On a beautifully sunny day in September, 9 ladies from Dorking NWR had a guided tour of the Old College at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. We were met at the entrance gate by one of our two Guides who were both members of the Sandhurst Trust which organises the tours, and were both retired officers who had passed through Sandhurst.
Our tour lasted about 3 hours, despite interruptions for a US General and about 50 British soldiers who were also visiting like us. After coffee we were given a brief history of the magnificent old college building which was designed by James Wyatt and was opened in 1812 as the Junior Department of the Royal Military College. The force behind the College was General Le Marchant, who decided that Britain needed properly trained officers if it was to be successful in battle. The present Royal Military Academy Sandhurst was founded in 1947 when the existing College, merged with the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and since then subsequent buildings have been added. The Academy's stated aim is to be the national centre of excellence for leadership and all British Army officers, as well as men and women from overseas, are trained at The Academy.
We had a tour of various prestige rooms including the Indian Army Memorial Room with splendid stained glass windows, and rooms with remarkable military memorabilia. As we were admiring an impressive modern painting of the Queen in the Grand Entrance, a somewhat dignified but very pleasant military gentleman stopped and talked to us and only afterwards did we discover that he was the Commander of Sandhurst. We also visited the newly refurbished Catholic Chapel and the awe inspiring Royal Memorial Chapel, made even more poignant by the several transparent Perspex soldiers sitting in the pews as part of the WW1 Remembrance Day Soldier Silhouettes. The plaques on the walls reminded us of the sacrifice made of thousands of lives, so it was humbling to see some of the new recruits going through their rigorous officers’ training in the beautiful grounds.
Our only disappointment was that after our tour we had lunch in the canteen like a regular squaddie and not in the Officers’ mess! ...but we had a very interesting visit.
Sue Jamieson, NWR Dorking Group member