Page 20 - Chiron Spring 2018
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The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst; centre of excellence and Mecca for all British Army and aspiring foreign officers seeking to earn their commission. Since 1947 Officers having been gracing the grand steps of Old College. I could barely contain my excitement upon arrival, in just nine weeks I would be transformed. This enthusiasm, as I discovered, is a key component of the Sandhurst survival kit.
Initially I was oblivious to the amazing history of the buildings and monuments at Sandhurst. I didn’t realise quite how fortunate I was to be marching past, or on our AFT trying not to die past, these fantastic sights. As I got to know the history I was constantly reminded of the famous names and faces that came before me. The cannons on old college parade square, the wonderful statues and of course the beauty of the ‘listed’ Victory College. My greatest respects, however, were earned by ‘that large rock’ in front of new college, otherwise known as the Lūneburg Heath Memorial. The very rock where Field Marshall Montgomery signed the surrender of German troops in Holland, Northern Germany and Denmark. As you can gather - rather a lot to live up to! A desire to be challenged and pushed to the limits however was already deeply ingrained, again another Sandhurst survival essential.
Prior to Sandhurst my military knowledge could be compared to the general awareness of origami – one knows what it is but not the foggiest of how you actually do this trickery. This has drastically reversed, I should stress however that I am acutely aware there is still room for improvement. The military at large’s chronic acronymitis i.e. excessive use of acronyms is not exactly helping! Especially so when the acronym makes no sense, is based on somewhat ‘interesting’ spelling and actually makes remembering the content itself harder. I fear I may now know more acronyms than actual words and worse yet, often completing the classic Sandhurst issue instruction guidance - explaining one acronym with a further ten acronyms. Is this an indicator of success? At last the conversion of my wicked civilian ways? My desperate lack of an ‘Ally or Gucci’ daysack with the correction of the word bag to daysack perhaps suggests otherwise. Although
By Lt Bowman
my bag does still function after daylight hours. I note not something to highlight to your Colour Sergeant instructor. Unless you desperately want the benefit of tuition on ‘clarity of thought generated via the medium of leopard crawling’.
Whilst at Sandhurst aside from the many many lectures, drill sessions, ironing and fabloning of anything that moves we also got to experience what my Colour Sergeant described as glorified camping. Otherwise known to ourselves as sleeping significantly less than the standard 4 hours per day and gaining a close familiarisation with mother earth. Glorified camping consisted of crawling through gorse, water and mud, eating gorse, water and mud and digging graves, sleeping in graves and then filling them in again. Sorry... I meant shellscrapes. If it rained of course there was then the added benefit of further developing strength of character. For such encounters we were luckily each
"Prior to Sandhurst my military knowledge could be compared to the general awareness of origami – one knows what it is but not the foggiest of how you actually do this trickery"
gifted with a friend, Gary Gortex. Gary would wait with such anticipation from within the waterproofed-waterproofed- waterproof bag in your daysack for the rain. He would then continue to stay there for the entire exercise before returning to your immaculate, fabloned and ironed room.
Joking aside, for me these exercises were the best part of my Sandhurst experience. During these somewhat chaotic situations the opportunity to command was inspiring. For all, true characters shined through. The camaraderie I’ve subsequently developed with my fellow Officers is something unique I have never previously experienced. Intense orders, apparently hopeless situations, constant tiredness day and night, longing for one minutes
sleep covering those arcs. Camaraderie truly special, forged in the shared misery and greatness that I’ve come to realise only Army exercises can provide. Although tough you always helped each other through the worst of the lows and united in mutual hate of ‘stag’. Almost always this word was accompanied with a delirious 0300 hours question mark. It can’t be my turn? For future parents, Jack is not a great name for those on the military path.
At Sandhurst these exercises of course come accompanied with Sandhurst pressure. This is pressure from the Directing Staff, now such a fine art it is admiringly almost perpetually self-inflicted. For the observer, preparing and delivery of orders closely followed by selection for command tasks are particular highlights. To get through these situations, especially when your fellow ‘mukka’ packed rather light on the food front - we had bars. These came in the form of protein, cereal, healthy, chocolate, you name it magical lollipop unicorn bars. Snack bars were imperative, Sandhurst top tip. Not so good however packing 36 bars in your daysack with a further 50 in your bergen - for a three day exercise. 30 bars plus rations in one day is a record I, nor my stomach, intend to beat. Having five Haribo-Dispensers otherwise affectionately known as Padres’ in your Company being a much preferable option. The Padre’s, especially valuable on the cold wintery planes of the parade square when returning from exercise, strengthened character in-tow. That windy tundra where naughty rifles from units are sent to die a slow painful death. Method of choice? Over cleaning. NASA are clearly deficient in their top analysts as our colour sergeants needed no microscope to spot the one dot of carbon. I should point out they had their specialised device, one deformed ‘magic pinky’. All the while warm showers and permanently heated quarters just within arms reach... a real strain on dwindling mental stamina.
To summarise; although we were selected for our professional skills I’d like to think we at least now have an understanding of some of the trials faced by those in the rest of the wider army. Let us hope I get some opportunity to demonstrate them.
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

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