army technical school arborfield

 Arborfield
Local History Society


 
Memories – Army Technical School,
1939-45

Home
Time Line
Families
Properties
Auctions
Churches
Parish Councils
Memories
Census data
Picture Gallery
Visitors’ book



Related sites:

Berkshire History
Berkshire Record Office
Museum of English Rural Life

 


‘Arborfield
Old Boys’
web-site

 

On Friday September 1st 1939, the ‘Times and Weekly News’ gave a good
pen-picture of the new Army Technical School, just two days before censorship
prevented all but the barest of detail on military developments:

The Army in the Making

Activity At Arborfield

Wokingham�s Neighbouring Garrison

Stretches of reinforced concrete roads, rows of galvanised iron buildings and
continuous building activity almost as far as the eye can see � is one�s first
impression of the Army Technical School at Arborfield � the boy�s camp.

The first started and now complete, this school is the last word in comfort.
Electric light, central heating, sprung beds � the boys� first experience
of Army life is probably vastly different from what they expected. Most of the
lads are between 14 � 18 and at present there are 500 of them under training.
It is understood that the full complement is 1,000 and it is expected
this number will be there by the end of October.

Gymnasiums, billiard tables, football, rugby and cricket pitches
these boys have plenty to amuse them when their work is done. In course of
erection is a huge building which is to be a dance hall and cinema and
will seat 1,000.

Every facility for instruction is provided � the workshops and machine
shops
being the last word in modern efficiency. As yet there is no band at
this camp and Band Marches are relayed to the large parade ground from
gramophone records amplified through loud speakers. Education facilities are
provided by the War Office and a well equipped hospital attends to any
minor accident or illness.

At present the A. A. Militia, comprising 1,100 men and Reservists in 4
Batteries
, have not been afforded the comfort of built quarters and they are
under canvas. There is however, feverish activity on the part of the
contractors in erecting and completing the wooden buildings that will
very shortly “house” these men, it is to be hoped before the winter arrives.

Nearing completion too are the married quarters which closely resemble
a vast housing estate [Valon Road]. Officers’ quarters are rapidly being
built and before very long the entire camp should be completely finished and it
is understood will comprise over 20,000 people. When this time comes then
we expect the effect on Wokingham will be such that there will be an influx
of new traders
.

The Army Technical School was in the news several times during the war; this
item from the ‘Times and Weekly News’ was careful not to identify the location:

July 11th 1941: A.T.S. Annual Sports: On Tuesday and Wednesday of last
week, a local Technical School held its Annual Sports Day. [long list of
winners].

The ‘Reading Mercury’ of July 10th 1943 was more specific: Arborfield:
Army Technical School Gymkhana
. The Army Technical School, Arborfield, held
their annual Gymkhana on Saturday, when the fruits of keen training were shown
in the fitness, athletic skill, drill and discipline on parade of the boys,
whose ages ranged from 14 to 17 [� list of winners].

This was followed later in the month with news of another sporting event, on July 31st:

Arborfield: Boxing Medals Presented: The Army
Technical School (Boys) received a visit from Major General R. Evans, C.B.,
M.C.
, Commanding, Aldershot District, on Sunday morning, when he presented
medals to the winners and runners-up of the Schools� boxing competition. [� List
of winners, plus �Best Loser�].

The ‘Times and Weekly News’ announced on August 25th 1943 that the Commandant of
the Army Technical School was moving on:

Organised the A.T.S. At Arborfield: Brigadier F. A. Hillborn,
A.M.Inst.M.E., has been appointed Commandant of the Gordon Boys� School.
Brigadier Hillborn, after serving in the Royal Engineers, Royal Tank Corps and
the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, was selected in 1939 to organise the new Army
Technical School
for boys at Arborfield, and was appointed by the War Office its
first Commandant and Chief Instructor. At the Gordon Boys� School, boys from 13
to 17 are trained in various trades, including engineering and motor mechanics
for both civil and service careers.

On October 16th, there was a long article: �Boys taught a trade �
Apprenticed to Army�
, plus a photo: ‘Boys of the Army Technical School,
Berkshire, being trained in watch-makers� lathe work. They are taught to turn
out precision instruments.’:

'Boys of the Army Technical School, Berkshire, being trained in watch-makers� lathe work. They are taught to turn out precision instruments'

(Photo: copyright ‘Reading Mercury’; used by permission)

Peace was just around the corner on April 14th 1945, when the ‘Mercury’
published the following photo: ‘Members of the Army Cadet Force,
undertaking a week�s course on “Mechanical Transport” at a R.E.M.E. Technical
Training Centre, are shown repairs to a Bren carrier’.

An Army Cadet force being shown repairs to a Bren carrier

(Photo: copyright ‘Reading Mercury’; used by permission)

After VE-Day, the emphasis switched to a new era, when a Housing and Planning
Exhibition was held at the Army Technical School. The ‘Mercury’ included
photographs of the event in two successive weeks in June 1945.

June 2nd: ‘Soldiers showing keen interest in the electricity section
of the Housing and Planning Exhibition held at the R.E.M.E. School,
Arborfield’:

Electricity section of the Housing and Town Planning Exhibition at Arborfield

June 9th: ‘Members of the A.T.S. examining this gas cooker at the
Housing and Town Planning Exhibition
held at the R.E.M.E. School,
Arborfield. Chief feature is the detachable oven fitments’:

Gas section of the Housing and Town Planning Exhibition at Arborfield

(Photos: copyright ‘Reading Mercury’; used by permission)

On July 7th 1945, the ‘Mercury’ reported: Army Technical School Sports:
Many hundreds of people, including the Mayors and Mayoresses of Reading and
Wokingham, attended the annual sports and gymkhana of the Army Technical School
at Arborfield on Saturday. A large part of the audience was comprised of the
parents and relatives of the boys who took part, and they must have felt proud
at the fine display given. The boys were certainly a great credit to those
responsible for their training.

The band of the School was much appreciated, and it added colour to the many
marching displays. There were several novelty races and displays. A very fine
junior P.T. display was given by boys of only four months� service. Highland
dancing was performed by Private Robertson, of the Army Dental Corps. Other
items including chair tricks, novelty cycle relay race, inter-company
tug-of-war, parents� and sons� race, company staff relay race, a children�s race
and a senior physical training display.

The trophies were presented by Lady Hill, whose husband
Major-General Sir Basil Hill
, a former Rugby International, was also
present.
[list of prize winners]

In Autumn 1945, under peace-time conditions, the boys of the School were
on parade as shown in this photo from the ‘Mercury’ of October 20th:

Lt.-General Sir John Crocker, General Officer Commander-in-Chief,
Southern Command, inspecting boys of the Army Technical School at Arborfield’:

'Lt.-General Sir John Crocker, General Officer Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, inspecting boys of the Army Technical School at Arborfield'

(Photos: copyright ‘Reading Mercury’; used by permission. It was accompanied
by a long article on the event.)

 

With acknowledgements to Surrey & Berkshire Media and
Berkshire Newspapers

Back to ‘Newspapers
in Wartime’ Main Page

Back to Memories Page

 


Any Feedback or comments on this website?  Please e-mail
the webmaster

 

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

 

 

History of the Army
Technical Foundation
College

 

 

A Brief Historical Survey

 

1939 � 1992

 

by Capt. (Retd.) D.B. Richards Dip. Ed. Tech.

with additional
material by Major M.V. Costanzo R.E.M.E.

