Academy Sergeant Major J.C Lord M.,V.O., M.B.E.
My first day at the Academy included the order for ALL Junior Cadet to report for the Academy Parade at 07:30 Hours. That was nearly 60 years ago, so please excuse me if my memory is hazy about some of the detail. However, my recollection of that parade and other events that followed is clear, especially about one man whose memory for me will never fade.
By Martin Ough Dealy
We Juniors had been marched onto the parade ground in front of Old College by companies. Company Sergeant Major V.C. King, Grenadier Guards had marched the 20 or so Junior Cadets of Waterloo Company smartly onto the ground to take up our position on the right of the four old College companies where we were ordered to "Stand at Ease" whilst the other juniors were in turn marched onto the parade ground. It was a damp autumn morning with the hint of the cold winter to come. But we 240 odd members of "Intake 12" of the Academy were not allowed to contemplate that moment for very long. We were assembled as twelve companies in three long straight ranks stretching across the parade ground, looking towards Queen Victoria’s statue with our backs to the Old College.
The silence of enforced anticipation was finally broken by the sound of a single pair of marching boots crunching the gravel of the parade ground. This was followed by the noise of stamping as the owner halted with extreme military precision. I could not see what was happening as any movement of my eyes from looking straight ahead would bring the wrath of the platoon sergeant down on me.
But there was no mistaking the next order. It came from the direction of the Queen’s statue; it was not the usual bellow that I had come to expect of sergeants and kindred Army tyrants. Rather it was delivered in a slightly high nasal tone that nonetheless penetrated to every corner of the parade and brooked no nonsense. It brought us all sharply to "Attention" a position wherein we were trained to stand still, with eyes" front", every limb straight, back erect and a facial expression that, whilst not quite vacant, was set to impress the sergeants that the wearer was waiting for the next order with keen interest and willingness to comply. In other words we were all"attention".
Every cadet that passed through his hands is unlikely to forget what the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Academy said next. "Gentlemen, I am J.C Lord. J.C. does not stand for Jesus Christ; He is Lord up there (pointing with his pace stick to the sky). But make no mistake, I am lord down here" .
He certainly made every individual cadet feel that he was being spoken to personally.he then shouted " I will address you as "Sir".....(we were after all gentlemen cadets) "But I won’t mean it" he continued. "You too will address me as "Sir" but make sure you mean it!"
After a pause pregnant with uncertainty, he yelled "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" Our response was immediate "Yes SIR!". He then ordered us to "Stand at Ease" for some further words of wisdom. These were short and to the point. He mentioned things like " we were privileged and owed it to ourselves and the Army to succeed, but that it would be very hard to survive the next 18 months; that the Academy motto "Serve to Lead" was to be our guiding light and aim; that our first duty was to serve " The Queen and Country";that if we managed to graduate we might then have the privilege of command, and that our prime duty was to be always for the welfare of our men first ourselves last.
Although I did not realize it then on that first encounter, I have since come to know that I was honoured to be a cadet under him. Throughout the next gruelling three terms he set a standard and example of behaviour, moral code and discipline that was second to none. Anything less than these standards "simply would not be good enough".
There are so many examples of how the ASM influenced me during my time at Sandhurst that it is impossible to describe them all. The following will serve to give you an idea of just what sort of a man he was.
June 1953 started with the noise of alarms and bugled wakeup calls. It was only 3:30 and there was just a hint of the coming dawn. Today was the culmination of weeks of preparation for those of us selected for duty at the Coronation.
We had practiced endlessly the drills for marching to our street lining duty, then standing for hours whilst the simulated processions passed by, then presenting arms for the Royal Salute, then marching home again at the end. All our rehearsing had been done until that day on the RMAS parade grounds under the watchful eyes of Academy SM Lord, three College RSMs and various CSMs and platoon drill sergeants. They had certainly worked us hard to prepare well for the day. The weather had been the usual mixture of sunny days, rainy days and misty days usual for late spring in England. So we had become used to tolerating the demands of drilling for hours in all sorts of conditions. For the most part we were required to stand still either at ease or at attention in the traditional image of a guardsman on public duty. Any order that required us to move came as a welcome respite from the tedium of the strained immobility of street lining duty. However, such orders were purposefully infrequent. So the strain of remaining still was immense and woes betide any cadet who succumbed to the fatigue.
But there is no doubt that the tedious practice drills and parades stood us in good stead on the day.
Finally, dressed in Number 1 uniforms, carrying rifles and accoutrements that shone with polished brass and woodwork, and wearing boots with surfaces like bright unblemished obsidian glass we paraded by companies in the early dawn in front of Old College. We then marched the three miles to the Camberley rail way station.
We detrained at Vauxhall and reassembled by Companies, we then marched to our allocated sections. Our Company position was just outside the main entrance to Westminster Abbey. We reached it at about 7 am. I remember being very conscious of the fact that we were now marching down streets already lined by crowds even at that early hour. We were very much in the public eye. We could not let the Academy down by sloppy drill or slackness of any kind. Every man jack of us strived to the utmost. There is no doubt that the feeling of pride and need to do one’s best had been instilled largely by the training we had received under ASM J.C. Lord and his staff.
Arriving outside Westminster Abbey we were detailed to our individual post set approximately one yard apart in a long line stretching down the street in front of the already gathered crowds. By then the there was drizzle in the blustery air, a fore taste of what was to come.
