Week Two – The shock of realisation

When I arrived seven days ago now, I took it all light-heartedly; there was no real shock of capture, instead there is what we are calling, the shock of realisation. This has happened amongst each of us at different moments, and whether it came when we were marching around Old College, or when queuing for scoff, we all have experienced it in different ways.

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What exactly is it? Well it is a simple moment when you are sat there and you think to yourself, “My gosh, I am now in the army.” This is quickly followed by, “Oh dear, I am at Sandhurst training to be an Officer.” And so comes forth all the films and books that I would watch and read as a child of daring and brave young officers leading their soldiers valiantly into battle. You start to think about who has come here before, and after the stomach churning notion, comes possibly the proudest, yet quietest moment of my life as yet. I am now in the footsteps of some of the world’s most heroic leaders.

Towards the end of the week, our Colour Sergeant made an absolutely morale-driving decision; we were going to watch the World Cup opening game whilst bulling our boots – if you do not know what bulling boots is, it is a particularly mundane and boring act where you sit for hours making small circles in your parade boots until you can use them as a mirror to shave. Usually this is also when most of the days dits (stories) are relived of guys in the platoon who may have made a slight judgement error shall we say which we can all join in and laugh about together.

But this time we were going to multi-task, a hard concept when five hours sleep is considered a luxury, but nevertheless, our boots were glistening by the end. We also started to exercise in our “streams” – fitness here is graded, and I made top stream so I am exercising with the fittest cadets in the academy, but the tempo is good and the PTIs definitely know what they are doing. My favourite snippet from PT sessions is a poster they have, “We do not use machines, we make them”.

Week One – 100Mph

Arriving at Sandhurst is an indescribable feeling, so many thoughts. No one in their right mind could ever think that day one, week one, they are ready for everything that is about to be thrown at them, but we can make sure that we are as ready as we can be.

On arrival, there are two main things that are really on everybody’s mind: who are my instructors; and will I like my platoon.

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The platoon question is easy to answer: the Army doesn’t look for what defines you in the civilian world, such as what school you went to, what hobbies you have or where you came from. Rather, we are defined by our principles and a mutual code of moral duty to our country. This then equates to the simple fact that we all fitted well together, as the things that are most important in someone, their outlook on life, is broadly similar.

The instructors however, well, I had nightmares of 8-foot mountains of Sergeant Majors and Officers who were a product of the Victorian era, not the 21st century. How wrong I was. The instructors were firm, but they understood that this was our first week, so we were eased into military life.

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Many people in my platoon have no prior military service so this is especially daunting for them! But, our instructors are there every morning at 05:20hrs, when we wake up, to sing the National Anthem, and they are there at 23:00hrs, when we have inevitably done something wrong and need advice. For me, this manifested in… burning one set of trousers, a t-shirt and polishing my barrack dress boots black instead of brown.

The instructors understand that at this moment, we are all just civilians in uniform, so they are patient and informative about how to correct it and ensure we never do it again.

In essence, I cannot really give much detail about this week as it has just hit me at 100Mph, I have three massive kit bags, which all need organising, but more importantly, I need to know what half of this stuff is/does!

The one other thing that does shock you is the change in language, what do I mean? Well right now I am in the heart of Surrey, there are statues of Queen Victoria, Union flags as far as the eye can see and every morning you can hear the National Anthem, roused with the odd verse of Jerusalem or I Vow To Thee. This place could not be more British if it tried, yet they, the soldiers and Officers, do not speak the same language as us. Dinner is “scoff”, tea is “a brew” and my bed, the place I long to be, is “the sack”.

We are slowly beginning to learn our new profession and in so doing, become Officers. Oh yes, we also met the England Rugby Team… casual.