Despite Covid precautions, officer training continues apace at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Berkshire. Working in protective bubbles, Officer Cadets and teaching staff from the War Studies Department adapted the parkland at the Academy's campus to learn about the battle for the beaches of Normandy in 1944.
Exercise Normandy Scholar is a two-day 'reality of war' exercise, undertaken by approximately 200 Officer Cadets in the second term of three at the Academy. It is a central component of the Department of War Studies' curriculum and an opportunity to develop tactical leadership skills, learning from the past to inform the future.
The exercise placed Officer Cadets in the role of junior commanders in the British Army of 1944. Their success in the exercise, and subsequent exam was, in part, dependent on an understanding of the historical context including the weapons systems and tactics of the time.
The exercise took the form of historical case studies following units like 9th Parachute Battalion (9PARA), 5th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment (5 EYORKS) and 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (8 DLI) in Normandy and using the Officer cadets' understanding to solve both tactical and moral problems encountered by their forebears in 1944.
OCdt Eleanor On explained, “It's really useful to look at how things were done in the past and how much they've changed now. In Normandy with 9 PARA they didn't really have Mission Command and comparing that to now, and how important Mission Command is to the current Army, is really quite interesting. It is great to be able to understand what went well and what didn't go well and learn from that so we can use those lessons in our careers.”
Provision of innovative supporting material, including a scale replica model of St Pierre village, 3D models, and a building replica of the infamous Merville Battery was provided. “Having the Battery's guns here and the academic staff walking us through what was going on during the Normandy Landings and what the assault was like has really given us context” explained Officer Cadet Jamie Redfern.
“Also being able to study real historical figures, you get some degree of how it was, one of the soldiers we are looking at was a Lieutenant Colonel at the age of 29, only four years older than me and that just proves how hard it was and what an amazing sense of duty they had.
As it’s so close to Remembrance it lets us really reflect on what we are honouring and how we fit into the bigger picture Officer Cadet Redfern
As it’s so close to Remembrance it lets us really reflect on what we are honouring and how we fit into the bigger picture.” When asked his views on the success of Exercise Normandy Scholar and the impact the pandemic has had on the training Jamie described how they had all been together since May in our Platoon bubble, he added, “we’re really fortunate that we have been able to continue our training, albeit in a different way. It’s a shame we can’t be in Normandy, but the staff here have found some brilliant ways to bring it to life.”
Reflecting on the last few days, Captain Jeff Tibbert, Assistant Chief Instructor at RMAS said, “The exercise had been a huge success. It has permitted Officer Cadets to use a series of methodical military questioning to explore real historical problems. It is a marked step beyond the theoretical problems that the Officer Cadets have studied prior.
The use of historical problems adds a level of complexity. In addition to this the use of real-life ethical, moral and tactical scenarios helps them to develop their emotional intelligence and mental resilience. This has been a fantastic opportunity, well thought-out and superbly delivered.”