Potential Keith(?) Needs Help.

Hello, I've been a lurker on this board for a few weeks as I'm thinking of trying for a commission after I graduate in about 18 months. Unfortunatly my University doesn't have a UOTC and so I wonder if some of the members here could answer a few questions.
I met the ULO in Worcester during the summer and he gave me a basic idea of army life but I can't help feeling that it was rather tinged with the "party line".

Here are my questions:

1] The ULO suggested that I consider the cavalry, however I'm not ex public school, I don't have a private income and I don't like London or red corduroy jeans. I get the impression from this board that these factors may not fit in. Is this the case?

2] Which regiments/corps would be the best to consider applying to, given the above?

3] Can you really make a good living without private means, can you cover your costs? While browsing I stumbled across a military tailors and worked out that it would on average cost at least £2500 for service dress and mess kit plus trimmings, before even thinking about No 1 dress. The ULO mentioned a uniform allowance but I read that this is only about £1500. Which uniforms would I need to buy and can it be covered from pay.

4] Can English officers serve in Scots/Welsh/Irish regiments effectively without nationalistic tensions causing grief?

I may have supplementary questions later but that will do for now. Any help that you can provide would be useful.


For what it's worth, here's a set of entirely 'unauthoritative opinions':

Cavalry. Was your ULO a Cavalry/late Cavalry officer, by any chance? If so, bear in mind that all Regts want to get as many people applying to them as possible, in order to have a larger field from whom to select candidates at the Arms Selection Board. My limited experience suggests that on all four counts you're probably spot on with most cavalry regiments. (Also, you didn't mention if you considered riding, shooting and skiing normal pastimes..)

I went to see the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) recruiting officer at Bovington before I went to Sandhurst, and I seem to recall that certain regiments took candidates from a 'broad social group'. Among these were the RTR, 9th/12th Lancers, and the Light Dragoons. Ultimately, with all regiments selection entails a high degree of 'face fits'. The Cavalry and Guards epitomise this in folklore more than most as they represent an extreme. I suggest that similar concepts apply across the Arms and Services, only the larger Regts and Corps have less opportunity to be quite so selective.

In summary - go to Bovington and have an interview, and if you're interested, sort out a fam visit. This gives you and the Regt a chance to look at each other. If you are suitable, great. If not, better to find out now than wait until you get a rejection letter after the Arms Selection Board, by which time you've wasted one of your two choices. (And if both choices reject you, you'll have to join the RLC! Allegedly.)

Which Regt/Corps? Get on fam visits. ULOs in my experience (a number of friends joined from OTC with me) are loath to put people on too many visits, but since the Regts seem keen, and it's in their interests, I suspect that reluctance on ULO's behalf is because they feel they've done their job by getting you to RCB, and to RMAS. I suggest that being well-informed about Choice of Arm before attending RMAS is almost as important as getting there in the first place.

The least that the Careers Office/ULO should do is give you all the booklets you want on different Regts. Bear in mind that they paint the world in rose-tinted glasses, but they are essentially accurate. (i.e. the AGC(SPS) Officer Recruiting booklet shows a capt with rifle, webbing, helmet and cam cream delivering what appears to be an enthralling set of orders. Get real, how often do you see a Det Comd or RAO leave the office??) If you get no luck there, call the Arm careers line (24 hrs, I think) on 08457 300 111, and get them to send you the booklets. If they will only send a certain number, just tell them that you'll keep phoning back until you have the set... If need be, do just that.

Read www.army.mod.uk, and ARRSE to get an overview of Regts. A brief list of the options follows:


Infantry. Self-explanatory. Non technical, and generally not well educated soldiers, who have lots of discipline problems (relative to certain other arms). Excellent camaraderie generated by all being in the same regiment (as long as you get on with everyone). Bit of a two-tier Army going on with the infantry in some people's opinion. If you're not PARA, you're not going anywhere exciting, is the theory.

RAC. Covered above. Soldiers slightly more intelligent than infantry, and job slightly more technical. Rarely deploy as light role (on foot), hence less liable to have to live like a savage (e.g. without vehicles, under plastic sheets, in all weathers, doing silly things like 'radio stag').

Army Air Corps. Great if you can get in, but a risk if you fail mid-course. You don't command soldiers in the same way you do elsewhere, and you don't get out of the training system for another 18-24 months after you commission. (Longer if you go Apache) If flying doesn't drive you, you probably don't have the commitment. On the other hand, you can do Flying Grading before RMAS, and thereby get three weeks free flying commitment-free. It's also not counted as one of your two choices on Arms Selection Board (as so few get in), so you could have it as a 'free extra', albeit at the risk of appearing less committed to the other two Regts you put down.