 

 

THE INFORMATION

 

The training of young tradesmen in the Army is by no
means a recent innovation. Prior to World War II Artificers R.A., Armourers
R.A.O.C. (both specialist trades) and other tradesmen for technical corps
were trained at Woolwich, Hilsea and Chepstow. The
boys were taken direct from school and taught a trade in a manner similar to
industrial practice; except that the military apprentices were also trained
as soldiers so that they could take their proper place in the regiments or
corps to which they would eventually be posted. With mechanisation going
ahead it was clear, by the early 1930s, that the Army would be unable to
obtain enough tradesmen for its needs from adult enlistment and existing
apprentice training units. Two hundred Fitter Apprentices were recruited and
enlisted on 1st
October 1936
of whom 100 started their
training at Bramley and 100 at Hilsea. During the
summer of 1939 around one dozen Bramley apprentices went to Woolwich to be
trained as Instrument Mechanics, whilst the rest of the Bramley first intake,
and a few of the Hilsea intake, proceeded to Aldershot to complete their training. Some older
apprentices who completed training in 1939 served in France with the B.E.F. [British
Expeditionary Force]
in various Field Workshops. There was still a
shortage of specialist soldier � tradesmen however, so it was decided to
build three new Army Technical Schools
at Arborfield, Fort Darland (Chatham)
and Jersey (Channel Islands). These schools
were to produce tradesmen for the special needs of R.A.O.C., R.E. and
R.A.S.C. respectively.

 

Here then, we have the seed of our present Princess Marina College
at Arborfield, over 50 years ago. The School was designed to house and train
up to 1,000 apprentices at any one time.

 

Building
at Arborfield began in 1938 on the site of the Remount Depot and quickly took
shape; sports fields, workshops, offices, barrack rooms, gymnasium, NAAFI,
Officers� Mess, Sergeants� Mess and a hospital. The buildings, like many
others of that period, were constructed of wood and corrugated iron and
fitted with hot water central heating � they were destined to be in use for
42 years. Long before they were completed the selection of staff was being
considered and some of the first incumbents were as follows:

 

  • Commandant and Chief Instructor: Colonel F.A. Hilborn, M.B.E. (late R.A.O.C.) [Royal Army
    Ordnance Corps]
  • Deputy Chief Instructor: Major W. Tanner,
    R.A.O.C.
  • Adjutant: Captain C. Morgan, S.W.B. [South Wales Borderers]
  • Company Officers: Captains P. Kay, 5 D.G. [5th
    Dragoon Guards]
    and W. Hughes, S.W.B.
  • Workshop Officers: Lieutenants G. Trevithick,
    R.A.O.C. and C. Zweigbergk, R.A.O.C.
  • Chaplain: Reverend Squires, C.F.
  • R.S.M.: B. Cook, Gren.
    Gds. [Grenadier Guards]
  • Civilian Workshop Instructors: Mr. MacKereth, Mr. Pugh, Mr. Wheater
    and many more of whom we have no record.

 

The Commandant and Deputy Chief Instructor were frequent
visitors to the site, from Aldershot where
they were serving, to advise on the construction and
fitting out of the School. R.S.M. Ben Cook was Regimental Sergeant Major
until 1941 when he was commissioned and became the School Quartermaster. In
this appointment he was instrumental in laying out the playing fields,
gardens and hedgerows of the camp area � no small task. In 1944 his work was
recognised by the award of the M.B.E.

 

By 1st May 1939
the almost completed School was ready for its first intake of 400 boys who were
badged R.A.O.C. The first prospective apprentice,
J. Oakley, walked from Wokingham Station for fear that he would be late in
reporting for duty. Later that month the square was completed but the
workshops were not finished until June. Soon the familiar figure of R.S.M.
Cook could be seen leading squads of small, newly-joined boy-soldiers and
from a distance his somewhat rasping voice could be heard with remarks like:
�Now, who is that officer over there? �Aven�t I
already told yer?�

 

R.A.O.C.
and R.A.S.C. [Royal Army Service Corps] boys were transferred to
Arborfield from Jersey, Hilsea
and Didcot, arriving during the summer months.
Further intakes followed in October 1939 and in April and October 1940; and
yet more arrived from Hilsea and Chepstow. The
April 1941 intake of potential armourers was the last to be badged R.A.O.C. It was also in 1941 that the Drum and
Fife Band was formed, composed entirely of ex-pupils from the Duke of York�s
School. They supported the band of the 4th/7th Royal
Dragoon Guards who were stationed at the School whilst the regiment was on
active service. In January 1942, 250 new apprentices arrived. The first to be
badged General Service Corps (G.S.C.).
Significantly, from the formation of R.E.M.E. [Royal Electrical &
Mechanical Engineers]
in October 1942, all R.A.O.C. boys were re-badged R.E.M.E., the remainder keeping their G.S.C.
badges. The School was thus, to all intents, the first School with a direct
affiliation to the Corps.

 

Looking back to 1942 one must sympathise with the
apprentices in their aversion to wearing brass ATS insignia on their
epaulettes thus confusing them with the then familiar female element of the
war-time Army. After the January 1943 intake, the powers-that-be took the
point. Cloth shoulder flashes �Army
Technical School
�,
in gold lettering on a black background, gave the more dignified title. It
was in 1942 that �Monty� visited the School for the first time.

 

Apart from a break of 12 months (November 1939 �
November 1940) when Colonel P.G. Davies, C.M.G., C.B.E., was in post, the
first Commandant held the chair until September 1943. His regime thus saw,
not only the opening of the School, but also the formation of R.E.M.E.
Colonel Hilborn was the only Commandant to have
served a double tour and he was commemorated by having the then Stevenson
Road (after the engineer) renamed Hilborn Road, in
his honour.

 

 

THE DISPERSAL

 

Colonel
J.D. White, D.S.O., M.C., (late R.A.O.C.) took over as Commandant in October
1943. Two events of particular note during his tour were the �dispersal� and
the initiation of the Woolwich Arsenal Engineering Apprenticeship (later
Cadetship) Scheme.

 

The Woolwich Apprenticeship Scheme was evolved to enable
certain apprentices to proceed to Woolwich Polytechnic and the Royal Arsenal,
with the object of taking a course culminating in the attainment of an
engineering degree or diploma, thereby qualifying for an engineering
commission. In November 1944 eight apprentices were selected for the course
from candidates put forward by Arborfield and Chepstow. The same term a new
commitment was placed upon the School, that of
training apprentices as Draughtsmen (Mechanical). This was necessitated by
the closing of the Army Apprentices School,
Taunton.

 

The
�dispersal� took place at the time when the invasion forces were assembling
for the Normandy
landings; the School was evacuated and Arborfield became a concentration area
for troops. Beginning on 17th April 1944, Colonel White�s command
was dispersed in detachments to Aldershot, Ashton-under-Lyne, Ashford (Kent),
Bury (Twocross), Chilwell, Donnington,
Greenford, Gopsall Hall (near Nuneaton), Old Dalby,
Sevenoaks and Woolwich. The Aldershot
detachment, of 115 apprentices, continued their trade training at 13 Command
Workshop. Only 67 returned to Arborfield. Of the remainder, 29 had already
passed their trade tests and were awaiting postings.

 

The 72
in the Ashton-under-Lyne detachment started at Aldershot
in the Motor Fitters� School. They then went to Ashton-under-Lyne
to the 14th Technical Training Centre, to complete the driving
part of the course. 25 returned to Aldershot
to await posting age.

