The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS or RMA Sandhurst), commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is one of several military academies of the United Kingdom and is the British Army's initial officer training centre. It is located in the town of Camberley, near the village of Sandhurst, Berkshire, 34 miles (55 km) southwest of London. The Academy's stated aim is to be "the national centre of excellence for leadership". All British Army officers, including late-entry officers who were previously Warrant Officers, as well as other men and women from overseas, are trained at The Academy. Sandhurst is the British Army equivalent of the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, Royal Air Force College Cranwell, and the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines.
Despite its name, The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is located in Camberley; the boundaries of the academy straddle the counties of Berkshire and Surrey. The county border is marked by a small stream known as the Wish Stream, after which the Academy journal is named. The main entrance is located on the east of the Academy, leading to Camberley town centre. The nearest railway station is Camberley.
The first Military Academy had been established in 1720 at Woolwich, a town later absorbed into south-east London, to train cadets for commissions in the Royal Artillery. Known as the "Shop", this academy moved to a permanent site at Woolwich Common in 1806 and was granted royal status in 1841. In 1806, the Military Academy took on the training of Royal Engineers officer cadets and, later, Royal Signals cadets.
In 1799, a school for staff officers was established at High Wycombe, and in 1801 this became the Senior Department of the newly established Royal Military College (RMC), the brainchild of Colonel John Le Marchant. He opened the Junior Department of the College at a large house in West Street in Great Marlow in 1802 to train "Gentleman Cadets" for the infantry and cavalry regiments of the British Army and of the Presidency armies of British India. Coincidentally, 1802 was also the year of foundation of Saint-Cyr in France and of West Point in the United States. In 1812 the Junior Department of the Royal Military College moved from Great Marlow into buildings designed by James Wyatt at Sandhurst. A few years later, the Junior Department was joined at Sandhurst from High Wycombe by the Senior Department, which in 1858 became a separate institution, the Staff College.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Sandhurst became the home of 161 Infantry Officer Cadet Training Unit (RMC), which moved to Mons Barracks, Aldershot in 1942; for the rest of the war Sandhurst was used as a Royal Armoured Corps Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU).
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst was formed in 1947 on the site of the former Royal Military College from a merger between it and the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, which trained officers for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers from 1741 to 1939. Following the ending of National Service in the UK and the closing of the Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot (which had trained Short Service Commissioned Officers) in 1972, the RMAS became the sole establishment for male initial officer training in the British Army. In 1984, the Women's Officer Training College Bagshot moved to Sandhurst. In 1992 a new Commissioning Course finally unified the training of male, female and foreign cadets.
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Collection illustrates the history of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The collection includes the Gentlemen Cadet registers, historic archives, uniforms, paintings, photographs, and other artefacts.
Contemporary training at Sandhurst was the subject of a three-part television series, first broadcast by BBC television in October 2011, and rebroadcast in April 2012.
In 2012 Sandhurst accepted a £15 million donation from the government of United Arab Emirates for the Zayed Building, an accommodation block, named after the UAE's founding ruler. In 2013 Sandhurst accepted a donation of £3 million from the government of Bahrain for the refurbishment of Mons Hall, named in honour of the men who fell in the Battle of Mons. It was renamed as King Hamad Hall in honour of the King of Bahrain, which generated some controversy in the United Kingdom.
The Wellington Room after Arthur Wellesley showing a depiction of the Battle of Waterloo and his bust—RMAS Collection
Marlborough Room showing tryptych on leather of the Battle of Blenheim by Horensburg RMAS Collection
Potential officers are identified by the Army Officer Selection Board (formerly the Regular Commissions Board, or RCB) situated in Westbury in Wiltshire. Nearly 10 percent of British cadets are female and nearly 10 percent of all cadets come from overseas. More than eighty percent of entrants are university graduates, although a degree is not required for admission.
