Sandhurst 1913-33

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Sandhurst 1913-33

Post  buistR on Fri 07 Jan 2011, 6:51 pm

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The modern dress uniform of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is as well known as (thought less spectacular than) the cadet grey of West Point or the plumed shakos of St Cyr. Essentially the standard dark blue No.1 dress of the British Army, it dates only from the 1950s and its main distinction is the white gorget tabs on the collar (also worn in different colours by generals and senior staff officers and apparently dating back to the days when crescent shaped metal ornaments hung from the neck as a badge of rank).

Less well known is the historic full dress of Sandhurst cadets. It went through various stages since Sandhurst was esablished in 1810 but shown above is that of 1913. It is modelled on the scarlet and blue of other ranks in a line infantry regiment (dark blue facings because it was "Royal"). Until about 1905 it had included a dark blue "home service" cloth helmet but photos of ceremonial parades just before WWI show the peaked cap being worn by all "gentlemen cadets". In short it was a smart and colourful uniform but a simple one by the standards of the time. The reason probably was to keep unnecessary costs to cadets (or their families) down to a reasonable level - at least for a uniform that would only be worn for church parades and occasional ceremonies during their year at the RMA. The real clothing expenses came when newly graduated officers joined their regiment - especially if they had opted for the Cavalry, Guards or one of the more exclusive infantry regiments such as the Rifle Brigade.

Between the World Wars khaki became the sole parade dress for the RMA, although the author and former cadet John Masters recalls wearing "dull dark blue with a miniscule red stripe down the side of my trousers" for the Sandhurst June Ball of 1933. Masters and his 500 fellow cadets, similarly clad in their evening dress of blue patrols, found themselves as a drab backdrop for 400 serving officers in the "brilliance of nearly every mess kit of the British Empire - scarlet and gold, chocolate and French grey, royal blue and silver, dark green and light blue, white and crimson; kilts and trews, sporrans and aiguillettes and shoulder chains - and then the naval officers in their boat cloaks". For all its extravagence and flummery clearly an sight to remember -Masters, writing thirty years later as a hardbitten retired soldier, recalled it as "intoxicating but awe-inspiring".

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