Army Apprentice System
Busby or bearskin
Class of '42
Cressbrook Cotton Mill
Crime & punishment
Dr. T. Graham Balfour & epidemiology
Ex-rats & Yorkies
Irish Defence Force
Royal Hibernian Military School
Saunton Sands Hotel
| Army Apprentice System
21 July 2005
Art, I see from John Moss's site that you're looking for opinions on
Army Apprentice training. Here are mine and how I feel about it. I intend
no disrespect towards Peter Gripton (author of Arborfield Apprentice)
for his admirable work in writing a history of Arborfield. His book
includes valuable archival material and photographs of historical interest.
However, history of the recent past is biased and, in that respect,
work is no exception when he uses such terms as ‘hallowed ground’.
We have to ask ourselves what was the purpose of the AAS? From my point
of view, it was an unnecessary, wasteful and unimaginative institution
governed by parsimony, an idea hatched by someone with the business
acumen of a Marconi director. But then, these same qualities characterized
the British Empire in decline! Its demise, unlamented, was inevitable.
Was the purpose to produce technicians? It took three years to train
a telecommunications technician 3rd class. Over the road, National
Servicemen were trained to the same standard in 9 months. It might
be argued that we were being ‘educated’, but the Army 1st
class certificate (of education) barely took us beyond the 15-year
school leaving age. It was a disgrace to make youngsters captive for
three years and yet achieve so low a standard of education.
Was the purpose to produce well-rounded gentlemen? It produced a lot
of nice people, but I suspect that they were even nicer before they entered
the AAS. We certainly knew our place, and had those dreadful spiders
been two-storey, it would have been unerringly below stairs. I think
that the only time I spoke to an officer during those three years was
when I was (quite frequently) charged with infringing one of the plethora
of petty rules.
Not nights of study, but three years of blanco, brasso, stinking floor
polish, polished buckets and dusted door hinges so some military idiot
would not accuse me of being filthy. There were long hours of drill;
no private space, but impersonal barracks decorated with nothing in not
blancoed kitbags; bullying and humiliation were rife; a skiving culture
refined to a high degree; borrowing money at 50% interest per week; control
of everything down to the colour of socks. There was, however, a positive
side; friends (united in adversity); enjoyable technical training (blessed
civilians!), and, of course, passing out! One thing impressed me above
all else; the ability to be a superb soldier without being a pig. In
this regard, Sergeant Major Huxley was outstanding in his soldierly qualities
22 July 2005
Thanks for your opinion on the apprentice training programme at Arborfield
although, I imagine, your remarks apply to the entire apprentice training
programme of the British Army. (The Canadian Army, incidentally, instituted
an almost identical programme for Canadian military apprentices.) Writing
not particularly to argue the point one way or the other, I believe you
deserve to be heard and the subject debated. As the programme is now
ended, any view expressed has to be academic. In retrospect, I'm persuaded
that the programme served a useful purpose and was beneficial to the
Army. I discussed the subject in the Sons of the Brave, so I'll
not regurgitate the matter here. In balance, the apprentice training
offered by the army served a practical purpose.
The programme, begun at Chepstow in 1926, was to provide an increasingly
mechanized army with a cadre of skilled artisans to service military
equipment. The Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery had trained apprentice
tradesmen for years. Armourers, for example, were simply not available
from the civilian population; radar, when it came into service, required
technologists; the same applied to an abundance of specialized military
equipment that came into use from 1930 on.
Regarding the discipline, bullying and ignorance, yours was obviously
neither a pleasant nor a happy experience. Having been through the Duke
of York's school and the Arborfield apprentice training programme, I
am not a good example of the system because, no sooner had I been commissioned
than I resigned it and left the army, but getting back to the main thrust
of the paper you sent, I find it speculative in places and lacking in
logic in others. For example, given the pragmatism of an army preparing
for war and the huge influence exerted on it by a wary political leadership
exercised through the Privy Council, I do not believe the army would
have introduced apprentice training without compelling arguments to justify
If you got no benefit from your apprenticeship, left the army when
your time was through and never practiced whatever trade for which you'd
been trained, I would certainly be more easily persuaded to your point
of view. But did you follow the trade you'd been taught or do something
different such as banking or stock broking? This same reasoning applies
to your remarks apropos the Army First Class Certificate of Education.
