Up until the end of the Eighteenth Century there was only formal training for British Army Artillery and Engineer officers, leaving the majority as, at best, ‘gifted amateurs’. In 1799 Colonel John Le Marchant, all too aware of the disparity between his young officers and the French they were fighting, proposed a military academy for cavalry and infantry officers. This was accepted by the War Office and the first group of Gentleman Cadets moved into a public house in Marlow, in 1802, to commence their training.
The Sandhurst estate was selected as the permanent site for the new training school and between 1801 and 1812 Old College was constructed. Sadly, LeMarchant was killed in action a few weeks before the college was completed. The first Sandhurst graduates were commissioned in time to take part in the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Gentleman Cadet training continued throughout the nineteenth century and soon many of the original buildings became too small, resulting in the construction of the Royal Memorial Chapel in 1879, and the gymnasium in 1911.
At the end of the nineteenth century the army expanded resulting in a requirement for many more officers. New College was completed between 1901 and 1911. It took 3.5 million bricks to build the college, which once boasted the longest continuous corridor of any building in Europe.
Courses continued to be run at Sandhurst throughout both World Wars with training cut to just a few weeks. Sandhurst was bombed in 1941 and five cadets killed when New College was hit.
In the late 1950s two smaller cadet training establishments were closed and all officer training moved to Sandhurst, resulting in a third college, Victory Building being constructed 1965-70. The flat-roofed concrete building is considered a monstrosity by some but was the only RMAS structure to win a design award!
Women have trained at RMAS fulltime since 1984, having previously attened the WRAC College, Camberley. Today the training is completely mixed with the first female officer cadet going to a frontline unit, The Royal Tank Regiment, in April 2017.
Now all officers, Regulars, Reservists, Professionally Qualified (Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers etc) and senior soldiers commissioned from the ranks train at Sandhurst. The list of Sandhurst alumni is not confined to famous generals. Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Oscar winning actor David Niven, Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, Singer James Blunt, Astronaut Tim Peake, England rugby captain Will Carling and Blue Peter presenter Christopher Trace were all once RMAS Cadets.
Although the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is a closed establishment, hundreds of visitors are welcomed each year on historical tours organised by the Sandhurst Trust.
Tours cover the main prestige rooms of Old College, including the Indian Army Memorial Room, Wellington Room, History Room and the Old College Grand Entrance. Also included are the two chapels on site - The Royal Memorial Chapel and Roman Catholic Chapel.
Tours can now include a visit to the new Queen Elizabeth II statue that was installed in 2022 to commemorate Her Majesty the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.