Royal Engineers. Lots of excellent officers, good job, hard and technical Young Officers course (but that's no bad thing), and a range of abilities in soldiers. Very competitive (and they know it, which in itself put some people off at RMAS). Appears to accept a broad range of people, and has some great jobs. Definitely worth considering. Get a fam visit at Chatham.

Intelligence Corps. All very hush hush, but on the surface some very interesting jobs (combat intelligence, agent handling), and some very boring ones (security advice - i.e. perimeter fences, locks, CCTV cameras..). Some VERY good officers go here, and it's tiny, so they are a select few. If it pushes your buttons, have a look. It's not the mainstream army, though and you don't have command of soldiers in the same way you would elsewhere.

Royal Artillery. Big guns, some interesting kit, and if you want to play a role in the 'sharp end' delivering combat power, without being wet and miserable (infantry), or quaffing champagne (cavalry), then worth considering. Long term (General-level), after Infantry and Cavalry, you've got the best career prospects. Can get people's backs up by appearing 'faux-posh', and often referred to as 'wannabe-cav'. I suspect this is by people who failed to get in, or feel threatened by them. You need to have a high alcohol tolerance, and be quite boisterous, from the people I've seen join.

Royal Signals. (I declare an interest here - I'm a Royal Signals Officer). Interesting job, particularly if you are technically minded, or prepared to learn (though lots of officers don't, and will happily remain in 'generalist' management/personnel jobs). Very intelligent soldiers, many of whom will be well-qualified, some of whom will be more qualified than you. Very few discipline problems (it's great talking to mates in the infantry, it's like a different world, the way their soldiers behave, and consequently, the way the officer/soldier relationship works. Or doesn't.) Lots of new equipment coming in to service in the next 2-3 years, and huge changes afoot in terms of digitizing the Army, which will push the Royal Signals to a position of prominence within the service, in a similar manner that the introduction of the Apache has done to the AAC. Very broad mix of officers, and in my experience a complete absence of 'rugby club' style coercion to engage in heavy drinking/induction rituals, etc. (as opposed examples I've heard from the Royal Artillery and many cavalry regiments, for example). Less of a personal touch, as with the engineers and artillery, you're part of a very large Corps. Lots of operational tours because everywhere the Army goes in needs communications, so R SIGNALS elements will always deploy. Has Parachute-trained, and Special Forces trained sub-units (UNCLAS, from open source material), so as an officer you can do P Company, or UK Special Forces selection. Plenty of scope to specialise in more technical aspects of the Corps, picking up qualifications that will stand you in good stead should you leave the Army. Clearly I'm biased, but go to Blandford on a fam visit, and take a look. Signal Officer in Chief (Army)’s Recruiting and Liaison Staff (SORLS) can be contacted on: 01258 482871.

I know less about these, as I didn’t look at them in detail myself at RMAS. The following is therefore necessarily brief.

Royal Logistics Corps. Very big, many roles, and the option to do ‘long courses’ in Explosive Ordinance Disposal, Catering, Petroleum Operations, and a couple of others, after your first couple of tours. Could be alright, but by their own admission (an RMAS interview related to me by an RLC officer I met) because they’re huge they have crap officers as well as excellent officers. (i.e. the antithesis of the Intelligence Corps). Soldiers much parodied for being thick and fat - generally unfair, but the mainstream RLC doesn’t seem great. They do have entire regiments supporting 16 Air Asslt Bde, and 3 Commando Bde, so you can do ‘P’ Company or the All Arms Commando Course, which is a bonus (as long as you’re not a fat waster). I think if you’re good enough to beat your peer group to the better jobs, the RLC would be alright.

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Mmm.. very technical and in fact you need a technical degree to get in. Don’t know enough to comment, as all the REME officers I’ve every met at Regiment Duty (i.e. not staff in HQs) have been Late Entry (reached Warrant Officer as soldiers, then commissioned).

Adjutant General’s Corps. Three branches:

- Education and Training Services. If you want to be a teacher, have a look.

- Staff and Personnel Support. In charge of clerks. Vital, but then so’s the receptionist, the bin man, etc. etc. In their defence, they all seem to be very nice people, and you can get some serious accounting qualifications for when you leave the army.