The Army was fifty years ahead of society at large in educating its soldiers
and their children. My colleague and I research the history of army education,
training, music as well as the military schools, so we have some knowledge
of the subject.
22 July 2005
Art, Thank you for your reply. My diatribe was not meant as a logical
criticism of the system; it was just a riposte to others praising
it. Many people enjoyed the place and got a lot out of it; unfortunately
I was not one of them. I was speaking to an ex-boy from Harrogate
two weeks ago and he said that for the three years it felt as if
he was being punished for something and he did not know what it was!
I think that pretty much encapsulates my feelings.
However, the Apprentice Schools were 'a child of their time'. People
knew their place and apprentices were low in the pecking order. Similarly,
not much was expected from them, hence it took three years to produce
a class three technician, whilst National Servicemen were trained to
Class 2 level in just over one year. Taking into account that the schools were
a product of the age we lived in, I think that a sound test
of an institution is its longevity. Their lives were short ( and from
my perspective brutal). If they were of value then, why not now? Peter
22 July 2005
Peter, That's okay! Criticism or invective, your paper was worth
reading. At least you own that many people got a lot out of the experience.
Within the last couple of days I've had a long tract on bullying (hazing
as it's known today). Reading between the lines, it was obvious that
the writer had suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father and,
later, his stepfather. It might have marked him for life. I'm surprised
that it didn't except in a positive way. Now, he says, any kind of
brutality is anathema to him. Yet his paper was really worth reading
all of which is to say that traumatic experiences affect people differently.
His was the sort of experience that I'd expect would turn him into
a brutal criminal. It didn't. Instead, he became a champion of fair
play and of a noble disposition.
I don't understand your reference to '...a class three technician...'
as opposed to a National Service soldier trained to Class 2 in one year.
This is something new to me. Besides, having gone to Arborfield during
the war, National Service was not a part of my experience, so I can't
comment on it. As to your last question, 'If they were of value then,
why not now?' First, however, I do not believe longevity to be any test
of an institution's worth. The highway of history is paved with institutions
that arose and shone and disappeared from human consciousness whether
they were empires or banks or art or political systems. Think of the
Orange Order, the Odd Fellows, Rebeccas, Mothers' Institutes, Corresponding
Society, the Fabians as examples of institutions that have lost their
influence, yet they were revered in their day. The Masonic Order is going
the same way and the Knights of Columbus are on the wane. Even the mighty
Church of Rome was once in grave danger of becoming a secular institution
and, except for the work of Julius II, would have succumbed to the Reformation
(I'm anti-theist in outlook btw, so hold a brief for no institution).
I do agree that the apprentice schools were 'a child of their time' ,
but they have served their purpose – outlived their value – and
are therefore no more.
Peter (you know who I mean by now) and I are busy unearthing and resurrecting
the history of the Royal Hibernian Military School, Phoenix Park,
Dublin (1765-1924), a great institution while it lasted. One ex-Hib
to our knowledge is still alive. Yet the place is hardly known today.
By the time the last ex-boy has left this mortal coil, the history,
the very existence, of the Army Apprentice Training Programme will
be in the dustbin of history. While it was in use, however, it was
an important part of the British Army. The Army itself is a mere shadow
of its former self. County regiments have been amalgamated, their catering,
medical services, equipment maintenance and financial services are
being sub-contracted. What need therefore does it have of artisans
to maintain its equipment? None. It's a disposable equipment army.
Quad Erat Demonstrandum – nor do I mean to be flippant.
