The Royal Military Academy at Woolwich was established in 1741 to educate the military branch of the Board of Ordnance to produce officers for the Artillery and Engineers.
A second college was opened in the Berkshire village of Sandhurst in 1799. The main objectives of the Royal Military College was to train gentleman cadets and staff officers.
The Woolwich Military Academy and the Sandhurst Military College were closed during the Second World War. The Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst was reopened in 1947.
Women officers were originally trained at the Women's Royal Army Corps College at Bagshot. This was closed in 1981 and women officer cadets were transferred to Sandhurst.
In 1907 entrance to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, was by competitive examination. There was first a qualifying examination in which it was necessary to show a certain minimum standard of mental ability; the competitive examination followed a year or so later. These two hurdles were negotiated without difficulty, and in the competitive examination my place was 72 out of some 170 vacancies. I was astonished to find later that a large number of my fellow cadets had found it necessary to leave school early and go to a crammer in order to ensure success in the competitive entrance examination.
In those days the Army did not attract the best brains in the country. Army life was expensive and it was not possible to live on one's pay. It was generally considered that a private income or allowance of at
least £100 a year was necessary, even in one of the so-called less fashionable County regiments. In the cavalry, and in the more fashionable infantry regiments, an income of up to £300 or £400 was demanded before one was accepted. These financial matters were not known to me when I decided on the Army as my career; nobody had explained them to me or to my parents. I learned them at Sandhurst when it became necessary to consider the regiment of one's choice, and this was not until about halfway through the course at the college.
The fees at Sandhurst were £150 a year for the son of a civilian and this included board and lodging, and all necessary expenses. But additional pocket money was essential and after some discussion my parents agreed to allow me £2 a month; tills was also to continue in the holidays, making my personal income £24 a year.
In October, 1912, I passed into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, bottom but one. It was a most undistinguished start to a military career. Apart from the games side I achieved nothing at all and remained a gentleman cadet (the equivalent of a private soldier) throughout my time at the college. Let me be quite honest about it: I was idle, careless about my turnout-in army parlance, scruffy-and, due to the fact that I am inclined to roll when I walk, very unsmart on parade. Throughout my military career I have always been allotted a position on ceremonial parades where I was least likely to be seen.
To make matters worse I got into trouble with the railway officials during a return journey from Gatwick races. We had gone there with such an absolute certainty for the third race that I had refrained from buying a return ticket in order to have more to invest on the horse. I did not even buy a race card so certain was I of a lavish win. As might be expected the certainty did not materialise and the railway company took strong exception to my return journey ticketless and penniless. The result was three months' restrictions which meant that I was unable to leave the premises during my last term at the Royal Military College and spent the time doing additional fatigues and parades. I was lucky not to be rusticated.
Up to now my life had been typical of that led by many young men with average or slightly below average intelligence who entered the British Army in those days. I was a games addict, did as little work as possible and seemed all set for a normal, somewhat humdrum, military career, but the First World War altered all that.
Sandhurst was a tonic in many respects. Self-discipline and a sense of duty were firmly inculcated, and for the first time I came in contact with authority as exercised by men who were not themselves brought up in public schools and universities, noncommissioned officers, a new and refreshing experience.
The boys, too, were far more diverse in character and attainments than at Sherborne, coming as they did from many different schools and home environments.
Sherborne had taught me very little of the impact of competitive life on various kinds of individuals, and the effect of ambition on many. Sandhurst began to open my eyes to this new aspect of life in the community. By nature retiring, I made no effort to push myself forward, but in fact had I done so I would not have risen above average in any respect. I did occasionally represent Sandhurst at hockey and tennis, but did not become a regular member of their teams, which in any case were not regarded as being of much importance at the time.