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Instructors' cadre is run once every year. The aim is to select 30 Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) from 60 over the course of 3–4 weeks. Instructors can come from any part of the British Army although most are historically from the Infantry. Typically before the 60 candidates arrive on the cadre, they would have had to have passed a 'Divisional pre-selection' course, meaning it would not be unusual for over double the 60 places to be contested. Sergeants and Colour Sergeants (Staff Sergeants from non-Infantry units) attend the Instructors Cadre. The Instructors Cadre is known to be demanding, both physically and mentally, compressing all the prominent physical tests and mental assessments that each officer cadet undertakes over the year course, into 3/4 weeks. This proves and produces the best instructors the British Army has at their disposal. No other instructor posting has a selection to pass in order to be a part of a training team.
Sandhurst develops leadership in cadets by expanding their character, intellect and professional competences to a level demanded of an Army Officer on first appointment through military training and education. The course is accredited by various academic and professional institutions. The Commissioning Course lasts 44 weeks and must be successfully completed by all British regular army officers (with some exceptions) before they receive their commission. It is usually followed by further training courses specific to the Regiment or Corps in which the officer will serve.
There are two shorter commissioning courses. One is for professionally qualified officers (e.g., doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, pharmacists, veterinary surgeons and chaplains). The second short course is the Army Reserve (AR) Commissioning Course (ARCC), which lasts eight weeks. The ARCC consists of four training modules; the first two, Modules A and B, can be completed under the supervision of RMAS with University Officer Training Corps over a number of weekends, or at RMAS where each module lasts two weeks. The final two modules, modules C and D, of the Officers' training and assessment must be conducted at Sandhurst. This training can all be completed in an eight-week period at RMAS, or over a number of years. Upon completion, Officer Cadets become Second Lieutenants in the AR or Officer Training Corps (OTC). Each year approximately 140 candidates undertake each of these two short courses. Both courses are accommodated and primarily conducted at Victory College, RMAS.
Sandhurst also runs a variety of other courses for officers including the Late Entry Officer Course (LEOC).
RMAS has an academic faculty staffed by civilian researchers with expertise in Communication and Applied Behavioural Science, Defence and International Affairs, and War Studies.
Unlike some other national military academies such as West Point in the United States, the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr in France, the Pakistan Military Academy in Pakistan and the Nigerian Defence Academy in Nigeria, Sandhurst is not a university. It only works with the Open University to award the Regular Commissioning Course 120 credit points towards a distance learning Honours Degree in International Studies which ultimately requires 360 points. Graduate entrants can gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership and Conflict Studies from the Regular Commissioning Course and then embark on a pathway post-commissioning to complete a full master's degree from a university through further electives and a dissertation.
In overall command of the RMAS is the Commandant of the Academy, usually an officer of Major General rank. The senior warrant officer, the Academy Sergeant Major (AcSM), is one of the most senior warrant officers in the British Army. The commissioning course is split up into three terms, each lasting fourteen weeks (referred to as the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Divisions, identified by differently coloured lanyards). Basic army training is covered in the first five weeks, which, by reputation, are the most gruelling (cadets' families are encouraged to support the cadets' morale by maintaining home contacts). The main RMAS Commissioning Courses start in January, May and September of each year. Each intake numbers approximately 200 cadets, each of whom is assigned to a platoon within one of two companies. Platoons are commanded by captains, with a colour sergeant who takes the main burden of day-to-day training, especially during the first term (unlike West Point, RMAS entrusts the majority of officer training to Senior Non-Commissioned Officers). There can be as many as ten companies within the RMAS at any one time, each commanded by a Major and named after a famous battle or campaign in which the British Army has fought. The company names change from year to year, and are drawn from the following:
Dettingen Company is divided along the same lines as the regular intakes, though smaller courses may consist of only two platoons.
There is also a "rehabilitation" platoon—Lucknow Platoon. It looks after cadets who are injured during training, with a view to preparing them to re-enter the commissioning course at the point they left, or processing those who are medically discharged.
Cadets who fail to meet the required standard may be "back-termed", that is, "asked" to repeat the previous term and joining a later intake, or to repeat the whole course.