- Royal Military Police. I think this would be interesting. They get good officers, have a varied job, and a real role in barracks (unlike the rest of us who are just training, they need to police the garrisons). All the people I’ve met in the RMP have been helpful and professional. The soldiers are also quite switched on, and along with the R SIGNALS, REME and INT CORPS, they have some of the most intelligent soldiers serving, I contend.

Royal Army Medical Corps. There is a role for Medical Support Officers, to provide commanders for the corps, in order to help them keep doctors and nurses in their primary jobs as doctors and nurses. They do have some good officers, but seem to suffer the same sort of image problem as the RLC, in that by taking crap officers to fill vacancies, they get a bad reputation, which damages the chances of recruiting good officers, etc. etc. in a vicious circle.

There are other small regiment and corps, but I think I’ve covered all the ones that employ officers directly from RMAS, without specialist qualifications (doctors, dentists, etc.)

Also, have a look at http://www.army.mod.uk/careers/officer/index.html

Private Means. Upon commissioning you receive a grant for the full cost of all your uniform, both service and mess dress. I seem to recall that some regiments - i.e King's Royal Hussars, Queen's Dragoon Guards, Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, have uniforms which cost more than the grant, but they are the exception. The days of officers with second incomes are over, except for some guards and cavalry regiments (perhaps most? I'm not qualified to comment. Ask in the relevant boards) Most of us went to state schools, have parents who have normal jobs, and we are still paying back our student loans ;-). Don't believe the 'Guardian' stereotypes..

Scots/Welsh/Irish Regts. Although I've been told of problems for soldiers joining Regts comprising a majority of people from different parts of the UK, I've never heard of officers having the same problems. As long as you a 'good officer' - professionally competent, fit, friendly, fair, all those good cries, etc. then I don't think they'll care.

There are many people far more knowledgeable than me on ARRSE, so post any questions you have and I’m sure they’ll be answered.


how dare you slag off the infantry :evil:
i did 10 years in the infantry before before transfering to the signals
and when your in the middle of a full on btn attack it takes just as much brain power as well as brawn to see you through it

I hope we meet one day :!:

If you want a good depiction of the Cav, go on a fam visit to a regiment based in Germany. I don't want to sound totally disenchanted and biased but there was an emphasis on champagne-quaffing, moleskin-wearing, floppy-haired social soldiering. Friends who have joined cav have all morphed into totally different people, all changing their dress, attitude and sports to suit the Mess. There was barely any exposure to the military side of being a cav officer on the visit. It was a very amusing visit, but it might leave a big kernel of doubt in your mind over how mentally-stimulating armour might be. None of the officers seemed very concerned about troop leading, more about keeping up with the accepted level of social activity. The RTR are alleged to ignore their subalterns, on the basis of proving themselves as competent officers before being truly accepted by the seniors. It's also wise if you do follow the cav route after Bovington to enquire as to the Arms Plot of the regiments. It depends whether you mind being in Germany for 8 years.

The RA fam visit at Larkhill is a totally different kettle of fish. Lots of running around, live-firing demonstrations and a clear idea of officer-
soldier divide. The RA seemed much more modern, and were not clinging on to any nineteenth century ideals like the cav. The young officers training at Larkhill were all almost alcoholic, but highly motivated and fit.

Should you manage to get on an Int Corps visit, you will find that you haven't actually learnt anything new as a civvy, such is the nature of what they do.
Just like to say that even as a Gunner Officer I'd actually agree with Dangermouse's comments in the main. Probably take issue with some of the finer details, but on the whole...fair.

As for FBW's complaint, I can only add that the GTI (trainability) score demanded by the Army for Infantry soldiers is far lower than that for many other capbadges. This does not mean Infanteers are thick - percentage of SAS from Infantry anyone?! - but if you're going to look at stereotypes across the board we all have to accept some home truths.

To look at the original questions once more....To choose a Regiment / Capbadge, it is a case of do you like the sort of people in that Mess and the job they do (If Inf / Cav the former is very important as you will spend a lot more time with THAT group).

Private Income: Household Div perhaps, but even then not by any means compulsory. Uniforms are basically covered by grants...

UK vs English: Most Scottish / Welsh / Irish connected regts would be delighted to have an officer who can actually claim a link with the country in question. I don't mean that they have to be a Robbie Burn's spouting, Guiness swilling, Son of Glendwyr type (scuse spelling / mixed simile), rather that as in my case I was a potential Jock Infanteer Officer who actually happened to live (parental remarriage) in the Regt's recruiting area. This was seen as a vg thing indeed. Still public school educated etc. but you get the idea...

