In defence of the Rev. George R. Gleig,
claimed as the 'Father of Army education'

Issues raised by Art Cockerill over the reputation of the Rev. G. R. Gleig with regard to the development of Military Education in the mid-19th century with particular reference to Leslie Wayper's Mars and Minerva

The aim of this Paper is to assess the reputation of the Rev. George R. Gleig in the development of military education in the mid-19th Century, in the light of criticisms made by Art Cockerill of Leslie Wayper in his book Mars and Minerva published in 2004. The Paper looks first at Cockerill's specific criticisms of Wayper and then widens the debate to consider Cockerill's view that Gleig was not a key figure in the development of military education, as depicted by successive writers including Wayper and also Colonel A. C. T. White in his 'Story of Army Education, 1643-1963', published in 1963.

Cockerill's central tenet is that Gleig played virtually no part in the foundation of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters, nor the Normal or training school at the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea in 1846. He alleges that Gleig himself claimed credit, quite unjustifiably, for the advances in military education that came about at this time, and that subsequent historians have been duped into believing him. In this way Gleig's role has been greatly exaggerated, according to Cockerill. The latter draws attention to White's book. Whilst describing it as telling 'the story in a lively, active, scholarly, but not overly-academic, style', he adds 'that is not to say that it is without criticism', believing that White took at face value what Gleig wrote about his own achievements. Certainly Cockerill criticizes subsequent authors for 'blindly' following White's views without going back to the primary sources to ascertain at first hand the truth of the matter. This is Cockerill's main criticism of Wayper's book, although not the only one, as outlined in passage below.


Art Cockerill's specific criticisms of Wayper's work are based on a) a lack of use of primary sources; and b) some factual inaccuracies.

In his letter dated 7 Dec 2006, Cockerill states that there 'is not a single reference to the registers, correspondence or documents available in the National Archives ... ' instead 'relying on secondary material ... [thereby risking] criticism for repeating the errors, omissions and misconceptions of other academics and scholars.' On page 3 of the same letter he says that Wayper presumably had 'at his beck and call the services of researchers with access to the same records ... ' He did indeed - it was me!

I cannot claim that Wayper had access to every relevant document, but he certainly had available to him all the key documents and certainly those referred to by Cockerill in his correspondence. Copies of the primary sources from the Public Record Office, Scottish Record Office, The Royal Army Chaplains' Department Museum, RAEC archives, War Office, MOD Library etc that I found were given to Wayper by me.

I do not have a copy of Wayper's book, only a small extract, and so it is difficult to comment on his footnoting. However, if Cockerill is correct in stating that there are no references to primary sources, this is a pity because it reflects a lack of acknowledgement rather than a lack of access to, or use of, primary materials. Understandably, anyone reading a book without any reference to primary sources in the footnotes might reasonably assume that the author had relied on secondary sources alone.


Cockerill alleges that Wayper made a number of factual errors. For example, in the same letter dated 7 Dec 2006, Cockerill states that Gleig became Inspector of Schools in 1846, not Inspector-General. I am not convinced that Cockerill is correct but, in any event, Cockerill himself admits in his correspondence dated 10 Mar 2005, this 'is of small consequence ... mentioned only in passing.' 1

There are also some statements in Wayper's book and identified by Cockerill that might appear inaccurate. For example, on page 25 of 'Mars & Minerva' Wayper states: 'Gleig's greatest achievement [was] the founding of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters' and later he refers to, 'Gleig's school, known as the Normal School'. If one takes these statements literally, then they could be construed as misleading at best or inaccurate at worst. This is where Wayper's style isn't helpful. He liked the grandiose, sweeping statements which Cockerill might accept in a 'story of Army education' but not a 'history' or more scholarly publication. Arguably, it should be apparent to the intelligent reader that Gleig did not act alone in establishing the Corp or founding the Normal School, and that to realise his ambitions in this field he needed political and military support at the highest levels. Perhaps, however, Wayper might have expressed himself more precisely, thereby removing any possible ambiguity. I am not sure.


Cockerill's criticisms of Wayper here are more serious and substantial, describing Gleig's role in the founding of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters as 'minimal' and Gleig's assertions on his own role as 'outrageous'. Nor is he attacking Wayper alone. As already stated, Cockerill's main thesis is that every writer on this subject has followed White's lead: 'White was in adulation first; others have relied on his word'. Consequently, this section of the Paper is widened to look beyond Wayper's book and to assess Cockerill's criticisms of successive writers on Gleig's work and reputation.

There are many accounts of developments in military education in the mid-19th century, from a variety of sources. Gleig himself was a prolific writer, as his articles in a number of journals, including the 'Quarterly Review' show. 2 There is no reason why historians should not use autobiographical accounts, provided that they recognise them as such. However, one does not have to rely on Gleig's own writings to demonstrate that he played a central role in the furtherance of military education at this time. Some of these works are contemporary, or nearly so; others were written a long time after Gleig's retirement. They include, for example, contemporary War Office documents written by the Secretary at War and held at the Public Record Office. Subsequent reports produced by Gleig's successors pay tribute to his work. In the 20 century, Jarvis, Chaplain General to the Forces, wrote extensively on the role of Gleig in military education. 3 In more recent times, there have been further accounts. Collectively they provide a fairly comprehensive picture of what Gleig did and what he achieved. While some writers may have followed White's 'lead', as Cockerill puts it, I think that it is reasonable to assume that others took a more scholarly approach and went back to original sources.

