of live fire range tests mixed with intensive navigation tests as instructors weed out as many students as they can. Weeks two through five are spent with more intensive range time and advanced stalking, as well as instruction in camouflage techniques and forward artillery support communications. The final week of the course is the test week, when sniper trainees must pass the sniper standards and the final test stalks in order to graduate.
Stalks are tested approaches of camouflaged trainees through a two-kilometer swath of forested terrain toward instructors. Two instructors act as observers at the end of the stalk zone and use sophisticated optical technology to discover approaching students and then guide other instructors--called walkers--with radios through the stalk zone to find them. Observers have two chances to direct the walkers to where they think the sniper is hiding. Once the stalking sniper is within 150 to 300 meters of the end of the stalk zone, they take a shot at a small target. During the final test week, students must pass two out of three stalks to graduate.
Sniper trainees must first calculate complex range and wind shooting problems to demonstrate sniper knowledge. Next, students create maps from an aerial photograph and then must rely on this map to navigate out of that area. Students demonstrate their mastery of concealment by completing a stalk and staying concealed while walkers point out their location to the observers as they shoot a blank.
Observation skills are tested by having a student locate 10 objects scattered from 50 to 300 meters away and sketching them all in a panoramic picture with distances. Next, students stalk toward a hidden observation post, where they must fire two blanks from 150 to 300 meters away without being spotted. Students must then judge the distance of several objects on a range, using only their eyes. Finally, students have to make one-shot kills at various ranges while firing from various shooting positions.