Rambling perhaps but I hope I've added a little more colour...
Just to clarify:

GTI = Gross Trainability Index.

The higher the score, the easier you assimilate training. For example, I think 26 is the lowest acceptable score (you know the type - constantly glazed eyes with the thousand yard stare, drools occasionally); and the highest requirement is with the bright young things - Techs, Int Corps, RMP and the like - up in the high 60's.
Have a look at your local TA Unit....

Nice posting Dangermouse!

For Bladensburg, most of the previous postings provide good advice and food for thought. I would only add, try to think whether you are doing this for a few years or as a career - probably difficult to envisage right now, I know! :?

If you are looking for a bit of fun and adventure, the teeth arms probably provide that in spades but, unless you are destined to be CO of the Regiment, opportunities soon begin to close down.

The Corps, particularly those with a technical bent, offer technical training, often vocational post graduate degrees and provide more of a full career opportunity, combined with reasonable promotion prospects.

If you have a particular sporting or adventurous training interest, it is often worth asking around to see who does what; some corps/ regiments/battalions are big into particular sports - the RE and RLC, for example provide excellent opportunities for skiers, whilst others might be big into rugby, etc.

Familiarisation visits are excellent ways of checking out what is available and most Corps/Regiments run them both in UK and Germany.
Thanks very much, particularly to Dangermouse for his dissection of the officer corps.

I don't know what the ULO was as he is/was a Brigadier and his card doesn't give any clues. I do have tenuous family links to the Royal Scots D.G.s (via the Carabiniers - why I asked about nationalism) and the QRL. I quite liked what I read about the Scots D.G.s on their site but I wondered if anyone could tell me what they and the QRL are really like, there's no point in going visiting if they are likely to be insufferably snobby. I though that perhaps with the advent to the tank the cavalry might have got a little less insular. I like moleskin though, just not in bright colours, women find it quite, erm, "tactile".

I'm from agric stock so I tend to find riding and shooting fairly normal pastimes although I find game shooting (i.e. lets go and shoot and inedibly large number of fat and stupid pheasants that will fly straight over us) boring, air-rifling rabbits is much more challenging. I've been chasing foxes around the countryside since I could first borrow a pony but I once won a day with one of the Shires packs (the Belvoir) apparently beloved of cav officers and found it dull with far too many people who hadn't a clue.

Th Infantry interests me also, although the way it's treated (ie Paras first) seems to be partly to blame for the manning problems. Any regiments recomended?

I don't like the sound of the Air Corps mainly because I used to go to college near RAFC Cranwell and found pilots in general to be a pretty smug lot with the AAC that were there no exception. A typical conversation with a pilot would be "Hello, I'm a pilot flying, flying, flying, flying, flying. By the way did I tell you I was a pilot?" :roll:

Intel Corps? Saw the mess kit on Goldings site, 8O it's hideous.

I'm not hugely technically minded, I more a biologist than engineer. That said I have spent too much time dissassembling tractors so I'll bear the Engineers and Gunners in mind i certainly wnt to do the Gunner visit as it looks quite interesting. Not sure about signals, perhaps a bit technical, although I met a few signallers at a ball in Blandford once and they seemed OK (can't remember much I was too busy chasing antipodean teaching assisstants from Bryanstone :D )

As to lengh of service I was thinking of doing as long as possible on short-service before deciding whether to convert based on how I got on. Is it possible to jump ship from teeth to corps if you hit a glass ceiling? There must be far more eligable officers than there are C.O.s jobs so they must go somewhere.
I never talk about flying in bars. Errrr :?

Ahhhh, no you're thinking of our sideways walking friends.

Smug? Hmmmm.

Dangermuse is right about the two tier Infantry thing. A lot of blokes are stagging on in NI etc... whilst the Paras crack on. Fair play to the Paras but evryone is sitting there going, Gulf II, missed the first one as well and I'm on 2 years in NI. Again. Brilliant. And they wonder why some Bns have trouble with retention. Some of the arms plots for some e Bns have been very strange.


