RMA Sandhurst

Sandhurst Commissioning Parade

They do still make officer cadets dig trenches – quite a lot of them, usually in heavy rain; and in the hierarchy of the Army, the rank of ‘Officer Cadet’ is lower than any other – lower even than, as I was once told by the very formidable Sandhurst Matron, a private in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.

The biggest crime at Sandhurst (real motto “Serve to Lead”, cadet version “Skive to Survive”) is “showing dissent”. Keep any negative feelings to yourself – best not to have them – certainly not for the first five weeks, which are a serious nightmare of 0500 hours water parades (drinking a pint of water then singing the National Anthem),  drill, PT, arduous exercises in places like Wales, and late night kit and room cleaning sessions.

Your platoon sergeant is the most important person at Sandhurst; second only to the Academy Sergeant Major, who uniquely is one rank above every other RSM in the Army.  Bear in mind that both have been very carefully selected for this job, which is a very serious career enhancer for your platoon colour sergeant if he can pull it off.

Despite having at least eight years’ of pretty serious military and career training, including a notorious NCO’s Cadre course, and usually the very testing infantry Platoon Sergeants Battle Course at Brecon, your platoon colour sergeant has also suffered the indignity of spending five weeks in training at Sandhurst enduring the same routine as junior cadets in their first five weeks.  It’s also worth remembering that during your initial five weeks, he has to get up much earlier than you, and spend as much time on his uniform and kit to always be smarter than you.

Sandhurst exercises are variously said by those more senior to be hard, interesting or easy; disregard this kind of talk. They’re all hard, made more so by the reality that only the platoon colour sergeant and platoon captain are proper soldiers who know what they’re doing.  Cadets do not always respond properly to pressure, especially when applied by fellow cadets, and there are always those looking to shine that much brighter than others…

The course progresses rapidly through Juniors, to Intermediate and Senior terms, and the eventual Commissioning Parade and graduation to the dizzy rank of Second Lieutenant; which is a huge step-change, in terms of status, expectation and responsibility.  It’s always worth bearing in mind however, that until the clock strikes midnight, you remain an officer cadet, as three unfortunate miscreants realised too late at a Commissioning Ball I attended a couple of years ago, after being discovered with minutes to go by New College  RSM doing something basic, understandable  and in that moment of high liquid consumption necessary, ‘safe’ in the darkness, behind a marquee…

Share

4 Responses

  1. Jim Broby says:

    I’m hoping to go to Sandhurst when I finish college. Is it true that the Army is considering giving non-grads the same seniority and pay at graduates?

    • Hi Jim,
      MY son left Sandhurst in December as a non-grad, and he reports that this seems to be true. He’d have to wait a couple over a year to become a lieutenant, then much longer than his peers from his Sandhurst course, to become captain, so he’s hoping it;s going to happen. The pay will also suddenly improve.
      It makes sense for the Army to do this. They need younger guys of the right calibre to spend longer at their regiments learning the basics, which with everyone joining as grads and being promoted to captain very quickly under current rules, isn’t happening.
      Good luck!

  2. Liam Kelly says:

    Hi Hugh,
    I am also an ex-Bty guy with the majority of my career spent in Poole and a couple of interesting years at the Academy as a Pl SSgt Inst. Reading your article brought back very fond warm memories and a big smile. As a PL SSgt it was a fantastic time and you only get out of it what you put in.

    Sandhurst will always bring back great memories for me of good quality Officer Cadets, excellent ethos and comradeship, and a better education into the ‘military system’.

  3. Hugh McManners says:

    Hi Liam,

    Many thanks for the comment, and really pleased that it brings back good memories. With good memorise in mind, I had a great day down at the Battery last week – at the NGA course presentations. Looking forward to the June 24 reunion. Are you coming?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *