Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Officer material?

I watched the first episode of the new BBC4 documentary series about the British Army's officer training college at Sandhurst last night. It confirms what you already knew: the officer cadets are almost all posh products of public schools and university. 

Yet the officers in charge of Sandhurst boast of their abilty to mould almost anyone into an officer capable of leading working-class privates into battle.  Those working-class privates as well as the equally proletarian sergeants who knock the Sandhurst cadets into shape are praised by their superiors for their loyalty, toughness, discipline etc. but are clearly not seen as people who could make the grade as an officer themselves.

It's interesting to think about what effect a wider recruitment policy for officers would have on the British Army. I would guess the most egalitarian armies are the Scandinavian and Israeli ones. Even the US Army doesn't seem to replicate class structures in the way the British one does almost exactly.

The Guardian review of the programme made me laugh:

"the moment mummy and daddy's Volvo disappears down the long drive, things change. You are stripped of your clothes, your dignity and your individuality...(you're stripped of your first name too)... 3,500 miles away, in Helmand province, men with beards are writing [your] names on IEDs. Surnames only, obviously."

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