 

The Ashford (Kent) detachment was 140 strong.
Conditions were found to be much harsher than at Arborfield and they also
experienced the whims of the flying bomb. The Bury detachment also found
difficulties at first, in accommodation and training facilities, but soon
settled down as a happy, compact unit sharing Lowestoft Camp with the School of Electric Lighting. The Chilwell
detachment found considerable interest in attending workshops because of the
variety of material being turned out for D-Day. Donnington,
too, appears to have been a happy detachment; there were no complaints about
the food, accommodation or training and there was no doubt that the boys left
behind a good impression of the Army
Technical School
.
The party sent to Greenford was composed almost entirely of Telecommunication
and Instrument Mechanics, many of whom were at an advanced stage of their
training. The first Arborfield-trained Telecommunication Mechanics were
trade-tested there and obtained 100% pass rate. At Old Dalby there was a
different story, with apprentices finding themselves
having to sleep on straw palliasses with no sheets;
but the war diary records that, like good soldiers, they enjoyed roughing it.
At 17 Command Workshop they were glad of the help that the newly arrived
apprentices were able to give with the pre D-Day activity but the record
states that thereafter, owing to the non-availability of weapons, instruction
inclined to the theoretical rather than practical. They too experienced the
flying bomb during their stay. The Woolwich detachment of 20 apprentice
Armourers and 20 Instrument Mechanics were attached to 7 Central Workshop.
Life was decidedly unpleasant, due to the flying bomb, and the boys slept in
their clothes most of the time. Broken windows and falling plaster became a
regular feature, until one morning during education classes a bomb went off
just outside the building. Fortunately, apart from shock and superficial
injuries only one boy, A/T Meek, was admitted to hospital. After this
incident it was decided to send the boys to 6 Central Workshop at Greenford
and the detachment, less the boys who had passed their trade test, returned
to Arborfield in September 1944.

 

 

POST
WAR

 

The
Apprentices� cap badge, which has been worn by so many thousands of
apprentice tradesmen, was first worn on parade on 19th August 1947. It was designed
by Sergeant Jack Bolden R.E.M.E. from ideas and suggestions from the Commandant.
Now that it is no longer in use, it is fitting to include some of the words
written about it in �The Arborfield Apprentice� in December 1946 by the
Commandant of the School:

 

  • The Cross and the Crown stand respectively for
    character and loyalty; character based on the principles of Christianity
    and loyalty to the School, the Army, the nation and the King.
  • The Torch stands for learning and for training
    the mind and body on good sound health lines.
  • The Crossed Swords stand for the military virtues
    of discipline, steadfastness and devotion to duty.
  • The Great Wheel, which forms the basis and
    background of the whole design, stands for technical knowledge and
    skill.

 

A great day in the annals of the School was when the,
then, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery,
revisited the School for the November 1946 Passing-Out Parade and took the
salute. He had this to say to the visiting parents: �The aim here is to turn
your boy into the very best type of soldier tradesman. We aim that he shall
reach the highest ranks of soldier tradesman in the Army or the best type of
specialised commissioned officer. His education is continued so that he
reaches the highest grade of education standards.� Of the Parade, Monty said:
�I would go anywhere to be able to see what I have seen this morning.� High
praise indeed.

 

The
year 1947 saw not only the new badge on its first parade, but also a change
of title; from 1st
February 1947
it became the Army Apprentices
School
, Arborfield.
Colonel C.E.M. Grenville-Grey, C.B.E. (late KRRC [King�s Royal Rifle
Corps]
) succeeded as Commandant. He instituted the �Champion Company�
competition and founded the Old Boys� Association. The first post-war Royal
Tournament took place at Olympia
and the apprentices produced their �Toy Soldier� display. His Majesty King
George VI showed great interest in the display and was pleased to comment
most favourably on the performance.

 

On
Palm Sunday, 21st
March 1948
, a service was held in the School Chapel to
commemorate the ex-boys of the School who had given their lives in World War
Two. Major General Sir Bertram Rowcroft, the then
Director of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering [D.E.M.E.], unveiled
a memorial tablet and it was dedicated by the Chaplain-General, the Reverend
Canon F.L. Hughes. It is interesting to note that the intake that term
included five Polish boys. Later that year on 17th August on the
Passing-Out Parade, the Champion Company banner was seen for the first time.
The banner had been presented to the School by Mrs. Ironside
and it was appropriate that her son, Major P.W.A. Ironside,
3rd Carabiniers, was O.C. �B� Company,
the first Champion Company.

 

In
1948 the decision was taken to terminate the Woolwich Arsenal Cadetship
Scheme as the success rate with the first students had been a disappointment.
With hindsight this seems to have been a premature and unfortunate decision
as all eight apprentices selected for the last course graduated with either a
degree or a diploma in engineering; one, A/T B.G. Keast,
was later to become the Commandant of the Apprentices College.
The first Old Boys� Reunion Dinner was held at the School on 28th
August when 70 attended. Most were graduates from the previous two years.

 

In
September 1949 the School welcomed Colonel E.L. Percival D.S.O., (late H.L.I.
[Highland Light Infantry]) as Commandant. At the same time a new
commitment was placed upon the School for, in addition to Armourers,
Electricians (Control Equipment), Fitters, Instrument Mechanics, Millwrights,
Telecommunication Mechanics, Turners and Vehicle mechanics, the School was to
train Draughtsmen (Mechanical). These tradesmen, on passing out, were
intended to go to R.E.M.E., R.E., R.A., R.A.C. and R.A.O.C., but in 1950 the
War Office intimated that, in future, postings from the School would only be
to R.E. or R.E.M.E.

 

Colonel
F.A.M. Magee (late East Surrey Regiment) took command in June 1952 at a time
of some difficulty. Because of a shortage of recruits it had been necessary
to disband one Company (�D� Company) and the strength of the School was down
to 643 apprentice tradesmen. The following year, on 1st June, 30
apprentices formed a guard of honour at Windsor
Castle on the occasion of the
dedication service of the Commonwealth Youth movement in St. George�s Chapel. In October 1953, at a
ceremony in the village
of Bagshot Lea
, in
Hampshire, two handsome maces were presented to the School Bands in
appreciation of services rendered during the previous three years. One was
given by the residents and the other by Messrs. G. Potter & Co., the Aldershot musical instrument makers. The strength of
the School began to increase early in 1954, and �D� Company was reborn.
Numbers quickly rose to 800 with a prospect of topping 900 by September 1954.
During the year, the War Office gave approval for the unofficial affiliation
of the School with the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment). Her Royal Highness,
The Princess Royal, Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, gave consent to the
wearing of the Hunting Stuart tartan by the members of the School Pipe Band.
There is no written evidence of this in the Regimental Records or that it was
ever worn, nor do the archives reveal how or why the band came by the
Fusilier hackle. Perhaps some reader can now solve this particular gap in the
history.

 

At the February 1955 Passing-Out Parade, the Commandant
announced the new trades would be taught at the School later that year. Radar
Mechanic, Electrician R.E.M.E. and Fitter-Gun were to be added but the loss
of the Turner and Draughtsman (Mechanical) trades would sever a long-standing
connection with the Royal Engineers.

 

In
October 1955 Colonel J.R. Cole (late Loyals) took
over as Commandant, the seventh to hold office. The Passing-Out Parade on 31st January 1956
was notable for its wet weather routine; the first since the opening of the
School. It was ironic that it was the day chosen by the BBC and ITN to record
the occasion for television news. The Commandant referred to the awaited
publication of �The White Paper on Boys Units�, otherwise known as the Miller
Report. Some of the proposed recommendations were being implemented already
and he welcomed the School�s first WVS [Women�s Voluntary Service]
Lady, Miss Gunning.

 

An
outstanding figure in the history of the School departed in February 1956 when
RSM R.L. McNally, M.B.E., Scots Guards, who had spent 15 years as the
School�s Regimental Sergeant Major, retired. To quote the �Arborfield
Apprentice� of the time � no member of the staff had played such an important
role in the life of the School over such a long period. Later that year an
establishment change permitted a much-needed improvement to officer manning
in the form of an assistant adjutant and company seconds-in-command.