The section below endeavours to show that Gleig's part in the developments that took place in military education at the time and, in particular, the establishment of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters and the Normal School at the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea was anything but insignificant or 'minimal'. Gleig travelled widely in his capacity as Principal Chaplain and was able to see the weaknesses in the regimental education system, although he was not alone in this. He wrote extensively on the subject and ensured that his thoughts and ideas on reform reached those in authority. These reforms ranged from the training of schoolmasters to school accommodation and materials. Gleig alone might not have been able to implement change, and he had the support of men in high places who could, including Sidney Herbert, Secretary at War, 1845-6 and Alex Baring, Paymaster General, 1845-6. But one can suggest that Gleig was the catalyst for change. Following the reforms of 1846 and his appointment as Inspector of Schools, Gleig continued to play an important role in the further development of the regimental school system and the training of Army schoolmasters, before his retirement from his post as Inspector in 1857.


Weaknesses in Military Elementary Education at the Time: Background.

The need for reform of the regimental school system, including the training of regimental schoolmasters at the Asylum at Chelsea, had been identified before Gleig became involved in 1844, when he was appointed Principal Chaplain to the Forces.

In 1836, a Royal Commission on Military Punishments 4 had argued in favour of a more useful occupation of the soldier's time through greater provision of schools and libraries etc. More significantly in the context of this Paper, Henry Hardinge, as Secretary at War, clearly identified the need for reform. In a letter to the Commissioners of the Asylum in 1842, he expressed the view that there was room for improvement in the standard of the regimental schools and suggested that a better training course for Army schoolmasters, coupled with an effective system of inspection, would improve matters. 5 Hardinge asked the Commissioners for their assistance, but no support was forthcoming and no further action was taken at the time.

It is interesting that the Secretary at War himself appreciated the deficiencies in the education system but was unable to bring about change at that time. There may have been good reasons for this: as the Commissioners pointed out, the resources at the Asylum were over-stretched. Yet, following a burst of activity by Gleig on appointment as Principal Chaplain, a formal visit was made to the Asylum at Chelsea by Henry Moseley at the Privy Council Office. This was followed quickly by major changes to the military education system.


Gleig wrote extensively on the background of the soldier, his reasons for enlisting and the conditions he endured. In examining life in the Army at the time, Gleig sought educational reform which he believed should go along with other reforms being demanded in the lifestyle of the soldier. He articulated these views in journalistic writings, a practice not uncommon at the time. In a series of articles in the Quarterly Review, 1845-48, Gleig did just that. He deserves credit for identifying these deficiencies at a time when such views would have been unpopular amongst many in the upper echelons of the Army.


It is worth recording factually Gleig's activities during these years and which demonstrate his interest in the subject and his commitment to bringing about change.

Soon after his appointment, Gleig visited all the home stations in 1844, looking at the work of chaplains and schoolmasters. 6 According to Jarvis, Gleig immediately instructed his chaplains to visit their schools weekly and the library periodically.

As he toured the country, Gleig was appalled at some of the schools and church buildings and so suggested the idea of 'chapel schools' serving a dual purpose. 7 This idea was approved by the Secretary at War and the Ordnance Officer and in 1846-7 rooms of this kind were established in a number of locations.

In Sep 1844, within six months of his appointment, Gleig submitted his first official report on the regimental schools in which he drew attention to the weaknesses of the current system and the rapid improvements being made in civilian education. 8 Gleig had visited civilian training colleges for schoolteachers in 1843, including the one in Battersea, which greatly impressed him. In his report to the Secretary at War in 1844, Gleig put forward proposals for a reformed, non-sectarian training establishment at the Asylum, Chelsea. 9

In the summer of 1845, Gleig visited the Asylum with A Baring, the Paymaster General of the Forces and, ex-officio, commissioner of the Asylum. Both were unimpressed at what they found by way of instruction. 10 Gleig's account is lengthy and persuasive, although Cockerill claims that it is 'inaccurate and false' (see para lib below).

Gleig's visit to the Asylum was followed up by an official inspection carried out by Henry Moseley of the Privy Council Office. His report, published in April 1846, was submitted to the Committee of the Council on Education. It was damning in terms of the curriculum, lack of resources and inadequacy of the schoolmasters. 11 His condemnation was total, as had been Gleig's assessment of standards at the Asylum the previous year.


The outcome of Moseley's report in Apr 1846 led the Secretary at War, the Commander-in-Chief and the Treasury to agree to the establishment of the Corps of Army Schoolmasters in July and a training or normal school in which they would be trained in November 1846. 12 Cockerill states in his letter dated 7 Dec 2006, that these development had little to do with Gleig and were the outcome of Moseley's visit. It seems a reasonable assumption that it was Gleig's earlier visit and damning report that provided the impetus for a second inspection within the year.