Cadets nominate two regiments or corps that they seek to join, although in practice this may be influenced by their instructors, if particular strengths or weaknesses or aptitudes are seen to be important. In the middle term, interviews are held and final selections are made by the recruiting regiments and corps; there is competition for strong cadets by the units and, conversely, by cadets for prestigious or specialised units. Exceptionally, some cadets may have confirmed places in regiments before the formal selections or even before starting at Sandhurst.
A small number of regular army units are based at the RMAS to provide support for the colleges and their training:
The first Sovereign's Parade was performed on 14 July 1948, in front of King George VI. Three Sovereign's Parades are held each year outside the Old College to mark the "passing-out" and the final parade at Sandhurst of the Senior Division. All cadets, except for those who have been back-termed through injury or other reasons, are inspected by the Sovereign (or their representative), participate in the Trooping the Colour and parade past the Sovereign (or her representative) and guests. Guests consist of invited dignitaries and friends and families of the graduating cadets.
During Trooping the Colour, the Colour is escorted by the Sovereign's Platoon, which has been selected on merit from the Senior Division. The Sovereign's Platoon wears multi-coloured lanyards, using the colours of all three Divisions.
At the end of the Parade, the Colours and the Senior Division leave the parade ground via the Grand Steps of the Old College building. They are followed by the College Adjutant, on horseback (the origins of this tradition are unclear).
Each Commissioning Course has awards granted to outstanding cadets. The following awards are presented during the Sovereign's Parade. Others are merely listed in the Parade programme. A system of Cadet Government also recognises merit by the appointment of Senior Under Officers, Junior Under Officers, Cadet Sergeants and Cadet Corporals.
The Sword of Honour is awarded to the British Army Officer Cadet considered by the Commandant to be, overall, the best of the course. The swords were formerly made by Wilkinson Sword but after the closure of their sword making division they are now presented by Pooley Sword.
The Queen's Medal is awarded to the British Army Officer Cadet who achieved the highest scores in military, practical and academic studies.
The Overseas Sword is awarded to one of the many cadets from other Commonwealth countries and from foreign armies. The Overseas Sword goes to the Overseas Cadet considered by the Commandant to be the best on each course.
The Overseas Award is the equivalent of the Queen's Medal, and is awarded to the Overseas Officer Cadet who achieved the best overall results in military, academic and practical studies.
The MacRobert Sword is awarded to the officer cadet considered by the Commandant to be, overall, the best of the Army Reserve Commissioning Course. This sword is also donated by the MacRobert Trust and produced by Pooley Sword.
There are two Chapels within the Academy, The Roman Catholic Chapel (Christ the King) and The Royal Memorial Chapel, dedicated as Christ Church, which also contains the South Africa Chapel, which was originally the sanctuary of the second Chapel before the it was enlarged. The original chapel was what is now known as the Indian Army Memorial Room. The Royal Engineers designed the original Chapel, which features red brick, terracotta moulding, interlocking pediment copies and corbels in 1879. The Chapel was dedicated by King George VI on 2 May 1937, after architect Captain Arthur C. Martin enlarged the building in a Byzantine style. The Memorial stained glass and Windows in the chapel honour the Brigade of Guards, Rifle Brigade, Royal Fusiliers, and the Hampshire Regiment, among other units. Some memorials, including one honouring alumni of the US Military Academy at West Point, are carved into the black marble flooring. On panels devoted to the particular campaigns in which they lost their lives, are the names of former cadets killed in action. At intervals above the panels are circular tablets to the memory of College Governors. The names of former cadets who have died on active service in the field, or elsewhere are listed in the spaces between the panels. Other tablets on the walls of the porch of the Church were moved there from the old Chapel. At the nave near the chancel steps, old Regimental colours hang from the pillars.
The College cemetery has (in 2017) 21 graves and headstones maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The dedication to General Carter-Campbell in The Royal Memorial Chapel
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He is placed on the strength of a AR Unit but completes Modules 1–3 of the AR Commissioning Course (ARCC) with the UOTC and Module 4 at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Commission is confirmed by completing Module 5, a Special to Arms Course, a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 2 years commissioned service.
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