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Serve to Lead

Jonathan Mawer, Year 12, shares his experiences on a recent visit to Sandhurst:

On Tuesday 19th of October, I travelled to Camberley, Surrey, to visit the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. I was apprehensive about the experience however this mixture of nerves and fear was eradicated as soon as I entered the grounds of this illustrious college. As the jeep pulled in through the gate, I was immediately astounded by the sheer size of the place. I had a misconception that Sandhurst itself was mainly compiled of one or two buildings, at least that what was on all of the post cards, but the falsity of this idea became directly apparent as we pulled up in the courtyard providing the walkway to hundreds of acres of grounds.

As I got off the bus, I was greeted by the Colour Sergeant. In accordance with the renowned Military “Law of Thumb”, he had arrived five minutes early as not to be late for us “Potential Officers”. He was in full combat camouflage and was carrying a large stick, the purpose of which only became clear after we were marched into New College to be registered by the commanding officer. After I had answered my name in the roll call (typically miss pronounced), I proceeded in typical St James fashion to introduce myself to my fellow POC’s. The response was typically military in so far as everybody was very genial and willing to converse. This characteristic of the Army never fails to surprise me. The fact that they are able to attract the type of person which  can stand in a room of strangers, disregard any sense of trepidation or embarrassment, and interact with each and every person within that environment. Even if those strangers aren’t members of their own peer group. I can testify to this because I was the youngest on the course being the only person there below the age of 17.

That night at dinner, all the boys continued in this vein of friendship and geniality. We sat in the dining room of Victory College, by far the most unattractive of the three military colleges, and exchanged stories, anecdotes and details on each other’s lives until the early hours. The next morning, we were prematurely woken up by the Colour Sergeant at 06:55 and were ordered to line up in three ranks outside the college in order to be at breakfast by 07:00. By that time, I had come accustomed to the Officer Cadet fashion of eating food. You ran in, ate as much food as possible, and ran straight back out again. So with horrendous indigestion I returned to the room and got changed for the 3 and half hours of physical training which was to follow. We were marched, by the Colour, round the back of New College to the Skill at Arms wing of the academy. It was there that the fun really began to start.

We were greeted by another Staff Sergeant, otherwise known as Staff, who directed us to the firing range where we waited for him to brief us on the condensed military weapon session which was to follow. This brief was surprisingly short, in fact all it compiled of was ‘Alright lads, there are the weapons… Knock yourselves out”.

We were then marched by our ever-present Colour Sergeant back to Old College for a final briefing and presentation. This presentation was aptly named, ‘Serve to Lead’. It outlined the necessary requirements to join Sandhurst but it also gave everybody an idea of what it takes to be in the British Army. This helped me realise the size of the mountain one must traverse in order to become a British Army Officer and also helped me appreciate the sheer awesomeness of the academy itself. A feeling which I’m sure will remain for many years and will only be amplified when I go there for real in a few years’ time.”


2 responses to “Serve to Lead

  1. Peter Ward ⋅


    I am a student at the University of Sheffield and i liked this report very much. I would like to reference it in a dissertation i am writing and wondered when precisely it was written?

    Any help would be great.


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