I take what you've written very seriously. Art
25 July 2005
| Art, In your
correspondence, you referred to the parade dress
hat of the Grenadier guards as a Busby. Attached is a photo of myself
as an ERE Army recruiter, accompanied by Sergeant Tom Martin of HM's
Grenadier Guards. Whenever I wanted to stir Tom up, a reference to his
regimental titfer as a "Busby" was all it took. Invariably
he responded with a bellow that HM Grenadier Guards wore "BEARSKINS" if
you please! I see that there are some references to the hat as a "Busby" in
Google but Tom was adamant that a Busby was something worn by a "silly
Hussar". Is the present generation of Grenadier guardsmen as pedantic
as Tom? Greg
Gregory Peck with Sergeant Tom Martin of the Grenadier Guards wearing
| Class of '42
12 July 2005
Art, had forgotten that I had sent you any documents and would be
most thankful for their return. Funnily enough I was looking through
some old docs, & came across just one Arborfield report & thought
there should be at least another so it must have been a case of great
minds thinking alike! I'd have to have details of your history of military
schools. I note that at one time there were twelve – how many are
there now? I would like to have the recruiting statistics – as
detailed on pages 194-195 in Sons of the Brave for the last
4 or 5 years if at all possible.
I enclose a copy I have which I must have taken from an article in
1997 – I've not idea which paper or book, quoting the 1879 British
Army Act. Unfortunately I don't know the number of the act. I would like
to know what the minimum age is now. If you do find anything about the
1879 Army Act relating to boys I would be very interested. I note that
18 is now the minimum age & and this must have been reduced as together
with another couple of ex-boys at Mill Hill, I Volunteered for overseas
service in January 1945 when we were 18 plus, but were refused on account
of not being 19. The only ex-boy I am in contact with is a Chepstow boy
of pre-war vintage who did his 20 odd years – his name is Allan
18 July 2005
Art, Thanks or your latest bundle. Please have another look at my mini
website to see if I've got it right! Had a laugh at the pipe from the
bank. We all with kids know what that means. They are in a different
world from us. For how long I ask myself! Let me know if you are in the
area when you come over. Cressbrook has changed little since 'your' children
came. Except that it is very Yuppyfied. When I first came here everyone
had worked in the Mill. So had their parents
18 July 2005
Jean, I've read you website from beginning to end. I like it. You've
presented the facts and quoted your sources. The information will
be of interest to anyone doing research on the cotton industry in North
East England and with particular reference to the Cressbrook Mill.
I've not seen anything to compare with the detail you've provided.
The Styal Book (I think that's the name) I sent you includes some good
images, but the book has nowhere near the detail given in your site.
I do have one reservation. That is the way you've presented Edward
Sheldon's memoirs. That is, you've photographed the six typescript
pages, which can be brought on screen, but they're difficult to read.
I would have transcribed the material into a single, cohesive account.
I accept that this is one of the 'original documents' to which you
refer. The information in Sheldon's memoirs deserve clearer presentation
to be read with ease. That's my only negative comment on the site;
otherwise I don't believe it is to be faulted. Nor can I suggest what
else you might do to improve it – unless,
that is, you got a line on any of the descendents of the former inhabitants.
19 July 2005
Art, thank you for going to so much trouble. You will notice that I
have sent a copy of this to Lee as we did try and clean up Edwards 'memoir'.
It was typed many years ago on a portable Olivetti, [which I think we
still have somewhere!] The printed copy of the 'History' will quote from
it along with many other people, obviously not so old. Because all 'your'
apprentices were girls and we do not have their place of birth we may
well have later news of them. The only one I am pretty sure about was
the girl born in Gibraltar who became Mrs. Walker. When the snow is next
on the ground and thus the garden is tidy I will try and trace her back
to her maiden name. It can be complicated as one married three times!
I have no doubt that after publication we shall get people bringing their
own stuff forward. A few months ago Chris Gilbert made an exhibition
of a newly mounted page of a document signed by the mill workers when
McConnel left, which an ex-resident of the village had taken for 'safekeeping'.
This resulted in another resident remembering that his brother had something
about the 'Chapel', which was a room in a nearby cottage, which he had
in his loft as no one wanted it! Few of the originals now remain, probably
only about 10%. The rest are all out there somewhere! I definitely am
not one. I traced my gang years ago but do have cotton connections. My
GG on my father's side was chief engineer of the biggest mill in the
UK at Glossop. Jean
|Crime & punishment
18 July 2005
Art, Sorry to take so long replying to this. Interesting page and the
Flippant story is also nice. I'll link to them at my next update. Yes,
I should be very interested to see the punishment register. Will you
have access to the whole thing? I collect the contents of punishment
books, as a private hobby separate from my website. Colin
|Dr. T. Graham Balfour & epidemiology
19 July 2005
Mr. Cockerill, I recently retired as President of the Royal Statistical
Society and I have been commissioned to write an article about a predecessor
of mine as President of the Society, Dr T Graham Balfour. It is my under-standing
that Balfour was appointed surgeon at the Duke of York's Asylum for Soldiers'
Orphans at Chelsea in 1848. I wondered whether in your research you have
come across any of Balfour's work. I am particularly interested in work
that he conducted on scarlet fever some time between 1848 and 1854 when
it is referred to in a book on childhood illnesses by Charles West -
the founder of Great Ormond Street Hospital - but of course anything
else you might have would also be of interest.
