Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is the British Army officer initial training centre. The Academy is the British Army equivalent of the Royal Air Force College Cranwell and the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth.

The Academy's stated aim is to be "the national centre of excellence for leadership".

All British Army officers, including late entry officers who were previously Warrant Officers, as well as many from elsewhere in the world, are trained at Sandhurst. Nearly 10 percent of British cadets are female and nearly 10 percent of all cadets come from overseas.

The Academy opened in 1947 in the former Royal Military College (RMC) at Sandhurst. It straddles the counties of Berkshire and Surrey, the border marked by a small stream known as the Wish Stream, after which the Academy journal is named. Primarily, the Academy is situated in College Town, a suburb of Sandhurst, and partly in the outer region of Camberley town. The nearest railway station is Blackwater, Hampshire.

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) develops leadership in cadets by expanding their character, intellect and professional competences to a level demanded of an Army Officer on first appointment through military training and education. The core objectives reflect the three key elements in the training and education of the young officers: the moral, the intellectual and the physical. It was descended from two older institutions, the Royal Military Academy (RMA) and the Royal Military College (RMC). The Commissioning Course is the first stage of officer training and education. Its main purpose is to develop an officer with the generic leadership qualities to lead soldiers both on and off operations. The course is accredited by various academic and professional institutions. The College's motto is "Serve to lead." Major General D J Rutherford-Jones is the Commandant of Sandhurst.

Sandhurst, unlike some other national military academies such as West Point in the United States, the Pakistan Military Academy, or the Indian National Defence Academy, is not a university. Eighty-five percent of entrants are university graduates, but this is not an absolute requirement. This is illustrated by Prince William and Prince Harry; one a graduate, the other not.


The RMA Sandhurst was formed in 1947 from a merger of the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich (which trained officers for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers from 1741 to 1939) and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Following the ending of National Service in the UK and the closing of the Mons Officer Training School in Aldershot, the RMAS became the sole establishment for male initial officer training in the British Army.

The Royal Military College opened its doors in 1802, coincidentally the same year as Saint Cyr and West Point. Amongst the current Military Academies, only Militärhögskolan Karlberg in Sweden, founded 1792 and the Dutch Military Academy are older.

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Collection contains displays the history of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, The Royal Military College and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. The collection includes the Royal Military Academy's gentlemen cadet registers, historic archive, uniforms, paintings, photographs and other artefacts. Visits are by appointment only.


The Commissioning Course lasts 44 weeks and must be successfully completed by all British regular army officers (with some exceptions) before they receive their commission. It is usually preceded by the Army Officer Selection Board and followed by a further training course specific to the Regiment or Corps the officer will serve in. A shorter commissioning course is run for professionally qualified officers (e.g., doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, vets and chaplains). This shorter course, lasting four weeks, is known colloquially as the Vicars and Tarts course.

Another short course includes the testing phase of the Territorial Army Officer Commissioning Process which last only three weeks. The TA Commissioning Course (TACC) is available to Officer Cadets after completion of 3 training modules, with Sandhurst seen as Module 4 of the Officers' training and assessment. This prior training typically takes 2 years to complete, although a new course has recently begun to reduce this to several weeks during the Summer. This "fast track" route to a TA commission takes place in August and aims to train officer cadets in all the required skills ready to pass directly into the September commissioning course intake. Upon completion, Officer Cadets become Probationary Second Lieutenants in the TA or Officer Training Corps (OTC). The probationary period ends upon completion of further officer training in areas such as Soldier management and 'special-to-arm' training and must be completed for a TA officer to be deployed on operations.

Sandhurst also runs a variety of other courses for officers, most notably the Late Entry Officer Course (LEOC), and has renowned academic departments staffed by civilian lecturers. The noted academics John Keegan and Richard Holmes were both members of the faculty.

All officer cadets who complete the full Commissioning Course are eligible for a variety of civilian accreditations such as a City and Guilds of London Institute Licentiateship in Leadership and Associate Membership of the Chartered Management Institute.


In overall charge of the RMAS is the Commandant, usually an officer of Major General rank, while the Academy Sergeant Major (AcSM) is the most senior individual warrant officer in the British Army (only Conductors of the Royal Logistic Corps rank higher than the AcSM, but there are several of them at any one time). The main RMAS commissioning courses start in January, May and September of each year. Each new intake numbers approximately 270 cadets, each of whom joins a company. The commissioning course is split up into three terms, each lasting fourteen weeks, and on each course cadets are put into one of three companies. There can be as many as ten companies within the RMAS at any one time, each commanded by a Major and named after a famous battle in which the British Army has fought. The company names vary but are currently :

Within a company are three platoons each of thirty officer cadets, commanded by a Captain and supported by a Colour Sergeant. Unlike West Point, RMAS entrusts the majority of officer training to SNCOs. Dettingen Company is divided along the same lines as the regular intakes, though smaller courses may consist of only two platoons.

There is also a "rehabilitation" platoon—Lucknow Platoon. It looks after cadets who are injured during training, with a view to preparing them to re-enter the commissioning course or processing those who are medically discharged.

Regular Army

A small number of regular army units are based at the RMAS to provide support for the colleges and their training:

  • Gurkha Demonstration Company (Sittang): This is a company-sized unit drawn from all units of the Brigade of Gurkhas, to provide realistic battle training for the cadets.
  • 44 Support Squadron, Royal Logistic Corps: This is the RMAS's permanently based transport, logistic and signals support unit.
  • Until 1984, the RMAS had its own band - The RMAS Band Corps, the smallest Regiment in the British Army. Music is now provided by a variety of Army bands on rotation.


Each Commissioning Course has awards granted to outstanding cadets.

Sword of Honour

The Sword of Honour is awarded to the British Army officer cadet considered by the Commandant to be, overall, the best of the course.

Queen's Medal

The Queen's Medal is awarded to the British Army Officer Cadet who achieved the highest scores in military, practical and academic studies.

Overseas Sword

The other two awards being for British Army cadets, the Overseas sword is awarded to one of the many cadets sent by foreign armies. The Overseas Sword goes to the Overseas Cadet considered by the Commandant to be the best of the course. It was previously known as the Overseas Cane.

Duke of Westminster's Sword

The Duke of Westminster's Sword is awarded to the officer cadet considered by the Commandant to be, overall, the best out of the Dettingen Company TA Commissioning Course for Territorial Army Officers.


For more information, see the category: Sandhurst graduates.
Sandhurst is prestigious and has had many famous alumni. There are so many famous generals and VC winners that a fair and representative list would be immense. Despite urban myths to the contrary, Idi Amin and Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi did not attend the RMAS. Note, this list contains a number of 'students' who did not complete the course. Some of the foreign royalty were not, for example, commissioned.




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Black sheep


Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (1947 - ) Royal Military Academy (1741 - 1939) Royal Military Academy (1741 - 1939)
East India Company Military Seminary (1809 - 1858)
Royal Military College (1802 - 1947)
Mons Officer Cadet School (1947 - 1972)
Women's Royal Army Corps, Bagshot (1949 - 1981)


Further reading

  • Mockler-Ferryman, A. F. Annals of Sandhurst: A Chronicle of the Royal Military College From Its Foundation to the Present. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2007 (reprint; original 1900). ISBN 1-4326-6558-8.

External links

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