July 1846 also saw the appointment of Gleig as Inspector of Military Schools. This presumably reflected the high regard in which he was held, at least by some in positions of authority: otherwise he would not have been appointed. Records at the PRO show that the Secretary at War, Sidney Herbert (Secretary at War from I845-Jul 1846), believed that Gleig was the person best qualified for the post and recommended that he be offered the position of Inspector. 13 The Commander-in-Chief concurred, 14 as did the Treasury. 15

Gleig's duties were substantial and wide-ranging: he was to inspect the training and model schools at the Asylum, the Hibernian School in Dublin and all regimental schools and make recommendations to the Secretary at War. He was also to recommend candidates for training as schoolmasters and in due course examine and certify them. In all, he was to be adviser to the Secretary at War on all educational matters concerning the education of the soldier and his children. 16 This was not Gleig speaking but the authority of the Secretary at War.

Gleig remained in post for a further 11 years until 1857. During that time he continued to play an important role in the development of military education. Cockerill is at pains to point out that it was the Rev Du Santoy and Walter McLeod, headmasters of the Normal and Model Schools at Chelsea, respectively, who took the lead in developing the curriculum at both schools. 17 No doubt they did; their contributions are recognised by later writers, although perhaps not Wayper. But this does not detract from Gleig's work in his official capacity as Inspector, with a mandate to inspect both schools at the Asylum, to recommend candidates for training as Army schoolmasters and to help improve educational standards in the regimental schools throughout the country.


With regard to Wayper's 'Mars and Minerva', I believe, as I have always believed, that there are weaknesses in his work: his sweeping statements; his overly long sentences and paragraphs, the latter straddling several pages; his elaborate (albeit amusing) use of language; the apparent lack of structure to his work and lack of acknowledgement of sources. However, without sight of his book (other than an extract without footnotes) it is difficult to be too categorical.

More widely, and looking beyond Wayper's specific contribution, I believe that Gleig's place as one of the key personalities in the furtherance of military education in the Army of the 19th century holds true and has not been diminished by the views of Art Cockerill.

The thrust of what White, Wayper and others have written about Gleig appears to be fair. The evidence suggests that he was a real driving force in identifying the weaknesses in military education at the time, in drawing the authorities' attention to them and in persuading the latter to do something about them. Obviously he did not act alone and required political support to realise his ambitions. But that is very different from suggesting that he had no role to play. I refute completely Cockerill's assertion that Gleig had 'virtually nothing to do with the creation of the CAS' (Cockerill's second letter dated 7 Dec 2006, page 1). Of course, he did.

Hopefully, the foregoing paragraphs have gone some way to redressing the claims made by Cockerill regarding Gleig's achievements and to show that Gleig did not make 'outrageous claims of his deeds and accomplishments'. Perhaps in one way Cockerill's assertions have been useful in that they have led those interested in this subject to revisit Gleig and his role in the furtherance of military education in the mid 19th century. One may conclude that Gleig's record and reputation remain intact.

These include the following articles by Gleig: 'Moral Discipline of the Army', Sept. 1845; 'Education & Lodging of the Soldier', Mar 1846; 'Military Education', Sep 1848.
A series of articles by ACE Jarvis, 'My Predecessors in Office: The Rev G. R. Gleig', in the Journal of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, 1931-35.
Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners for Inquiring into the System of Military Punishments in the Army, XXII, 1836.
PRO WO 143/10, Minutes of HM Commissioners RMA Chelsea, 1833-46.
Jarvis ACE, 'My Predecessors in Office: The Rev G. R. Gleig', in the Journal of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, July 1931 and 'The Death of Mr. Gleig' in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Aug 1888.
PRO WO 43/819. Proposals to provide chapel-schools in barracks, Gleig to Treasury, 8 Dee 1845.
Report by Gleig on Regimental Schools and training of the Army schoolmaster, Sep 1844 (PRO WO 43/769. 
Ibid., loc. cit., & PRO WO 33/47 Report of the Committee on Army Schools and Schoolmasters, 1887.
Gleig's article entitled 'National Education' in Edinburgh Review, Apr 1852.
Here were the findings of an official inspection by an independent primary source: PRO WO 43/796, Letter from Moseley, Privy Council Office, to the Committee of Council on Education, 7 Apr 1846.
PRO WO 43/796, Royal Warrants Jul & Nov 1846 respectively.
PRO WO 43/796, Secretary at War to Commander in Chief, 25 Jun 1846.
Ibid., Commander in Chief to Secretary at War, 27 Jun 1846.
Ibid., Treasury to Secretary at War, 2 July l846.
PRO WO 43/796, Secretary at War to the Chaplain General, July l846.

Editing note: This paper, received from Brigadier (Retd) T. C. Sherry, OBE, was undated and carried no credit of authorship. It was transcribed and reformatted 10 February 2007 to make it suitable for publication on this website.