 

New
gates for the York
Town
entrance to the
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst [R.M.A.S.] were manufactured over a
number of months, in 1957, by the staff and apprentices of the School. In
June the School was the subject of a complimentary article in John Bull
Magazine by ex-Sergeant Robert Holles, R.E.M.E., an
old boy of the School. In July, at the Passing-Out Parade the Commandant
announced that, for the first time, apprentices were going to the Reading Technical College
to study for the ordinary National Certificate (O.N.C.). On this occasion
Long Service and Good Conduct medals were presented for the first time to two
old boys, W.O. C.J. Haslam and W.O.2 H.J. Cuss. The quality and elegance of
the ornamental gates for the R.M.A.S. produced another order; this time from
All Saints� Church, Aldershot, for four
gates. As the church is the most senior one of the British Army the task was
treated as something of special significance. Still very much in evidence
these gates are a truly magnificent feature of the church and a credit to all
who had a hand in their production. They were officially opened, on 29th July 1958,
by Field Marshal The Earl Alexander of Tunis.
1958 was also memorable for the fact that Apprentice R.S.M. Fraser became the
first apprentice to complete his O.N.C. while at the School. There was some
new construction in 1959; H.Q. Company Block was complete and occupied and
the construction of the new Education Block was begun. During this year the
fourth Army Apprentices
School, at Carlisle,
was opened. The direct effect upon the three sister Schools was one of reallocation
of trades. Arborfield lost Armourer, Fitter and Fitter Gun, and expanded the
trades that remained. The first entry into Hadrian�s Camp, Carlisle,
was in January 1960, 205 from Arborfield plus 87 new boys, joining the
permanent staff of civilian instructors and officers already in situ.
Arborfield received 57 new Electrician apprentices, the overall result being
a drop in numbers to 700. Thus, the new Commandant, Colonel R.F. Legh, O.B.E., (late R.A.) took over a slightly depleted
School. Voluntary activities were introduced during the spring term of 1960
to enable apprentices to do something of their own choice in spare leisure
time. This is an astonishing thing to have to record when one thinks of the
multifarious leisure activities available nowadays.

 

 

REORGANISATION

 

Changes
were in the air in 1960. The intake was to be increased from two to three a
year. The Vehicle Mechanic apprentice was to undergo a two-week driving
course as part of his training in his 8th term.

 

The
programme now included more military training in the form of a full week of
this activity in the 4th and 8th terms in addition to
initial draft training. There were to be three wings in each company and the
formation of a senior company for the last two terms. Also, the School now
was concentrating on the electronic and electrical trades and Vehicle
Mechanics. The apprentices passing out were Vehicle mechanics, Electricians
R.E.M.E. (B), Control Equipment Technicians, Radar Technicians,
Telecommunications Technicians and Instrument Technicians. In that year the
Champion Company Award was presented for the last time, as it was decided to
discontinue this feature of School life � �A� Company were the winners. The
Champion Company banner is no longer in the possession of the College and
again it is hoped that some reader can give a clue to its present location.

 

In
September 1960 the School library moved from premises adjoining the
N.M.F.I. to the new Education Block. In the winter term of 1961 a new feature
of College life appeared in the form of three civilian lecturers in the
Education Department and a forecast for the future of half civilian and half
R.A.E.C. [Royal Army Education Corps] officers. By the end of 1962 the
education Department had said goodbye to its Sergeants, Staff Sergeants and
Warrant Officers; one of them, W.O.2 C.P. Salisbury, had served over seven
years at Arborfield. Colonel Legh left in October
1962 to be succeeded by the first R.E.M.E. Commandant, Colonel H. Dobie, B.Sc, A.M.I.E.E. In his speech
at his first Passing-Out Parade he referred to training policy changes about
to take place whereby it was more realistic for apprentices to take the
appropriate City and Guilds courses and to study for O.N.C., rather than take
G.C.E. subjects. City and Guilds was a logical tie-up with trade training and
would be in tune with industrial practice. There were changes, too, in the
trade training structure. The last of the Instrument Mechanics were leaving
the School and future course loading would be 44% Vehicle Mechanics, 18%
Electricians and 38% electronic trades. However, an adjustment to the
September 1963 intake saw the entry of the first 22 Aircraft Technicians into
the School. At this time consideration was being given to the School running
its own two-year O.N.C. courses and by December 1963 a start had been made
with the teaching of O.N.C. mathematics and general studies. Also, the
run-down of the trade of Electrician in R.E.M.E. meant that a number of potential
Electricians had to be absorbed into new trades. This resulted in a
concentration upon Radar, Telecommunication and Control Equipment
Technicians, Vehicle Mechanics and Aircraft Technicians. Later that year an
interesting experiment was conducted to compare results obtained by formal
methods of teaching, scrambled textbooks, and teaching machines on which
Captain John Birch R.A.E.C. wrote programmed learning courses. There was
found to be no significant difference in learning between the three methods;
teacher and machine were shown to be complementary rather than mutually
exclusive.

 

On Saturday 17th November
1964
the School presented a ten-minute impression of the life of
an Army Apprentice as part of the Army display in the Festival of Remembrance
at the Royal Albert Hall. Her Majesty the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Prime
Minister and many other distinguished guests were amongst the audience of
7,000. More than 30 million people watched the performance on television.
This was the first time that the apprentices had performed at the Festival
and their enthusiasm and precision were a credit to their generation and a
fine tribute to the memory of those to whom the Festival was dedicated.

 

During
the same year the School obtained authority to teach an O.N.C. (Ordinary
National Certificate)
Course in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. As
a result the Commandant was able to report at the Passing-Out Parade in
December 1964 that of the previous September (1964) intake about half
had begun a course which, if they were successful, would enable them to begin
a 01 Course for O.N.C. in September 1965. This course was a three-term
General Engineering (G) course in English, Mathematics, Engineering Science,
Workshop Processes and Materials, and Engineering Drawing. Those apprentices
who achieved a high enough standard in the senior test examination, taken at
the end of the (G) course in those subjects, could embark on O.N.C. Those who
failed to reach this standard would start an appropriate City and Guilds (of
London, Institute of Technology)

course. In addition, a number of apprentices entering the School were already
qualified to enter the O.N.C. course by virtue of passes in G.C.E. (General
Certificate of Education)
. Also, a number of well-qualified apprentices
were accelerated one term, and completed the General Engineering Course in
two terms instead of the usual three terms.

 

 

TRANSFER TO R.E.M.E.

 

In
1965 Colonel G.W. Paris, M.B.E., A.M.I.Mech.E.,
succeeded as Commandant at a time of great importance in the history of the
School. In August (1965) the control and sponsorship of the School was
transferred from the Inspector of Boys� Training (Army) to the Director of
Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (D.E.M.E.). The following
message (extract) from Major General L.H. (later Sir Leonard) Atkinson, the
then D.E.M.E., appeared in the November edition of The Craftsman (magazine):
�On 3rd August
1965
, the Army Apprentices Schools at Arborfield and Carlisle were transferred to my control. I take this
opportunity of welcoming to the Corps the apprentices and members of the
permanent staffs of these Schools� The ties between these Apprentices�
Schools and the Corps are of long standing and have become progressively
closer in recent years. Formal transfer of control will allow this process of
integration to continue, to the material benefit, I am sure, of the Schools,
the Corps and the students.�

 

It was
fitting that the first Passing-Out Parade in the Spring of 1966, when
all apprentices were members of R.E.M.E., should be reviewed by Major General
Atkinson. After a ten-year respite it was also the second wet weather routine
Passing-Out Parade as snow lay thick on the parade ground. Later that year it
was decided that Vehicle Mechanics would no longer be trained at the School.
Additionally, arrangements were completed for the final phase of equipment
training in other intakes would take place in the appropriate adult R.E.M.E.
Schools. Aircraft Technicians would go to Aircraft Engineering Training Wing,
School of Army
Aviation
, Middle Wallop, for their final two terms of
equipment training, while Electronic Technicians would go to the School of Electronic Engineering at Arborfield.

 

Two
more important changes took place on 1st September 1966. The School changed its
name to the Army Apprentices� College in order to bring it more into line
with that of colleges of further education in civilian life, and all
apprentices were to wear the R.E.M.E. cap badge. To celebrate the later
decision a re-badging ceremony took place on Saturday
8th October.