A description in detail of the rest of that day is for another time and place. Suffice to say that it was unique for its expressions of joy, seemingly universal inclusion, the euphoria of a country at peace, and celebration.
The weather certainly turned out to be a challenge. At times the rain simply poured down. By the end of that otherwise wonderful day our soaked contingent marched back to entrain at Vauxhall station for the journey back to Camberley. It must have been quite late in the day when we arrived to detrain and form up again as companies outside the station. We were by then pretty weary, hungry and somewhat "bolshie". I must say I was not looking forward to marching in squelching boots back through the crowds that had lined up anticipating a smart march past along Camberley’s main street.
RSM Lord’s familiar voice quickly pulled us together. In no uncertain terms we were brought to heel and set off to march"smartly" back. I forget all the words he used, but they undoubtedly served to straighten our backs and put pride back into our sagging spirits.
We set off through the cheering crowd as well as we knew how. We were enjoined to "pick up our feet and march". Quite where I was to take my feet I was not sure, but there was no mistaking what the RSM required of us........we could not let the side down nor ourselves, let alone the Academy. I like to think that we did him proud on that most memorable of days.
There were on average about 750 cadets at any one time going through the three term course. Apart from the insignia worn by cadets in their senior term most of us were pretty well anonymous in uniform. At any rate for much of the time we tried to escape the eagle eyes of the NCOs since coming to their notice more often than not meant that our name "was taken". Inevitably we suffered some retribution that ranged from doubling to Queen Victoria’s statue weighed down by our parade ground gear to being placed under close arrest and marched off to face a more serious retribution for seemingly trivial misdemeanours. To remain anonymous was a particularly valuable key to survival especially during the junior term.
But there was no escaping the eagle eye and formidable memory of the RSM. He knew everyone by name and was never known to make a mistake. He had the reputation of spotting from a range of 10 yards some tiny mistake, like a partially dirty brass button. Orders were quickly barked to the drill sergeant following in the Lord’s footsteps to " take Cadet Ough’s name for being on parade in an idle uniform". Upon which the Sergeant would take my name (where to I was not sure). I’d appear later that same day or at the latest the next in front of my company Senior Under Officer and be given extra drills or something similar, thereby exposing myself to further opportunities for having my name taken. It was a daunting prospect but good for discipline and motivation to do better; and to remain anonymous at least at the beginning.
Mind you, Army jargon and drill orders needed understanding. To begin with I was somewhat at sea when ordered to "Prepare to Mount" , and "Mount" or "Sit to Attention" or "Lie to Attention". Phrases like "Hard lying allowance", "Jankers" , "Idle boots", or "manky shirt" all needed to be understood. I have been accused of "having idle studs on my person" and of being "an idle man". Another early mystery was the order to "fall in"...I’d think this requirement to be fair enough if there was something like a swimming pool to fall into, but on the hard parade ground not so!
But somehow when these phrases were used by the RSM there was no mistaking them. "Prepare to mount" and "mount" was part of bicycle drill, nothing to do with sexual activities. "Sit to Attention" was the order when a senior person entered a class room wherein the only parts of one’s anatomy that were allowed not to be straight were the legs and even these had to be bent to form an accurate right angle to satisfy the RSM. Being an "idle man" was an accusation of generally not meeting the standard, whilst "idle stud" referred specifically to the item that had aroused his lordship’s ire, nothing to do with a prize horse that was not quite up to his duties. In my case he had apparently spotted that one stud of the 13 per boot was missing, as I marched passed him...... believe that if you will. But it is true! .....
What can one say about a man who had so much influence on my early development? He started in the Grenadier Guards, then after three years became a policeman in Brighton, then rejoined the Grenadiers in 1939. He served with them until he qualified as a parachutist and became the RSM of the Parachute Regiment in 1941. He served with them through North Africa, Sicily and Italy until 1944.
In September 1944 he was dropped with the rest of his Battalion on Arnhem. Sadly he was badly wounded and captured along with other survivors of the "bridge too far" battle. He spent the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps, primarily Stalag XIB near Fallingbostel. Here he took charge. By sheer force of personality, self discipline and example he inspired and led the other many inmates of the vast camp.
In April 1945 the liberators found a guard party on duty at the camp entrance, faultlessly turned out and which could have gone on duty outside Buckingham Palace. Then a majestic figure appeared, the RSM himself. Gleaming brass, immaculate webbing, razor edge trouser creases, dazzling boots he greeted the startled officer I/C with a spectacular salute. RSM, Parachutist and Guardsman from top to toe...unbeatable, and unbeaten after months of illness, incarceration and terrible conditions.
Through his efforts he had re introduced pride, discipline and a sense of duty in the camp, many of its inmates having been prisoners for many years. He introduced daily inspections, PT, guard mountings and military routines that restored in great measure the prisoners waning self respect and revived belief in themselves and their cause. There can be no doubt that his influence and efforts saved the health of hundreds and perhaps the lives of some of those unfortunates.
RSM Lord then went on to the Academy and served as ASM for fifteen years. During that time he must have influenced for the better the lives of thousands of cadets who passed through the rigours of Academy training. He did all that whilst suffering from the effects of his wounds that had left him severely affected.
How can I possibly forget RSM Lord?
Copyright M.& M.M. Ough Dealy 2007-2011
This page last modified on Tuesday, October 11, 2011