Recollections of RMA Sandhurst 1947-1948 By Capt (Ret) I. F Dallison OBE RE (Intake 1)

heritage militaryhisttory rmas Royal Military Academy Sandhurst servetolead

Before the war Sandhurst had been the home of the Royal Military College where potential officers for all Corps and Regiments, except Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, were trained. The latter had been trained at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, known as "The Shop". Both these establishments had been closed at the outbreak of war. Sandhurst had then been used as an OCTU to train conscripted officers for a wartime commission.

 In 1947 it was re-opened for the training of Regular officers for the whole Army. One 'Major difference between pre-war regular officer cadets and ourselves was that pre-war they had nearly all been to public schools and had private incomes. That certainly did not apply to us. Indeed, the then Labour government had decided to stick to the wartime practice of taking anyone who could pass the (quite stiff) selection board. There were still quite a few public school boys but most of us were not.  Many of us were from grammar schools and found our Army pay very limited, the more so after we were commissioned (on 13 shillings/day,--65p). For the first twelve months after commissioning we earned only 12 shillings/day - the extra shilling being deducted to pay for our uniform.

I reported to the RMA on 3 January 1947 and was posted to Somme Company in new College. This was to be my home for the next 18 months. We were the first lost-war batch of Regular officers -Intake One, the "Guinea-pig Batch", three hundred of us. The training was tough with endless changes of clothes during the day to reflect what activity was next; drill, PT, weapons training, assault course or lectures. And we only had minutes to get changed afterwards. Anyone who was late on parade "lost his Name," ("Take that man's Name, Sergeant. Put him in the Book, You're idle Sir, what are you?" "Idle, Sergeant-Major"). The sequel for those "in the Book" was some disagreeable form of activity after hours, such as extra drill. The senior NCOs were all from the Brigade of Guards and they chased us without mercy, They were very professional, of course, and we learnt a lot from them about how to behave, and how not to behave. As the course progressed they eased up on us and we learned that behaviour on parade is really a big act - "if you make a mistake do it smartly and no-one will notice," except the Sergeant of Course, and he would find an opportunity to have a quiet word (or two) afterwards. Their sotto-voce comments during the March Past were an education without parallel - and woe betide anyone who was caught grinning

It is difficult to remember so long afterwards many details of the actual training. I don't remember doing a lot of practical battle-craft, however, but we certainly spent quite a lot of time in the classroom. We had lectures on military history, military law and financial accounts. The latter were extremely useful when we subsequently had to look after regimental funds and also to audit them. Up until fairly recently I have handled club accounts of various sorts with no trouble. We also had to study a foreign language (I took German, to preliminary interpreter standard) and we also had instruction on truck driving and maintenance. Somewhere along the way we also learned some of the social graces, such as how to write official letters, letters of condolence and formal invitations (and how to accept or decline them). All very useful stuff in later years.

Sports were a big thing, of course. I played rugby and basketball during the winter months and athletics during the summer. Some of the best athletes in the country came to help us in training. I remember running a mile, my event, with Sidney Wooderson, then long past his best. Very humiliating! I just could not keep up with him. Wally Barnes, one of Arsenal's great players, was on our PT staff. To watch him control a ball was an education in itself.

The dress code at Sandhurst was very strict. Even off-duty we had to wear a hat, or a cap, and a respectable one at that. The reason given was that, if we met a non-commissioned rank who recognised us, we could return his salute by doffing the headgear.  We soon disposed of it, though, once we were away from the Academy. One day, about two years after I was commissioned, I was travelling by Tube when RSM Baker, the RSM of Old College, entered the train and sat down opposite me. He was in uniform and I was in civilian clothes, We chatted about RMA affairs and both rose to leave at the same station, As we parted on the platform he threw up his best Guards Brigade salute, and, of course, I was not wearing a hat! He made no comment (I was, after all an officer), but there was no need to, he knew that I knew what he was thinking!

Capt(Ret) I.F.Dallison OBE RE

 The RMA was organised into two Colleges when it reopened, Old College and New College, each in its separate building. Old College is the original building of the Academy and has the impressive main entrance with the steps up which the Adjutant rides his horse at the end of the Passing Out Parade. Each College had two Companies when we started, increasing later to four in three Colleges as the subsequent new intakes arrived. The third College, Alamein, was established after the first term. Each Company had a permanent instructional staff of officers, warrant officers and sergeants but also appointed Cadet Under-Officers and Cadet Sergeants to help to run the Company.

I made it to Cadet Sergeant but was privileged also to be appointed Adjutant's Orderly. My duties entailed attending the Adjutant, Major the Earl Cathcart, on important parades and looking after his horse when he was not riding it. I also had to accompany him to church in the Chapel on a Sunday morning after first joining him "Idle End}} for breakfast in his flat in Old College. Very civilised! The first time I went on parade with him I took the horse's head when he dismounted, as instructed, and started to lead it off the parade ground. I could not understand why it kept breaking into a trot - no one had told me that I had to put the stirrups up first! Very embarrassing!

Passing out Parade July 1948

Intake One was commissioned on 14 July 1948 following our Passing Out Parade (changed to the Sovereign's Parade from that date) which was taken by the King (George VI). The Ball that evening was something else! Some 3000 people attended and there were three dance floors (two in marquees) with music provided by Edmundo Ross and Tommy Kinsman as well as the dance band section of the Academy Band. I remember (just) coming down to First Parade at 0800hrs the following morning to see one of our Company, still in No. 1 Dress, sitting on the front bumper of a car with a bottle of gin in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other! It was too late to "put him in the book" as we were now officers and were leaving that afternoon - for good.

I served in the Sappers until 1961, the final year of the first round of redundancies in the armed forces. I had enjoyed a very interesting total of fifteen years service and was fortunate then to land a very rewarding job in the steel industry for the remaining of my working.


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