19 July 2005
Dr. Grieve, Your understanding regarding your predecessor's connection
with the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, is correct. Dr. Thomas Graham
Balfour was surgeon of the Asylum (renamed the Duke of York's Royal Military
School in 1892) from 1848 to 1857; he later became Surgeon-General, but
that's by the way. He conducted what I believe to have been the first
epidemiological study during an outbreak of scarlet fever at the Asylum,
administering belladonna by dividing into two groups those boys deemed
to have had scarlet fever. He conducted a further study concerning smallpox.
His results, however, were severely criticised by Alfred Wallace in 1898
for misleading and faulty logic. I discussed this and other medical data
in my book The Charity of Mars (2003), pp 73-74, which is a
history of the Asylum (1803-1892). The book is available from Peter J.
Goble, 2 Tentergate Avenue, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire HG5 9BQ.
From a historical point of view, you might also be interested in the
outbreak of 'opthalmia', which with the help of medical expertise from
the Moyne Institute of Microbiology (Dublin), the Maxwell Finland Laboratory
for Infectious Diseases and other authorities, was deemed to be Trachoma
(an intriguing medical mystery for an outbreak of a sub-tropical disease
solved by the Asylum surgeon fifty years before Pastor et al). On the
subject of statistical data, you might be interested to know that we
have, and are about to work on, the height, weight, chest and various
stats data on 2,000 children of the military institution from 1847 to
1907 (invaluable source data for contemporary studies in child obesity).
| Ex-rats & Yorkies
18 July 2005
The "Yorkies" were well represented in my intake at Arborfield
and gave invaluable lessons to all of us on how to bull boots to that
fine gloss beloved of the drill sergeants who so ran us ragged in HQ
Company. It delights me to know that Art still has genuine
feelings for his old Alma Mater(s). Pride, some would call it a sin,
but to my mind, pride in one's background and institutions is the gift
that one receives as a reward for all of the hard work and occasional
tears spent along the way. I would fight to the death to defend my
right to feel proud of my time at Arborfield, warts and all! Greg
19 July 2005
Greg, Your generous remarks on the Yorkies and their zeal in spreading
their skill in the art of spit and polish, I'm quite sure, will find
an echo among those who experienced their influence. It is, however,
more in response to your reference to not one alma mater, but two, that
I write. Writing of them, you are the carpenter who drives in a four-inch
nail to the hilt with a single blow. So yes, true, two schools gave us
our reason for living: two for the Yorkies, one for those not of the
Yorkie band, but both of equal importance. It is not being sentimental
to praise the sentiments that bind us to the training and discipline
we received. Indeed, the one thing the Duke of York's and Arborfield
in common gave was a sense of self-discipline.
Reflecting on the lives of ex-boys of my acquaintance – and those
I've come to know through these web sites – is that self-discipline
has been the single most important quality to underwrite their lives.
It's not so much academic achievement as determination that stems from
self-discipline that guarantees success. When I think of the self-taught
linguists, musicians, technologists, engineers, writers, artists and
artisans who issued from Arborfield in an unending stream I do so with
a sense of wonderment. Nothing I've done with my life would not have
been possible without the Arborfield experience. The Duke of York's
might have been basic education, but Arborfield and the School of Military
Engineering were my 'higher education'. The McNally's, Whacker Jones's
(Dukies) and Britains, RSMs all of this world will never know the influence
the had on us. So yes, my pride in those institutions is in the '...gift
receive(d) ... for the hard work ... along the way.' Most of all, it
was that special quality imbued in us by the Arborfield experience.