 

In the
Arborfield Apprentice (magazine) of Summer 1966 there appeared an
article entitled �Arrive derci Sierra�. The title
may sound like an Italian pop song but, in fact, referred to the pending
disbandment of Senior Company. �S� Company had been formed in September 1960
to provide a transition phase from boy service to adult service. All
apprentices were transferred (less a few N.C.O.s in each Company) at the end
of their seventh term to �S� Company, to complete their training in the 8 and
9 Senior Division. The idea was a sound one, particularly in view of the fact
that the apprentices in �S� Company were in many cases older than adult
soldiers in neighbouring units. In spite of this logic, a visit from the
Inspectorate of Establishments resulted in �S� Company disbanding at the end
of 1966. The last Company Commander was Major D.D. Lister R.E.M.E.

 

In March 1967, the College changed Commandants again.
Colonel D.A. Brown C.Eng., M.I.E.E., F.I.E.R.E.,
A.M.B.I.M. was no stranger, having been Chief Instructor and Deputy
Commandant since September 1966. In April, the first apprentices to complete
the O.N.C. passed-out, having been taught the whole course in the College.
Thirteen out of 15 were successful, one being referred in mathematics. In
December, the Carr Memorial Trophy was presented for the first time to
Apprentice Sergeant C.H. Richardson for the best all-round Aircraft
Technician (Airframes and Engines).

 

Lance
Corporal John Kirton Carr had been an Apprentice
Aircraft Technician at the College from January 1964 to December 1966. On
completion of training, he was posted to 10 Flight Army Air Corps, Bulford Camp, Wiltshire. He was tragically killed in a
helicopter accident on 6th
June 1967
and shortly after his death a fund was started by his
friends and colleagues who presented a trophy to the College in his memory.
It was to be used as an award for their future responsibilities and the
contribution they would be required to make to flight safety. His parents
attended the first presentation.

 

One
memento of R.E.M.E. occupation of the Dockyard at Woolwich was the
acquisition of the old Toll Bell tower (common to all Royal dockyards), which
had stood by the dockyard gates, and the bell used to be tolled for the
commencement and finish of work. It was removed to the Army Apprentices�
School in 1966 and re-erected at the road junction opposite the College
chapel.

 

During
the dismantling of the Bell
Tower
in 1982 it
toppled over (the base of the main support was under attack from dry rot) and
incurred considerable damage to the superstructure. However, plans were put
forward to have it reconstructed by the Army Apprentices� College, Chepstow
and it was finally re-erected between the present College Headquarters and
the Corps Secretariat building in 1985. On 9th April 1968 the Workshop
Practice Department said farewell to two stalwart friends, Mr. Ernie Flear and Mr, D. �Tex
Rickard. Between them they had over 50 years service in the College having
been Instructors in the Army
Technical School

in 1939. Among those leaving were two apprentices who were the first ever to
be advanced one term; completing their apprenticeship in eight terms instead
of nine.

 

 

CLOSURE OF CARLISLE

 

One of
the economies of the 1968 Defence Review was to be the closure of the Army
Apprentices� College, Carlisle in 1969. This
College was to be amalgamated with Arborfield and in future, all R.E.M.E.
apprentice training would be concentrated at the one College. The overall
total of apprentices in the two Colleges was to be reduced from 1,296 to 850
to meet R.E.M.E. long-term requirements. Protests from local people in the Carlisle area and their two Members of Parliament were
of no avail and transfer arrangements were set in motion. The first of the
two-year Vehicle Mechanic apprentices who arrived in Arborfield in the winter
term of 1968 were joined by 45 apprentices from Carlisle.
There was a considerable reorganization in Vehicle Wing, where all additional
equipment, engines, assemblies and vehicles from Carlisle
had to be set up. The last of the three-year trained Vehicle Mechanics
passed-out from the College in the spring of 1969. Up to this time they too
had been eligible to take the O.N.C. Course.

 

At the
December 1968 Passing-Out Parade, the Commandant made mention of two
presentations to the College. Mrs. Williams, whose husband was until his
death earlier in the year a lecturer in Electronics Department, had very
generously presented a silver salver, to commemorate his long service to the
College which was to be known as the Williams Prize and awarded to an
Electronic Technician. Lieutenant Colonel M.W. Hall, O.B.E., one-time O.C. of
44 Command Workshop, had also presented, on behalf of his unit, a very handsome
cup to replace the Commandant�s Cup.

 

To
mark the amalgamation of the College with Carlisle,
a set of wrought-iron gates were erected near the main entrance to the
College. The gates, which were designed by the late Major (Retired) Percy Chivers, incorporated the famous Hadrian eagles and the
regimental badges of the members of the staff at Carlisle.
The gates were formally opened by Brigadier G.V. Hayward, the Commandant of theR.E.M.E. Training Centre, on 31st July 1969, the day
on which Carlisle held its final Passing-Out
Parade. The Standard flown at that parade is now held on permanent display in
the present College.

 

H.R.H.
he Duke of Edinburgh visited Arborfield in July 1996 and six senior
apprentices were presented to him. The summer term of 1969 also saw a number
of changes in the organisation of the College, particularly in the field of
military and physical training. The existing establishment was re-arranged
into a Military Training Wing so that all military training was handled
centrally under the Military Training Officer, rather than under Company
arrangements. This was in order to make the most economical and efficient use
of the resources and manpower available. There was also a change concerning
physical training, the aim being in future, to instruct this subject in a way
which enabled each apprentice received physical education according to his
own individual needs, The system consisted of carefully measuring and
recording the physical condition of each boy on his arrival and then plotting
his progress throughout his time at the College.

 

The
system was researched and instituted by Major J.A.T. Brown, R.A., the
Military Training Officer, and Q.M.S.I. Duncan and aroused great interest in
the Army Physical Training Corps. At the Christmas Passing-Out Parade of 1969
the Commandant welcomed as a guest Mrs. G. Phelan, who had originally given
to the College at Carlisle a trophy in
memory of her son Apprentice Corporal Philip Phelan, an Apprentice Vehicle
Mechanic who was tragically killed in a cycle accident the previous year. The
first novice cyclist to receive the award at the Arborfield College
was Apprentice Tradesman Clive Hosking. Also on parade for the first time was
a Shetland pony, Midge, the College�s new mascot. It was also pleasing to
note that the 1969 New Year Honours List included the award of the British
Empire Medal to Corporal David Giles, R.E.M.E., an
ex-Aircraft Apprentice from 1966 for his outstanding devotion to duty.

 

The
first of the two-year trained Vehicle Mechanics passed out in April 1970
having, in fact, spent one year at the College (their first year was at Carlisle). In 1970 also, the technicians� courses were
reduced from nine to eight terms in the College. Those apprentices from 8
Division who had reached Class III standard in their trade passed straight to
adult service. Those who had completed their O.N.C., but not taken the Class
III trade test (because their eighth term was devoted to education for
O.N.C.), were attached to the School
of Electronic Engineering

or Aircraft Engineering Training Wing, to pass their trade test, before going
to adult service. That same year, on a different subject from training, two
apprentices, Paul Mackie and Pat Knowles of �A� Company, broke the existing
world record by playing chess non-stop for 52 hours 46 minutes, and in doing
so raised a sum of over �500 to buy a computerized typewriter for a disabled
boy at the nearby Hephaistos School. Support for
their efforts came not only from local well-wishers, but from as far afield as India,
South Africa and Australia.

 

The
College�s obsession with gates continued. Yet another set was made for Tweseldown race course and, of more local interest, the
College acquired replacement main-entrance gates from Carlisle.
Both sets were made by the late Major (Retired) Percy Chivers.
St. James�s Palace also requested the making of three new colour mounts for
the Queen�s Colours at Windsor
Castle
.

