It was the proudest day of their lives for 200 Officer Cadets as they marched onto the parade square in front of that most majestic of Army buildings, The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst’s Old College, the latest cohort of future leaders to commission from the spiritual home of the officer corps of the British Army.
This was the Sovereign’s Parade, the day in which an Officer Cadet becomes a British Army Commissioned Officer, or for those from overseas, the armies of their native countries. It remains one of the most prestigious dates in the Academy’s calendar that marks the culmination of 44 weeks of intensive training, nurturing and education that produces that very benchmark of leadership – a British Army Officer.
For the first time in nearly two years the parade had its full complement of Officer Cadets as this was the first Sovereign’s Parade since the pandemic struck to have all three Divisions: Junior, Intermediate and Senior taking part; in all some 600 men and women.
For over two centuries The Royal Military Academy’s officer training evolved and remoulded itself several times to meet the changing needs of the Army, but it was just after the Second World War that all officer training was eventually centred at the present site to become known as the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). The inaugural commissioning parade of the then ‘new’ RMAS was held in the presence of His Majesty King George VI who decreed that henceforth it was to be known as The Sovereign’s Parade.
“I’m having butterflies right now, it’s pretty unbelievable to think I’m about to march on to the Sovereign’s Parade. I have some of my cousins here and Mum will be watching the live-feed of the parade back home in Fiji.” Officer Cadet Silatolu
Since that day the Academy’s Commissioning Parade has always had either the Sovereign or their representative as the inspecting officer: other heads of state, senior military figures and politicians have all ascended the dais in front of the assembled parade, the last inspecting officer being Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
This time it was Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal who was escorted throughout by the Academy’s Commandant, Major General Duncan Capps CBE. It is the sixth time that HRH Princess Anne has fulfilled this role. Her Royal Highness inspected the ranks of the Senior Division stopping to chat with several of the Officer Cadets. The Band of The Scots Guards provided the accompanying programme of music and were joined by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Pipes and Drums who performed a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace during HRH’s parade inspection..
Renowned world-wide as an international centre of excellence for leadership training, the Academy has welcomed cadets from across the globe. Of the 200 cadets commissioning 35 had been sent from 26 different countries including: Armenia, Ethiopia, Morocco, Montenegro, Iraq and Uruguay. Among those international cadets on parade was Officer Cadet Roko Bua Wainise Silatolu, who will return to her homeland of Fiji as the first female from her country to have attended Sandhurst in over 21 years. Shortly before the parade Roko said, “I’m having butterflies right now, it’s pretty unbelievable to think I’m about to march on to the Sovereign’s Parade. I have some of my cousins here and Mum will be watching the live-feed of the parade back home in Fiji.” Roko will return to the Fijian Army’s Engineer Corps.
"The training here at Sandhurst embodies all that is best about our nation and its Army." HRH The Princess Royal
Her Royal Highness paid tribute to the Officer Cadets in her speech saying “I took my first parade here back in 1973 and I have always enjoyed returning here and over that time I have developed a real respect for the dedication and professionalism of the directing staff. All of you commissioning here today will have made friends for life and will be able to rely on them as well as your families for advice and comradeship. The training here at Sandhurst embodies all that is best about our nation and its Army.
HRH The Princess Royal then had the pleasure of presenting the four major awards: the highly coveted Sword of Honour went to Senior Under Officer William Key who is to commission into The Parachute Regiment, it is awarded to the Cadet who is considered by the Commandant to be the best of their intake. The international Sword was presented to Officer Cadet Pavlo Lacy from Ukraine who was considered by the Commandant to be the best international cadet of the intake. The Queen’s medal, for the best overall results in military, academic and practical studies went to Officer Cadet Junior Under Officer Max George. The International Award, for the international cadet that has achieved the best overall results in military and practical studies went to Officer Cadet Moges from the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
The parade drew to its emotional close with the time-honoured tradition of the commissioning cadets proudly marching up the steps and through the great doors of Old College to the tune of Auld Lang Syne and then an eery quiet descended save for the clattering of hooves as the Academy Adjutant, Major Chris Davies of the Welsh Guards rode up the steps and through those same doors on Falkland his mount.
However, it won’t be for a few more hours that the cadets can officially call themselves Commissioned Officers. That happens at the stroke of midnight when they can display their rank insignia and will have finally earned the right to call themselves British Army Officers.