Bladensburg said:
As to lengh of service I was thinking of doing as long as possible on short-service before deciding whether to convert based on how I got on. Is it possible to jump ship from teeth to corps if you hit a glass ceiling? There must be far more eligable officers than there are CO's jobs so they must go somewhere.
Yes, I can't speak for any other cap badge, but with the proliferation of agencies introduced to support digitization there are lots of CIS jobs, and I have heard of quite a few people transfering infantry regiments to Royal Signals as Majors , having done Regimental Signals Officer in their own Regt at some point in their past.
I'm not sure Lt_George has visited a cavalry regiment since the POs visit in which he got told thanks, but no thanks. If this visit was 5 years ago then probably quite a few of the points he made were very valid. All change. If Bladensburg were to go on a visit now he would find things slightly different, mainly because, like the rest of the army, the RAC is very busy. Two regiments training for Ireland, one and a half off to Iraq, one in the middle of Bowman trials and then there are various squadrons kicking around Bosnia and other such places, (if any one can tell me what the RDG are up to I would love to know.)

Lt_George enthuses about the gunner visits. Very good, been on one myself. The point to remember about Larkhill is that it it the uber platz for British artillery training, if there wasn't anything going on there would be something wrong. To compare a visit to Larkhill with a visit to an individual RAC regiment is just wrong. Compare it with Bovington with a troop leaders course in residence then see what you think.
Oracle, I will admit to choosing a car based on colour but as it was a Series III Landie and the choice at the sale was between basic blue and the bilious green metallic some idiot had added later I beg to be excused. Seriously though you have a point to a certain extent all mess kit is faintly ridiculous in that it's a huge amount of (ultimately taxpayers) money spent on clothes that will I suspect not be worn very often. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

RotaryPongo, I was mainly talking about RAF pilots, particularly those that used the line "Hallo, my name's X and I'm a fighter pilot" on the few attractive women at college all too often successfully. I wouldn't mind but they were usually on JFTS or worse IOT and never been near a fighter. That said I think there were often AAC people about (was basic flight training at or near Cranwell at one time?) who could be just as predatory but less choosey (one was unfortunate enough to get physical with a girl from renowned for having passed on a "social disease" and who was avoided like the plague, quite literaly :D ).

Bungle - it's nice to hear the cav may have improved with time. I've been talking to someone who went to Bovington to see the recruiting officer about 4-5 years ago, he stayed in the mess the night before and said that the young officers there had made him feel distinctly unwelcome. Lots of cracks about state schools, his Uni, clothes etc. He wouldn't have minded a bit of ribbing but this was apparently pretty vicious stuff and quite apart from anything else it was downright rude. He told the interviewer that if they were a typical sample he was wasting his time. The interview itself was over in an hour and that was it, no further info, no tour an eight hour round trip and a day off Uni and all for one hour, even the Tank Museum was closed.

I think it would be quite interesting to hear from serving officers (cav and elsewhere) what they HONESTLY think is the kind of officer they want in their regiments.

All good stuff though, thanks very much.


War Hero
Well said DM!!

Please further your analysis, as I feel you may have a very workable piece of draft here. There is no reason why (with a little civilianisation) it should not be sent to OTCs dor internal and external digest!

Don't assume: the info I passed on to Bladensburg was based upon a very successful (pretty far from "thanks but no thanks") PO visit two months ago to a cav regiment in Germany. The disenchanted tone was merely due to the astonishment at how old frinds had changed their attitudes and dress to suit that of the Mess.

Aren't the the RDG considering an Arms Plot move to Tidworth, and off to BATUS in February? Apparently they're feeling rather left out in Munster.

Yes, I know it is foolish to compare a Corps visit with a Regimental visit, but the two visits focused on very polarised themes.
As long as the Regiment wasn't the 9th/12th well done.

On the point of your friends changing; that is a shame especially since there is absolutely no requirement for that to happen.

Was told at every step of the way to avoid the 9/12L like the Plague. It seems to be a totally unanimous verdict that they stink. The QDG were held in fairly high regard, but what is the general opinion of the RDG, the QRH and the LD?

I'm not sure why friends changed their appearances and ideals, unless it is a bastardised form of hero worship - does wearing violet moleskins and suede loafers makes you a better leader or a more respected member of the Mess?
What is so bad about the 9/12th Lancers? Nobody has a good word to say about them.
Not sure, but the opinion of the 9/12L (for some reason known as The Borg) is very low, no matter which regiment you could speak to. It's not my position to speculate. But do you really want to do Formation Recce (with a Reg such as the 9/12L) as a job when you could just do your time as a Challenger 2 Troop Leader, moving on to command a Recce Troop as a Captain? Wait til you get to size up the CR2 and the Scimitar for yourself on a visit, and that may give you a clearer indication of where your loyalties might lie.

If you can get a mid-week visit to the KRH, some good things were said about them. However 99% of their Officers Mess disappear at weekends to go home, so weekdays are the most active.

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