We stared out through our rifle sights at an as yet unknown enemy, the rain poured down, but we were in it together…

OCdt Eldridge

OCdt Eldridge

Officer Cadet Elizabeth Eldridge is in her first term at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst (RMAS). From London and 26 years old, she studied English and American Studies at University of Nottingham.  Here she talks about her first weeks of training.

My parents drove me through the gates of Sandhurst on Sunday, 12th September 2010.  I felt pride and excitement as the drive curved past the lake to reveal the Georgian elegance of Old College.   This was to be our training ground and residence for junior term and the Grand Entrance steps where we would ascend to Commission as British Army Officers on 14th August 2011.

My platoon of thirty-one females was from that first Sunday shouted through the day on an impossibly hectic schedule by a robust female Staff Sergeant.  Suddenly the outside world became very distant as we were shunted into a different time zone: marched to each period of instruction at a frantic pace; contending with sleep deprivation whilst learning the rules and regulations.  Cadets were closely watched for discrepancies in dress and drill.  Uniformity was crucial and we swiftly understood that working together was vital for survival.

A typical day comprised a litany of ironing, polishing, cleaning, drill, rifle practice and navigation.  Kit was issued, then more kit was issued and then that kit had to be squared away; a shirt ironed with requisite military precision and buckles polished.  Personal administration had to be completed at a fierce pace before room inspections; dreaded room inspections.

The first parade inspection by our Platoon Commander in Chapel Square demanded the highest standards in turn out.  I decided that my collar was not quite flat enough (regulations state it must be flatter that a pancake that is being held in a pancake factory in anticipation of a flat pancake competition in which it is a strong contender).  I rushed to my room, to my ironing station, pulling my shirt off and pressed the collar.  A sickening five minutes later I was stood to attention in front of the Platoon Commander who was staring curiously at my left breast pocket.

“What happened to your name badge?” she demanded.

I glanced down to spot a hideous black scar across the yellow badge and resigned myself.

“I ironed it Ma’am.”

Every morning at 5.30am reveille after about four hours sleep I mustered myself and resolved that today there would be no miscellaneous fails for unpolished boots or top pocket buttons undone; I would rewash my drill shirts and crease them anew.  By supper time I stood dispirited in front of our Tier 1 Cadet reporting 20 no 30 no 60 press ups dished out by our Staff Sergeant.  Sandhurst, “the factory” is oftentimes described as a game.  A certain space cadet had to learn the rules in order to play.

However, I really enjoyed the loaded marches, navigation exercises and bulling parade in the corridor every evening.  Bulling parade was a time to polish our shoes until they shone, to talk to each other and learn a little of the personality hidden by combat 95s or hideous green coveralls.  In adversity, the sort the directing staff would describe as mild, we built a team.  On exercise Self Reliance lying in muddy holes staring out through our rifle sights at an as yet unknown enemy, the rain poured down, but we were in it together.

The first five weeks asked the impossible every morning at 0530hrs; I am now convinced I never knew what I was capable of achieving and look forward to Long Reach.  The next challenge is a 60 Kilometre trek up and down the Brecon Beacons in which we shall put into practice the lessons in teamwork, training in fieldcraft and sheer determination the first five weeks have forged in each and every Cadet of our intake.

12 thoughts on “We stared out through our rifle sights at an as yet unknown enemy, the rain poured down, but we were in it together…

  1. Hi Elizabeth, a very intersting ‘blog’ I hope you have the stamina and determination to achieve all that you aim for. I must admit I do not live too far from the Brecon Beacons, which can be beautiful to hike in the Summer….But I guess that is the last thing you will be thinking of while experiencing the ‘Hike’ at this time..! I sincerely wish you well and hopefully you and your ‘comrades in arms’ will grow and mature while at Sandhurst…..!! In the meantime take care….. xx


  2. Hi Elizabeth,
    As a parent I first remember driving through and admiring the awe of Sandhurst back in December 06′ with my daughter who went on to win the coveted sword of Honour there and is now a Captain in the Royal Engineers.
    I’m sure that you too will do just fine and will progress to become an Officer within the Army forces.
    You will learn the skills that one needs to become such an Officer through various ways from skilled tutors and Officers and as you have already, I guess, made the odd error such as over ironing ones uniform.
    Best Wishes and success to you and the other Cadets.
    Take care.
    Ray Laycock


  3. Lovely to read this! I am currently going through the selection process! Good luck with the rest of your time at Sandhurst and career!


  4. Nice Elizabeth! Really well written. Master of understatement. And conjours up what I imagine the ‘joys’ of military life to be like brilliantly. Keep writing please! (as well as marching and polishing and learning how to kill people obviously ;-)) xxx


  5. Excellent blog Elizabeth please carry on with all that you aspire to be and do above and beyond your best. I personally wish you all the best and success and keep up the will do att Big salute for the future (oppo)

    Take care x


  6. hi elizabeth,your tales remind me of when i joined the army,along time ago now[1964]but allthat bulling boots inspections and exercises,all great fun hope you make it through ,good luck,bill.


  7. Elizabeth,

    True heroes go that extra mile and the training you are receiving will help you become one. Your account paints a picture for the uninitiated. Please continue your writing so we have a real glimpse of your world. Good luck to you! It always rains in the Brecon Beacons!


  8. It all sounds so like the Dartmouth I experienced some 45 years ago…
    The secret is to never ever, ever give up. They may decide they don’t want you, but let that be their decision, not yours.
    Good luck and keep safe…


Comments are closed.