 

During
the period 1968-1970 a College hovercraft project had been under way and,
after many long hours of work by apprentices and interested staff, it made
its first public flight on 1st
June 1970
. Another project was also initiated by the Electronics
Department; to build a weather satellite tracking station. On 30th May 1970
this too became operational and the first facsimile weather pictures were
received and recorded.

 

In
July 1970 Colonel E.G. Bailey C.Eng., F.I.E.E., M.B.I.M., took command of the
College. Notable amongst the developments during his tour were the
implementation of the Donaldson Report which changed, and made more liberal,
the conditions of service of the apprentice. Despite the greater ease with
which the young entrant was able to leave the College in his first six months
of service and subsequently was able to shorten his engagement, statistics
show that, in fact, the overall effect on retention is not much changed.
After an initial rush to serve for three years only, as adults, the
proportions opting for the three, six and nine year engagements have been
fairly constant. Another development was the establishment of an Evaluation
and Quality Control cell, which set up a computer-aided test analysis system,
to assist with course design and in the promotion of up-to-date instructional
technology. The City and Guilds examination was also introduced for all
disciplines to match the tri-annual training programme, bringing about a
closer relationship with the adult training schools; while the revised
education scheme for apprentices and junior soldiers focused greater
attention on the educational support of training. The introduction of a
General Engineering Certificate precisely matching its civilian counterpart,
together with the decision to raise the school leaving age to 16 years,
resulted in much discussion on the anticipated effect on numbers and quality.

 

In the winter term of 1972 the College had its largest
intake ever, which brought up the population to 966. The quality of this
intake, despite its size, was as good as the previous one. Also that year, a
revival of the Arborfield Old Boys� Association took place after a lapse of
nearly nine years since 1964.

 

It
is always with regret that one records the death of a member or former
member of the College, be he apprentice or at the time, in 1972, it was sad
to have to record the death of Mr. McNally in a traffic accident. As the
R.S.M. for 15 years until 1956, he had been the corner-stone upon which the
standards of drill and the traditions of smartness in the College were
built.

 

 

THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES

 

In
September 1973 the College received the first intake of young men who had all
stayed at school until their 16th birthday. In the same month
Colonel H.K. Tweed, C.Eng., F.I.Mec.E.,
F.R.Aa.S., M.B.I.M., assumed command. In the
following three years further change and innovation considerably altered the
content of the apprenticeship for both Technicians and Vehicle Mechanics. In
1974, working parties were set up to examine the implications of the
Technical Education Council (T.E.C.) requirements for the College technician
apprenticeship and the following year, as a result of discussion with City
and Guilds of London Institute (C.G.L.I.) the National Craftsman�s
Certificate was introduced for Vehicle Mechanics. This nationally recognized
qualification marked a further enhancement of the vehicle apprenticeship. A
highlight at the end of 1974 was a further visit by The Duke of Edinburgh,
who, in his capacity as Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps, reviewed the College
Passing-Out Parade on 9th December.

 

A new
training group system was introduced in 1975. This move was linked with the
incorporation of the Director of Army Training inspired common military
syllabus and a rationalization of the workshop practices syllabus for all
trades. A further step was taken when the Aircraft Technicians were enabled
to complete their Class III trade training within the College. In the
Electronics Wing a new syllabus �Basic Electronics in the 70s� was
introduced. This latter marked a change in training philosophy; the existing
�Part to Whole�. Throughout the period discussions took place between the School of Electronic Engineering and the
Aircraft Engineering Training Wing, with a view to coordinating and
rationalizing the College�s proposed submission to the T.E.C. of certificate
and diploma programmes. These programmes were to replace the existing City
and Guilds Technician Certificate and the O.N.C. in Engineering.

 

Command
of the College passed to Colonel B.G. Keast, C.Eng., M.I.E.E., M.B.I.M., in June 1976. This was a
red-letter day for the College as Colonel Keast was
the first ex-Arborfield apprentice to return as Commandant. He had served his
apprenticeship at Arborfield between 1945 and 1948 and, indeed, was
one of the few apprentices selected for the previously mentioned Woolwich Arsenal
Engineering Cadetship Scheme. His tour was marked by two events which were to
have considerable significance on training. Firstly, during April 1977, the
College took delivery of a powerful mini-computer system and secondly, in the
September, the new T.E.C. courses were launched. The computer was obtained as
a result of work undertaken by the Evaluation and Quality Control cell as
part of a R.E.M.E. project known as ASCOT RAIN (ADP
in Support of COntrol
of TRAINing). The equipment
was provided to enable the College to implement a system of Computer Managed
Learning during the project. Not unnaturally the computer was received with
mixed feelings but, in the following year at the summer Passing-Out Parade,
the Commandant, in his address to parents, was able to say with reference to
the computer: �It has not developed into a �Big Brother� as some people
feared but rather a �Man Friday� that has helped in the decision-making
process, while in no way affecting the individuality of the apprentice. The
new T.E.C. programmes for Aircraft and Electronic Apprentices was the
culmination of an intensive period of preparation and negotiation, and
provided Diploma and Certificate courses for technician apprentices as
replacements for the Ordinary National and City and Guilds courses
respectively.

 

In
October 1979, Colonel J.D.C. Peacock, M.A., F.R.G.S., assumed command of the
College. The period from then until July 1981 was, perhaps, the most
significant in the history of the College to date. In addition to numerous
far-reaching developments in the training of apprentices, the long awaited
move to the new buildings and re-designation as Princess Marina
College
took place.
Developments in T.E.C. came in September 1979 with the introduction of a
seven-term T.E.C. Certificate Course for selected vehicle apprentices. An
important aspect of this was to provide an additional source of potential
candidates for the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham
(near Swindon, Wiltshire) through a
commission in R.E.M.E.

 

In
February 1980 the College ran an inaugural two-day leadership assessment
cadre for senior apprentices, based on well-tried principles and practices used
at the Regular Commissions Board and the Artificer Selection Board. It was
highly a successful period of experimental learning both for the apprentices
and staff concerned, and heralded the start of formal developmental training
in the art of leadership for all apprentices. From February to October 1980,
a one-week introductory leadership cadre was introduced for all technician
apprentices in the fourth term, and for all Vehicle
Mechanic apprentices in their third term. In the training of craft apprentices,
the College took over the examination of C.G.L.I. Part 2 for Vehicle
Mechanics from the School
of Electrical
and
Mechanical Engineering in April 1980. The autumn term forecast a chilly
climate to come as the Defence cuts took their toll of finances. The
mainstream of training within the College had been protected but cutting back
on the other activities seemed inevitable. The increase in apprentice
subscriptions to P.R.I. (President of the Regimental Institute) and
heavy inroads into this fund alleviated the situation, even if only
temporarily. For long-term benefit, however, the Commandant decided to set up
the College Trust Fund.

 

The target was, and remained until 1991, the raising of
�50,000 by appeal to our Old Boys� Association, to Service Institutions, to
other grant-making trusts, to commerce and industry, and last but not least
to parents of the apprentices themselves; the apprentices being the direct
beneficiaries. The investment income from such a fund should be sufficient to
double the amount which apprentices already contribute and this hopefully
will be sufficient for our purposes for the foreseeable future.

 

In
early 1981 a working party was set up to consider the future training of
apprentices up to T.E.C. Diploma standard, the result of which was the
phasing-out of the seven-term Advanced Diploma course and the eight-term
Diploma course and their replacement by a single seven-term Diploma course.
The first of the new Diploma courses started in September 1981. That same
intake also saw the re-introduction of Weapons apprentices the training of
whom had been moved to Carlisle in 1960 but not returned to Arborfield when Carlisle closed in 1969.

 

Potential
Armourers and Gun Fitters now follow a six-term apprenticeship based on
C.G.L.I. 200/205, at the end of which they undertake continuation training at
the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
for a period of approximately 12 weeks.

