British Army Officer Training

Discussion in 'General' started by jtr, Dec 15, 2019.

  1. jtr

    jtr Member

    I'm looking for references that provide as detailed a history of the training of British Army officers during the course of the Second World War as I can get. I've tried searching on the internet and read half a dozen books, but the best I can get is about a paragraph, which is insufficient for my purposes.

    I'd like to know the various steps in training an officer coming into the war in about 1941-42 direct from university, the exact training involved and then his posting to his unit, most likely an intelligence unit as a translator (he speaks good German).

    I am familiar with the laws on the exemptions from conscription for students but I'm not sure how these worked in practise. So any references to that would also be helpful.

    I know that changes took place during the war in the way officers for trained and I'm looking for details and dates of those changes.

    I biography or autobiography of an officer in a similar situation would be excellent too, provided it was detailed enough.

    Many thanks.
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  3. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Get hold of the biography of the Adjutant General called Adams. It explains his battle to get the War Office Selection Board established.


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  4. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    Congratulations on making your second post after such a long gap.

    You’ll find a lot of information if you google the terms “OCTU” or “Pre OCTU” as well using the same terms in the forum search engine. IIRC the late Forum member Joe Brown posted some of his OCTU recollections.

    Good Luck



    Googling “Sandhurst WW2” turns up various hits including -

    BBC - WW2 People's War - The Sandhurst Experience: Prior to Joining 141st Regiment RAC(The Buffs)

    The subject mentions details about the 18 week OCTU course at Sandhurst.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
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  5. jtr

    jtr Member

  6. jtr

    jtr Member

    Many thanks. I had read that Sandhurst and Woolwich had been closed for the duration, though the ran OCTUs at Sandhurst.
  7. Richard Fisher

    Richard Fisher Machine Gunner

    Whilst I don't have generic Army-wide information, I do have some information (and still growing) on the OCTUs that providing officers to the machine gun battalions of the Second World War. I will also be adding a few others over time but they will all have some connection to the Vickers MG.

    Officer Cadet Training Units
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  8. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Correct. No permanent commissions were awarded during the war - all were 'emergency' ie for the duration. Sandhurst closed and became Sandhurst OCTU which initially had two wings one for RAC and one for infantry (although there were several changes in the course of the war). The RMA became an infantry OCTU. All senior cadets already in training at the time were enlisted in the TA and then sent to an appropriate OCTU (so some may not have moved physically) Officer selection processes changed in April 1942 when a series of short interviews were replaced with three day selection boards which as well as interviews included various tests and 'initiative' exercises. This worked so well it was retained post war
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  9. jtr

    jtr Member

    Excellent. Thank you.

    Under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 students were exempted from conscription. Did this include university undergraduates? Even those studying subjects that were of little or no military use, such as Classics? How long did these exemptions last? So if your course finished in 1941 or 1942 could you still be exempt up until then?

    What would happen then? You would finish your degree, sit your exams and then be conscripted? Or could you volunteer to be an officer, before your conscription notice arrived? Then you’d do an interview (before April 1942) and then be sent direct to an OCTU. Was there an OCTU for the Intelligence Corps?

    Do you know how long the Intelligence OCTU lasted (Infantry lasted 17 weeks & RE OCTU was 30 weeks long)?

    Could you join the TA while at university, either before the war started or afterwards, and become an officer candidate that way? Could you receive your officer training while doing your undergraduate course and then once you’ve graduated become an officer?

    Prior to the 1942 changes, I have read that soldiers (and perhaps officers) could be units and corps that made no use of their existing expertises. So recruits who could speak German or French could be sent to the RASC or another rear echelon units, people who spoke Italian could be sent to the Far East or find themselves in Norway. Just how bad could this get?

    Many thanks for your help!
  10. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Student in them days meant undegrad and yes even if you were reading comparative religion (after all you could still be a padre) and it wasn't an exemption - merely a deferment. This lasted until National Service ended in the 60s and was somewhat of a motivation to pass A levels.

    As far as the Army were concerned officer capabilities came first and technical expertise a long way second.
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