Note: Yorkies was the name by which apprentices at Arborfield Army
Apprentice School knew incoming students from the Duke of York's school.
19 July 2004
Art, Delighted to have an e-mail from you. On the first night spent
in barrack room F4 of HQ Company, the Yorkie in our billet was an island
of calm in a sea of frenetic activity. Within a half an hour or so he
was tutoring us on how to bone the bumps off of our toecaps and heels,
put box pleats in denims to crease trousers. His name alas has gone from
my memory in the mists of time. I was never much good at remembering
names and a gap of nearly forty years with contact with my fellow apprentices
didn't help either. I do know that without the steadying influence of
that Yorkie, our row would have been much harder to hoe!
Sadly, there have been problems on the AOBA website. This stemmed from
a protest made after a Brat was ridiculed on the forum, which resulted
in the site being restricted paid-up members. Hence the creation of the
AAS website. Since regaining contact with my peers, we have made our
home available to any who wished to visit our part of the world. Our
lives have been enriched by visits of friends old and new. Despite the
obvious disparities in backgrounds we have quickly re-bonded with our
fellow Brats. We have a spare room available should you feel inclined
to take a shufti out this way. Greg.
19 July 2005
Greg, I'm delighted to have your 'now and then' photographs. I like
to be able to put faces to those with whom I correspond. Don't apologise
for idle levity. Running this site generates much correspondence,
which I'm happy to maintain. It comes in from all quarters – and
on all subjects. Log on to the section of my website showing the edited
correspondence, you can see a sample of each month's exchange. It's
impossible to post everything, do I make an effort to give readers
a flavour of the correspondence exchanged. Art
28 July 2005
From your web site I have obtained the following information: RENNOX
Henry; Age admitted 8 on 5/10/1860; 22nd Regt of Foot; Father George;
Mother Hannah; Discharged to his mother 7/8/1865
Is there anyway I can find to what location Henry was discharged. George
Rennox is my wife's Great Grandfather and he died in Canada in 1859.
I would appreciate any help you can give.
John Smith, Australia
28 July 2005
John, No address had been entered into the ledger for Henry, other
than, "Delivered to his mother". I've checked the 1871 census
detail for England via the National Archives, Kew, RENNOX; they
are few and far between. Neither a Henry nor his mother Hannah are mentioned.
As it is a freebee view of the detail, maybe some have been omitted.
Did she go to Canada to be with relatives? Sorry I can't be of more help.
31 July 2005
I wonder if you can help I am trying to confirm whether a Major William
Ebhart use to be in charge or some how involved in the Royal Military
Asylum between 1822 and 1833 Apparently it look as though
his wife Elizabeth Ebhart and son were also there working in
would really appreciate it if you could give me any idea of where
to find this information. Many thanks in advance. I do
appreciate you might not be able to help as you probably get many emails
with queries but
it is a try. S. Darbyshire
31 July 2005
Mrs. Darbyshire, I have transcribed the Census detail for the RMA
from 1841 to 1901 and cannot find a reference to EBHART, either in
the Staff census on the student census detail. It would help if I knew
the source for mother & son being there in 1861. Errors can be made in transcribing,
but a search for EB** and **HART fail to find anyone. The details of
the RMA staff is sparse. There's a little to glean from the records I
have seen, but I've not come across the name EBHART. There are several
letter books at the National Archives, Kew, but a dedicated researcher
would be required to plough through this source. Please let me know where
you obtained the reference; I may be able to point you in the
18 July 2055
Hi, I am a 16 year old girl who is looking for some help. I am Irish,
however I live abroad in Malta. I have been searching the internet looking
for good websites but I can't find anything. I was wondering if you could
send me some links where I could find good information on the Irish army,
or a person I could contact. I am wondering if Ireland offers any programs
for someone like me, who is very interested but would like to see what
it is like. I was wondering if there are any summer programs like a 'boot
camp' that are available. If you have any information on this subject
please send it to me. I will be very grateful and looking forward to
your reply. Ashling Jonsson
18 July 2005
Ashling, The best bet for you is to log on to www.military.ie the
website of the Irish Defence Forces. Use the 'contact us' link of this
website to pose your question or questions – and good luck.
