The Adjutant General's Corps
(AGC) includes an Educational and Training Services Branch, formerly
the Royal Army Educational Corps (RAEC) staffed entirely by commissioned
officers. The RAEC replaced the Army Educational Corps (AEC), which
came into existence in 1920, staffed mostly by non-commissioned officers,
sergeants and warrant officers.
Like its predecessor formation, the Corps of Army Schoolmasters
(1845-1920), the AEC had commissioned officers, of course. They served
as administrators, school inspectors and headmasters. The majority
of schoolmasters in the AEC joined the Corps from units throughout
the Army, applying to take the teacher training programme at the
Army's Normal School at Aldershot and recommended by their commanding
officers. Before the school at Aldershot came into existence in 1910,
army schoolmasters were trained at the Duke of York's. Some applicants
for teacher training, however, were drawn from the civilian population.
From the start of the teacher training programme at the Normal School
in 1846, the military schools (the Royal Hibernian Military School,
the Duke of York's and, later, the Queen Victoria School) provided
a steady stream of candidates for the programme. They began as monitors
and student teachers so that, by the time they became fully-fledged
teachers, they had undergone six years of training. No university
had a comparable course of instruction.
When the AEC received its royal charter in 1962 and became an all-officer
corps, the non-commissioned schoolmasters were either commissioned
or given their ticket to civvy street. While they served, they along
with Queens Army Schoolmistresses (formed in 1928 from schoolmistresses
teaching in Army schools), gave sterling and unequalled service to
the cause of Army education.
Sergeant and WO teachers of the AEC taught before, during and after
the Second World War. Those children taught by the Army in garrison
schools as well as those in the military schools knew no other teachers.
Headmasters were, of course, commissioned officers as earlier noted,
responsible for administration at the garrison or military school
level. They were posted frequently, which is to say they moved from
station to station in the Home Command and overseas at the behest
of those in command over them. At the Duke of York's, they came and
went in quick succession, for they were career officers. In my time,
we had in turn majors Joseph, Lloyd and Turner. One HM, Major Lloyd,
had earned an MC during WWI, which meant that he, like Colonel A.
C. T. White, VC, author of The Story of Army
had spent time in the front line. With some exceptions, no headmaster
was of higher rank than major until the end of the Second World War
when Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels were appointed to the post.
We knew of the existence of our headmasters, of course, but rarely
saw them. They remained dim and remote figures, seen irregularly
in the company of the Commandant, with the Army Schools Inspector
or on Grand Day at the annual trooping of the colours. All this is
to say that the important people in our lives were the sergeant and
warrant officer teachers, graduates all from the Army's Normal School.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, a fresh wave
of NCO schoolmasters came into the AEC, conscripts from the universities.
University lecturers or assistant lecturers - for universities were
sparing when it came to conferring professorial titles on members
of their faculties.
We students who laboured in the classrooms of Army schools were the
beneficiaries of the university lecturers who entered our lives.
But whether wartime conscripts or graduates of the Army's Normal
School, our schoolmasters were brilliant stars in the firmament by
any measure of starlight. Their names and idiosyncrasies remain indelibly
stamped on the dimmest boy's consciousness as many an ex-boy has
testified: Warrant Officers Walmsley, Hunt and Roberts (nicknamed
Beaucoup). Hunt's wife was a schoolteacher, too, probably a member
of the fabled Queens Army Schoolmistresses although this is uncertain.
Then there were our schoolmaster sergeants who will not be forgotten.
One sergeant of unknown name, but the image of film star Conrad
Veight, made his mark by wearing suede shoes in or out of uniform,
on parade or prowling the classroom. In contrast, Sergeant Pritchard
who taught physics and mathematics, was an ex-paratrooper who wore
boots and gaiters as diligently as the Conrad Veight look-alike sergeant
stuck to his suede shoes. It's odd what makes so sharp an impression
on children at school. Sergeant Lewis, a graduate of Sorbonne, was
a brilliant French teacher; Sergeant May taught map reading and geography;
sergeants Jones, Winterburn, Murray and Fishburn were wartime conscripts
from the university lecture rooms. Reigate, a lieutenant, also from
academia, was the odd man out for having convinced someone he should
have a commission.
We spent long hours in the classroom, probably far more time that
spent by children in civil society. The hours included attendance
at night school. Younger boys spent less time at evening school than
their elders. Whatever the case or wherever we were in the curriculum,
school life was never dull. Our sergeant schoolmasters inspired,
stimulated and motivated us with an enthusiasm that made them like
no other teachers on earth. All the subjects taught were - in the
sense the word is understood today - academic and learned. That is
to say, there were no pseudo-subjects; art appreciation, for example,
home economics, underwater basket weaving, gender studies et al.