To describe someone as “well respected” after their passing does not do justice to how much regard the fullbore shooting sport in Australia and around the world have had for Graeme Berman. Graeme packed a lot into his long life, doing so with great enthusiasm and success and provided unlimited support and an influence to many.
As an ambitious young shooter, I first got to know Graeme in 1982 at a seminar for young potential champions at Hornsby. I performed quite ordinarily but was chuffed when he stated that I had a classic Estonian position. I thought that sounded pretty good, but then he said that it was “…usually reserved for old men with beer guts”. Despite the setback to my ego, I moved to Sydney a year later and joined the Mosman-Neutral Bay (MNB) Rifle Club.
Graeme was leader of the pack in MNB which included the likes of Andrew Powell, Ken Lee, Frank McDermott, Tony McGuigan and many other prominent Australian and State shooters. MNB was THE club to be in and it was an eye-opener for a young bloke setting his sights on much higher goals. He was a tough task master and was blunt in his assessments of your performance if you did not measure up. However, I came through the fire and got to enjoy being in many teams with Graeme over the years. I am proud to look back fondly on my friendship with him and his daughter Karen. I had the honour of asking Graeme to be my match Captain of the Kolapore team in Bisley in 2015.
I thank Gary Somerville and Sandi Moore who have contributed most of the facts in the following reminiscence of Graeme’s achievements. Other details are from magazine articles provided by Rodney Winwood from Tasmania.
At the time of his passing Graeme Berman was 91 years old and had been a member of MNB Rifle Club for around 75 years after joining in 1947. Graeme’s shooting career started with Chatswood Rifle Club becoming an accomplished Smallbore shooter prior to WW2. He joined Mosman in 1947 at the resumption of Fullbore shooting after the war. In the 1950s he recalled marking targets at Liverpool for 10 shillings and sixpence. He was the last of the Club’s “old guard” of shooters that included Ken Lee, Frank McDermott and Rod Evans.
Graeme’s father Herbert (Bert) William Berman was also a rifle shooter, first with Chatswood and after WW2, with Mosman. Graeme was proud to follow in his footsteps by winning the first stage of the NSW Queens in 1968 on the move to Malabar. Graeme’s daughter Karen continued the family links to the sport with great success.
A great raconteur, meals with Graeme while attending a Queens or a prize meeting were most entertaining as he was a great observer of people and knew rifle shooters across many generations.
Graeme was fiercely loyal to MNB and he took particular pleasure in being a member of many winning club teams at Queen’s prizes and in the Metropolitan Grade series. The strength of the club was confirmed when they won the British Commonwealth Rifle Club postal match in the late 70s. Graeme Berman said in March 2005, “In my opinion, from the time of our move to Malabar we developed into the strongest shooting Club in the Commonwealth”.
He won the Club Championship six times. Graeme was made a Life Member in 1989 and contributed guidance as Club President for many years.
An indication of his innovative thinking and influence is that he was so impressed by the Kongsberg targets in operation in the Western Australian Queen’s Prize around 2008, that he convinced the club to join him in funding two targets. With the lead set by MNB, within two years all other clubs in Sydney had moved to electronic targets.
Graeme was almost a permanent fixture at Queen’s Prize Shoots in Australia resulting in around 123 badges, 6 of those bearing the coveted Number 1.
Graeme’s Queens Wins in Australia and New Zealand were: Victoria 1971 & 1976, New Zealand 1991, South Australia 1992 & 1999 and North Queensland, a second Queens for the year in 1992. He took great delight in winning two of his Queen’s Prizes by one V-bull! He was particularly pleased to get around me at the last range in South Australia to win his last Queen’s Prize at the age of 68.
Graeme had a number of successes during his many treks to Bisley to compete in the Imperial Meeting. He and Moire kept a caravan on site for their use and they enjoyed the social life on range at the various clubs.
He made the Grand Aggregate top 50 on eleven occasions, winning the Silver Cross in 1984 with a score of 591, the winner recording 594. The medal is proudly displayed in the club house.
Graeme made it into the St Georges Top 25 final six times. He also made the Queens final top 100 on eleven occasions, resulting in eleven Bisley Queens badges. This was a tremendous performance given the uncertainty of how each year’s ammunition batch would perform in a rifle prepared in the antipodes.
Graeme was a prominent shot, coach and Captain in Teams matches for Australia. He represented in the Kolapore match on six occasions, the first being in 1974 as shooter then finishing in 2015 as Captain. He top-scored in the winning 1976 team and shot again in the winning 1978 team.
The Australian team also won the Empire [now Australia] match in each of those years and Graeme shot well in those teams. He was Captain and Coach of the winning Australian team in the Mackinnon match in 1996.
Graeme was a Vice President of both the NRA and the British Commonwealth Rifle Club. He was also an honorary Life Member of the South Africa Bisley Union.
Graeme represented NSW 15 times as a shooter and coach in Merrett matches between 1970 to 1985, winning on several occasions. He received ‘baggy blue’ number 338.
In my first team with Graeme in 1985 he demonstrated sound team psychology skills by taking us all to the pub for a night of team bonding before the Merrett Match. Needless to say, newcomers Mark Buchanan and I had less nerves the following day and NSW took out the match.
Administration of Shooting
For many years Graeme served on the Metropolitan DRA committee and then on the NSWRA Council.
Graeme was elected Chairman of the NSWRA from 1976 – 79 and held the role of President of the NSWRA in the 1990s. It was during this period that the Federal Government raised a threat to the use of ANZAC Rifle Range by Rifle Clubs. As President, Graeme was instrumental in negotiations that allowed the NSWRA continued use during the period of discussion and court actions taken.
Graeme was later made an Honorary Vice President and Life Member of the NSWRA. He was also a Director of Firearm Safety & Training Council Ltd.
Career and Family
After school, Graeme studied Chemical Engineering going on to a successful career in Australia and New Zealand. He was later involved with Blackmore’s pharmaceutical and health company and enjoyed the fruits of its success. One story has it that Graeme introduced Tiger Balm to Australia.
Graeme married Moire in 1956 and raised Peter and Karen. In later life, Graeme and Moire enjoyed cruising the world on the big ocean liners such as the Queen Mary.
Graeme was still scoring double possibles in 2018, but his last shoot with the club was in February 2020. He then donated all his gear to young shooters.
Graeme continued to follow my progress over the past dozen years or so and was quick with a congratulatory call or email when I achieved success. He must have been surprised that a classic Estonian position could take me so far.
Rest in peace my friend.
Stephen Negus, NRAA Chair
(Former Mosman-Neutral Bay Rifle Club captain and member of many club, District, State and Australian teams with Graeme)