 

A significant consequence of the introduction of the
T.E.C. courses at the College, and indeed throughout further education
generally, has been the need for a dramatic increase in student assessment
and administration. The answer for the College lay with the computer and
additional funds were provided by the Army Committee for Instructional
Technology to enable the system to be enhanced so that it could cope with the
additional work. The required enhancements to both hardware and software were
completed in September 1980, and not only gave the necessary power to handle
T.E.C. matters, but also provided additional facilities, including the
ability to generate examination papers from computerized question banks. The
computer system, known as S.P.E.C. (Student Performance Evaluation by
Computer), aroused considerable interest throughout the three Services and in
many civilian technical training establishments.

 

Thus
ended another chapter of College history and a new one was about to begin.
Obviously over a period of forty-odd years a lot of material has been lost,
hopefully not for ever, as we depend on past members of the College to
correct.

 

 

THE NEW COLLEGE

 

After
many months of delay, and the many hours spent in deliberation over plans and
preparation by the members of the College New Build Co-ordination Committee
from 1975-1981 the new College had at last taken shape adjacent to the School of Electronic Engineering. Captain
(Retired) Ron Sherriff, the Project Officer and Secretary, is worthy of
mention for his sterling work on that committee. The move began in March 1981
with Electronics Wing being the first occupants of the multi-million pound
complex. The formal change of College title took place on 1st June 1981 to Princess marina College,
named after the late Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, the
first Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps.

 

The
new-build project obviously took time to plan and prepare before a brick was
laid, and during this period a few changes took place, namely the raising of
the school leaving age; the Army apprenticeship was shortened from three to
two years and the new Weapons apprenticeship had not even been envisaged. The
equipment on which the apprentices trained was undergoing change and there
comes a time in any project when the specifications cannot be altered any
more. So it was not surprising to find the new College to be less than a
perfect fit.

 

The
final move of the main College was completed in early July 1981 and Monday 13th
July was the first day on which the College was fully operational in
its new location. (Aircraft Wing remained in Bailleul
Barracks and finally moved in September 1985). The change of location was a
considerable achievement; over one thousand people and the equipment of such
a complex institution moved in a fortnight with little outside assistance.
There will always be the memory of those apprentices who helped move the
library of some ten thousand books in what seemed almost as many boxes, which
weighed far more than they had any reasonable right to weight!

 

During
the summer leave period the College band embarked on a tour of the U.S.A.
traveling 12,000 miles through nine states in what
turned out to be a highly successful venture. In Europe a party were climbing
on the �Jungfrau� (Switzerland)
and were paramount in saving the life of an Austrian climber who had fallen
and was injured. Sergeant Challinor A.P.T.C. (Army
Physical Training Corps)
, Apprentice Corporal Spencer and A/T Willis were
recognized by the award of the G.O.C.�s
commendation for their conduct during the incident. A further example of the
best traditions of the College.

 

Certainly
1982 started well when Mrs. Peggy McMaster W.R.V.S. was made a Member of the
Order of the British Empire in the New Year
Honours List. She was more affectionately known to the apprentices as �Mrs
Mac�.

 

In the
shadow of the Falkland Islands war, H.R.H.
The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps,
officially opened the new buildings on Thursday 15th April 1982 and
unveiled a commemorative plaque in the main entrance hall of the College. The
Band set off once again on a tour to B.A.O.R. and performed to their usual
high standard.

 

The Falkland Islands war inevitably involved members of
R.E.M.E. and as far as we could establish at least 37 ex-apprentices served
there, mostly with the Royal Marines. Thankfully, none lost their lives but ex-apprentice
Andrew Owen was severely burned on H.M.S. Sir Galahad whilst serving with the
L.A.D. (Light Aid Detachment) of the Welsh Guards.

 

The
College wished �Charlie� the resident barber a happy retirement after nearly
30 years service with R.E.M.E.

 

On
Wednesday 20th October (1982) the College
entertained The Worshipful Company of Turners.

 

The
beginning of 1983 witnessed a change of command when Colonel S.J. Roberts
B.Sc.(Eng.), C.Eng., F.I.Mech.E., F.I.E.E., F.B.I.M. became the 15th
Commandant.

 

The
winter term of 1983 was significant for its changes; the reorganization of
the training programmes as a result of the Home Defence requirement for
trained soldiers in the Composite General Reserve (C.G.R.) Companies; the
arrival of the �One Year Apprentice� on the closure of R.E.M.E. Company at
the R.A.O.C. Apprentices College, Deepcut (near
Farnborough)
and the seven term apprenticeship reduced to six terms. Her
Majesty�s Inspectors from the Department of education and Science visited the
College for five days, an event which happens approximately every four years,
and their report was more than satisfactory.

 

Mr.
J.A. Wedgwood, Chairman of the Southern Electricity Board presented a cup to
the College, to be awarded to the best Electronics Technician, and the first
recipient was Apprentice L/Corporal K. Milner of �C� Company on 16th
December (1983). Three apprentices passed out from R.M.A. Sandhurst,
R.J. Mitchell who won the coveted Sword of Honour, A.T. Powell, who received
the Anson Memorial Prize and P. Martin.

 

Despite
the unemployment situation in the country, recruitment was very low and
falling rapidly. The College population in the summer term 1984 was at its
lowest point in the 45 years of its history (493). However, some aggressive
advertising and presentations at schools and careers conventions resulted in
an upsurge in enquiries and firm acceptances for the future terms.

 

On the
architectural side, the College was being enhanced by the erection of the
main entrance of the supporting pillars for the College gates. The original
1939 gates were found at the rear entrance to the WOs
and Sergeants� Mess, in the old College and these were repositioned at their
original site. The existing gates, which were inherited on the closure of Carlisle Apprentice College,
were now going to be hung at the new entrance and wicket gates added by Mr. Sadd. The entrance gates have become part of the history
of the College, for all apprentices have passed through them on entry and
again when they left on completion of training. The Arborfield Old Boys�
Association adopted them as its symbol. The gates were officially opened by
Major General T.B. Palmer C.B., D.G.E.M.E., in August 1984. But the year
ended on a sad note At approximately 0400 hours on 27th December 1984 the
gates were demolished when a car overshot the junction of Biggs Road and Princess Marina Drive. They were
repaired and re-hung later.

 

After that incident we began 1985 on a happy note with
the selection of Brigadier G.B. Berragan (late
R.A.O.C.) to be the Director General of Ordnance Services, Logistic Executive
(Army) in the rank of Major General in October 1985. An ex-apprentice of
entry 48C, he joined ranks with major General (Retired) Baldwin
(42A) (late Royal Signals) as our illustrious two-star Old Boys.

 

In
February, a service of dedication was held in Saint Eligius
Church, Arborfield, when a new Lectern Bible was presented by the parents
of Kieth Baker. He was an ex-apprentice (78C) who
was due to join R.M.A. Sandhurst but was tragically killed in a climbing
accident.

 

As
mentioned previously, it was intended to re-erect the Bell Tower
and this came to fruition in February 1985. After various meetings and
attempts to raise funds for the project, it was decided to completely rebuild
the tower as an identical replica of the Old Tower.
The woodwork was completed to a standard of workmanship which was a great
credit to the staff of our sister College at Chepstow, and the metalwork was
superbly copied by Messrs. Horton, Hunt and Spreadborough
of our own A & G Wing. The footings were dug by a combined effort of �J�
and �A� Companies and final placement was made with the assistance of 1
Training Regiment Royal Engineers at Hawley. The bell rang again before the
College and Garrison Church service on Easter Sunday after an absence of four
years. Past members of the band in the �forties will no doubt be pleased to
know that one of the Maces, which was found in a very poor state, has been
restored through the generosity of Potters (the original presenters) and
Colonel Sam Roberts. The Mace is now kept in the Commandant�s office and is
only removed for use on Passing-Out Parades.

