Officer Cadet Elizabeth Eldridge writes once more from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst with an update on her officer training, which has included playing a certain videogame…
The weather has turned ominous. It began with a freezing blanket of smog suffocating the Academy on the day of our 6-mile run and now the frost has turned blades of grass into tiny green daggers. A five day exercise in Sennybridge – CRYCHAN’S CHALLENGE – approaches. Horror stories are bustling their way about the lines; the most worrisome of which is that we will only manage seven hours sleep over five days. I am unprepared and have not bought little hand warmers or made the crucial decision; to sleep in boots or not to sleep in boots? That is the question.
The intake has been sent on regimental visits to discover more about our choice of arm. Women are not allowed to join the Infantry or Royal Armoured Corps so the choices for 2 Platoon are limited to; Army Air Corps, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Royal Logistics Corps, Intelligence Corps, the Adjutant’s General Corps or the Royal Army Medical Corps (Admin Branch).
I must admit I am addicted to Call of Duty. The game was prescribed by my Platoon Commander (half in jest) to improve my mental agility in preparation for the flight aptitude test at RAF Cranwell for the Army Air Corps. I spent two weekends prior to the pilot aptitude tests tackling time, distance and speed questions whilst I conducted shambolic platoon attacks on Russian bases. Call of Duty is a decent game; you play the part of an obscenely-muscled soldier immune to grenades up to a distance of one metre. I failed the pilot aptitude test; it was my intent to defy gravity and the result a bitter disappointment.
The Sovereign’s Banner is competed for by all nine platoons in our intake and 2 Platoon did very well in Exercise LONG REACH, placing us second. However, after the Junior Navigation Exercise we are now fifth. Ten markers were placed about a mud-covered valley and in eighty minutes each Cadet made an individual effort to reach as many controls as possible. I did badly, running around like a decapitated fowl sauntering up to the first check point with soaking trainers after thirty of the allotted eighty minutes. I ran in three minutes late, only seven of the ten checkpoints reached, six of which in meagre consolation had been easily discovered. The looks of the Company Commander, Platoon Commander and Staff Sergeant are etched into my cranium, an indelible print never to be shaken. The next competition which counts towards the Sovereign’s Banner competition is the Military Written Test.
Company Dinner Night and Battle Honours Night have afforded cadets the opportunity to have fun. For the first I acted as PMC (President of the Mess Committee); it was an evening spent in the good company of our commanding officers, trying and failing to look relaxed whilst wondering how many drinks equalled terrible judgement. It was enjoyed by all who attended (the company and 29 guests) and thoroughly raucous. The port was passed to the left, I banged the gavel with undue force and Mr. Vice (the youngest in the mess at 19 year of age) said grace with due decorum. The Minden Band played regimental marches brilliantly. Battle Honours Night began with a lecture on the battle of El Alamein in Northern Africa during the Second World War. Alamein Company then put on sketches taking off the directing staff; the thespians trod cautiously between gentle ribbing and character assassination.
The Academy requires performance that foreshadows the future professional competence demanded of British Army Officers. Performance must be measurable; training is the hardest when you feel as though you have disappointed yourself or your platoon.