Visit to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst

On Thursday 18th June eight members of the APML visited the Library and Archives at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  They were accompanied by Major P N Skelton-Stroud and Brigadier A K Dixon (respectively Chairman and member of the Army & Navy Club Library Committee) who sponsored the tour and who both attended Sandhurst in the 1950s.

The visit began with the Archives in the Old College building.  The Archivist, Dr Anthony Morton, explained that many documents had been destroyed during the Second World War when the building was occupied by, among others, the Home Guard.  However, Cadet Registers cover much of the period from 1741-1946 and are a great source of information.  We were able to see Winston Churchill’s entry in the Cadet Register (he joined in 1894), including his exam results.

Before visiting the Library, Brigadier Dixon and Major Skelton-Stroud regaled us with fascinating anecdotes about their cadet days.  Outside the Old College building there are several cannons, including French guns captured at the Battle of Waterloo. Although these are now fixed in place this was not so in the 1950s; one story relates that cadets wheeled a cannon down to the nearest main road, loaded it with grapefruit and fired them at the passing traffic! 

The tradition of the Adjutant riding a white horse up the steps of the Old College at the end of the Sovereign’s Parade dates from 1926 when Major F A M ‘Boy’ Browning accomplished this feat – although there is no explanation for why he did this!

The visit continued with a look around the Library.  The Central Library occupies what was once the gymnasium but became a library in 1931.  The library contains over 180,000 books and journals and is used by the officer cadets and permanent staff.

The visit ended with a picnic lunch by the lake.  Everyone who attended felt that it was a fascinating visit, and that the input by Brigadier Dixon and Major Skelton-Stroud made it a really memorable event.

Mary Duffy [Librarian Army & Navy Club 2009]

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