 

May
1985 heralded the addition of the R.A.M.C./R.A.D.C. (Royal
Army Medical Corps/Royal Army Dental Corps)
Junior Leaders from Mychett, on its closure. So history repeats itself. There
are, once again, three different cap badges worn by apprentices as there were
in 1939.

 

Once
again it was departure/arrival times for the Commandant. Colonel Sam Roberts
was handing over command to Colonel M. Soar B.Sc.(Eng),
M.I.Mfg.E., M.B.I.M., on the 16th September 1985.
Like so many Commandants before him, Colonel Roberts experienced change
during his tenure. He achieved almost all the aims he had set himself in
1983; will be remembered for his �open door system� and his drive to increase
the strength of the College from 400 to 750 in two years.

 

The summer leave, for some, was extended to enable the
College to take part in Exercise BRAVE DEFENDER, which was thoroughly enjoyed
by all concerned.

 

The
death of Captain (Retired) Walker
occurred in June 1986. He had been a member of the Education Wing staff
from 1968 to 1986; 4 years as a serving officer in the R.A.E.C. and the remainder
as a civilian lecturer. He will be particularly remembered by past Aircraft
Apprentices for the interest he took in their careers whilst at the
College.

 

Colonel
Soar�s time was a comparatively quiet one as far as change was concerned. The
last intake for the R.E.M.E. �One Year Apprentice� was in May 1988. The
College became the center of interest for all sorts
of study groups as a result of the imminent Defence Cuts and finally Exercise
BONNIE DUNDEE saw the College take up its role in the large U.K. exercise in Home Defence.

 

The
latter part of 1988 witnessed a change in command to Colonel P.H. Kay O.B.E.,
B.Sc.(Eng), C.Eng., F.I.Mech.E.,
F.I.E.E., and looked forward to 1989 the Golden Jubilee Year.

 

In
1989, the Worshipful Company of Turners decided to make the following annual
award to the College. The Company�s Silver Medal, together with a monetary
award and Certificate to the apprentice who achieves the highest standard of
craft skills during his training. The first recipient of this prestigious
award was Apprentice Armourer Timothy Leak in February 1989. The Commandant
also received the Kitster Trophy awarded by the
Livery Company.

 

1989
saw the start of the 50th year of the establishment of the
College, its Golden Jubilee. Whilst the College undertook its normal routine
and everything to the outside world was peace and calm, underneath a great
deal of activity was taking place. Committees were organizing the Golden
Jubilee celebrations. The first of these was Golden Jubilee Passing-Out Parade.
The Parade took place on the
21st April 1989
. The reviewing officer was Major
General A.S.J. Blacker C.B.E., the Representative Colonel Commandant R.E.M.E.
Incorporated into the normal Passing-out Parade were a contingent of �Old
Boys�. Included in their number were some from the original intake of 1939.
Amongst these Old Boys was Keith Evans who joined in 1945 as an Instrument
Mechanic and now works in the College as a Mathematics lecturer. Peter Spargo was also on parade having originally joined the College
on 4th May 1939.
Peter is a staunch member of the Old Boys� Association and meets all his old
friends at the annual reunion.

 

The
College commissioned a painting by the artist David Rowlands
to commemorate the Golden Jubilee. The center of
this painting depicted the Passing-out Parade and around the periphery, it
contained scenes of College life over the years. The original now hangs in
the College foyer but many members of the College both past and present
purchased limited edition signed prints.

 

A special
event took place during the year when Colonel (Retired) John Peacock, who was
the College Commandant from October 1979 to January 1983
returned on a visit to present a sword to the Apprentice Drum Major. This
sword, which normally hangs in the Commandant�s office with the Mace, is worn
by him on all ceremonial parades.

 

As usual, the Old Boys� Association had their annual
reunion in October 1989. The programme of events over that weekend followed
the normal format. The Saturday morning parade was reviewed by D.G.E.M.E.,
Major General Shaw. In the evening, however, instead of the normal stag
dinner, a dance was held in the College Gymnasium. This was much enjoyed by
the wives of the Old Boys and everyone agreed that it was a great success.

 

On 20th November 1989
we were honoured by a visit from H.R.H. Princess Alexandra. She spent the
afternoon meeting staff and apprentices at their place of work. During her
tour HRH named the College Hall �Princess Alexandra Hall�.

 

 

THE 1990s

 

1990
will be remembered by the College staff as the year in which they prepared
the College, and themselves, for contractorisation.
The College, of course, was not to be sold-off but the Ministry of Defence
had decided, as a trial, to replace Burnham Lecturers, Instructional Officers
and Military Instructors with contract personnel. Naturally enough, there was
concern for jobs and the possibility, however remote, of redundancy. The
Chief Instructor and the Senior Education Officer were totally involved in
writing the Statement of Requirement.

 

On 2nd August 1990
Iraq invaded Kuwait
and, as did the rest of the world, the College watched fascinated. The first
R.E.M.E. soldiers deployed to the Gulf in September 1990 and by the start of
the Land War in February 1991, 3,700 R.E.M.E officers and tradesmen were
deployed. An accurate figure for the number of ex-apprentices who took part
in the war is not available. It is estimated, however, that Old Boys, in rank
from Craftsmen to Major spent some time in the Theatre. Although British and R.E.M.E.
casualties were very light, two R.E.M.E. NCOs lost their lives. Neither were
ex-apprentices. The full story of the Corps� activities during the Gulf War
is to appear in the second volume of �Craftsmen of the Army�, to be published
shortly.

 

Late in
1990, the contract to provide teaching staff was won by SERCO; a company well
known to the Ministry of Defence in other fields. The company was well placed
to understand the needs of the College having a number of retired Army
officers (one late R.E.M.E.) on its board of directors. The contract was to
commence on 25th
March 1991
(for 3 years) and the period prior to that date was
filled with staff selection and detailed planning. This change inevitably saw
the loss of the majority of the R.E.M.E. staff from the College. The SERCO
contract manager in Arborfield was to be an ex-R.E.M.E. officer (although
not, unfortunately, an ex-apprentice) while the senior member of contract
staff in the College itself was to be a retired R.E. officer who had served
as a Company Commander at Chepstow. As this is written, the contract has been
running for exactly a year and has proved to be a great success so far. There
have been some teething problems as apprentices get used to being taught by
contractor personnel, some of whom have little knowledge of the Army, but
generally things have gone very well indeed.

 

Once
he had seen the start of the contract Colonel Kay decided to hang up his
boots and retire from the Army. He had been given the difficult task of
steering the College through a period of great change � a task that he had
carried out with great success and an abundance of enthusiasm. In May 1991 he
was relieved by Colonel P.H. Gibson B.Sc.(Eng),
C.Eng., M.I.E.E. who came to the College hot-foot from the Gulf War where he
had been Commander Maintenance. The College was not to be allowed a period of
quiet and consolidation however. �Options for Change� was with us and the
Ministry of Defence was studying the whole future of apprentice training in
the Army. The study continued throughout the second half of 1991 and, at one
time, it was rumoured that the College might close. During the Old Boys�
Association annual reunion, held as usual in October, the Commandant briefed
those attending on the options for the College and explained to them his
hopes for the future. He mentioned that, should the College survive, the
arrival of the first female apprentice was only a matter of time. In December
1990, the Executive Committee of the Army Board (E.C.A.B.) met to decide the
fate of all the Army Apprentice Colleges. E.C.A.B. sent two recommendations
to the Secretary of State for Defence. The first, that apprentice training
should reduce to a single year, has been accepted and the new course will
commence in September 1992. Under the new scheme, the College will undertake
basic military and technical training with the final months of the
apprenticeship (until C & G and B.T.E.C qualifications) taking place at
the adult training schools (S.E.M.E., S.E.E., and S.A.E.). The second recommendation
concerning the long-term fate of Chepstow, Harrogate and Arborfield, is still to be
considered. The omens for Arborfield, at least, look good.

 


 

 

 

 

July 20, 2018

Tags: , , , ,