Meanwhile, check out the Royal Hibernian
history site for background
information on the Hibernian school, Dublin. Art
| Royal Hibernian
July 25, 2005
Having for a long time been unable to find out anything about my grandfather,
Richard George Bowgett, I was directed by somebody to the RHMS website
and found a reference to both him and his brother Robert being in attendance
there. I believe there were also at least two other brothers, Edwin and
Barnett who were also in the military. Is there any way of finding out
more about them and their history. The name is comparatively unusual
and I believe Richard George was born in India when his fathers regiment
was posted there. If you can suggest likely sources, I would be most
25 July 2005
Ian, I have forwarded your inquiry to my colleague Peter Goble who
is presently working on the admissions ledgers of the RHMS and is in
a better position than am I to give you accurate information.
25 July 2005
Ian, A Richard BOWGETT is the only BOWGETT admitted to the RHMS.
Detail held is: Born 06/06/1876. Admit 23/03/1888; admit age 11 yrs
9 months; Height 4'8" weight 63 lbs Chest 26" Father's Regiment: 44th
Regt of Foot; Roman Catholic; 1 good conduct stripe; was a colour sergeant
trained in tailoring class 4; both parents alive at the time of admission;
Petition No 1333: page 223, volunteered to the Essex Regiment 16/06/1890
aged 14 yrs 4 months. Data extracted from WO143/79 Boys index Jan 1 1877
to December 31 1907. Photo copies of the entry can be obtained from the
National Archives, Kew @ £15 plus postage quote WO143/79 index
page B, Line No 110. Peter Goble
2 July 2005
Can any DYRMS OB help me in telling me the whereabouts of the Saunton
Sands hotel which the school was evacuated to? And when? R Monty Guest
21 July 2005
Hello, Chad Stather referred your inquiry to me. Saunton Sands Hotel
is in the cliff top at the east end of the Saunton Sands beach, in Barnstable
and Biddeford Bay, North Devon, five miles from the village of Braunton,
and along the Croyde Road. For a description of the time spent by those
evacuated from Dover log on to http://www.achart.ca/york/saunton.html
Alternatively, log on the school history website www.achart.ca and navigate
your way to the Saunton Sands article.
6 July 2005
Art, Glad to hear there is still interest in the book (A Guide
to Military Temperance Medals). I have a few more copies but at
present I am in Oxford and will be there until Aug 2, when I will check
for the number I have left. I am writing an update, which will have
new research and a large section of photos of Regimental TMs (over
50 medals, many never before illustrated). I hope to publish early
in 2006 and will try to sell advance copies so I'll keep you in mind.
It would be great if I could advertise through your website. David
6 July 2005
David, Good to hear from you, too. The web site is expensive to maintain
(forgetting the monthly cost of the server, it runs to about $1,500 a
year), which we absorb somehow. As long as the readership remains stead
it's worthwhile and gives us an outlet for our research. That's all by
the way. The site's getting good exposure at the moment, so I'm glad
you'll check what copies are remaining when you return. Meanwhile, we'll
keep the notice running. If anyone does orders a copy we'll have to put
it on 'back order'. I wish you well with your new project and look forward
to the new printing. We will provide ad-copy, ad service and space. Give
me the details when you're ready, plus good images of the front and rear
faces and we'll knock something up. Art
| Web sites
19 July 2005
Art, I have had a look at the two web sites whose URLs were given
in your e-mail and find them very interesting and informative. With
your permission I should like to include the links on the WEBSITES
OF INTEREST page (Menu Part 1) of The
September 49ers & Others.
The amended page has already been prepared for uploading on Sunday
24th July am AEST but will not go ahead until I receive your blessing.
19 July 2005
George, Yes, of course, and with pleasure. Make a link to my website.
I'll return the compliment by cross-referencing to the September 49ers
and others website. You asked in an earlier message if I'd looked at
the whole site. Well, yes, actually I did. It was to the whole site that
I was referring earlier: the lay out, badges of related corps (particularly
the Sappers to which Corps I was consigned from Arborfield although I
never did work our why to the RE and not the REME), and the standard
of writing, which all contribute to a site with a purpose. So that, if
anything, sums up my reaction to the site. Art