The Royal Army Educational Corps (RAEC) was a corps of the British Army tasked with educating and instructing personnel in a diverse range of skills. On 6 April 1992 it became the Educational and Training Services Branch (ETS) of the Adjutant General's Corps.
On 2 July 1845 the Corps of Army Schoolmasters was formed, staffed by warrant officers and senior non-commissioned officers, as well as a few commissioned officers who served as inspectors and headmasters.
In 1859 its duties were extended from simple schooling within the Army to assume responsibility for the Army schools and libraries and in 1903 the Army schoolmasters fell under the jurisdiction of the Adjutant-General. By the early 1900s, soldiers began to be admitted to evening classes, and some garrisons opened vocational classes. In 1914, a committee was set up for the "industrial training of soldiers", underlining the Army's intent to properly equip soldiers for civilian life. This committee recommended that soldiers should be struck off duty during their last three months of service, in order to allow them to attend vocational training.
First World War
Despite the strains of the First World War on the British Army, education of soldiers did not stop. Unlike the German Army, the British Army was circulated in and out of the front line, reserve line, and rest areas. This allowed education to continue, albeit in a disrupted fashion. Even whilst in the trenches, boredom meant the soldiery desired news and information, and in accordance, a staff officer would organise lectures to satisfy these needs. The issue of resettlement was also raised by the war, and so a scheme was established to prepare men for civilian life.
A Royal Warrant established the Army Educational Corps on 15 June 1920. The wartime task of its members was to "assist by all means in their power the maintenance of a high spirit of devotion and well being in their units". Peacetime duties were more clearly defined, and AEC personnel were expected to do specialise and advisory work, the bulk of the teaching which was to be done by regimental officers.
Second World War
The Second World War saw the normal work of the corps radically change. The need for both physically and mentally competent troops resulted in an increased workload for the Army Education Centres. The AEC began to operate in a variety of different theatres and locations throughout the war, including the unexpected task of sending news-sheet teams with the D-Day landings. Recruits saw training time double, with education being conducted in hospitals, prisons and displaced persons camps.
The end of the war saw the Corps involved in the daunting task or returning a national Army to civilian occupation. Unit Education Officers gave pre-release advice whilst the Corps organised an extensive network of "formation colleges".
On 28 November 1946 the AEC was honoured with the title of "Royal". In Britain this honour must be bestowed directly by the monarch, and allows the relevant service or organisation the right to use a representation of the crown in their badge. King George VI contributed to the design of the new badge. After the war the RAEC continued its work educating soldiers and helping them to resettle into civilian life.
From 1962 it was staffed exclusively by commissioned officers and the non-commissioned personnel were either commissioned or left the Army.
In 1971, the education of soldiers was radically changed. Recruits joining the Army were generally poorly qualified and although the tasks of soldiering were easily mastered, the additional responsibilities involved in being an NCO proved more difficult. The new system introduced the Education Promotion Certificate. This was designed to specifically meet the training needs of potential Sergeants and Warrant Officers.
In 1992 the RAEC lost its Corps status and became the Educational and Training Services Branch of the new Adjutant General's Corps.
The RAEC and its predecessors had four main functions:
- To carry out educational training of troops
- To act as instructors in trade schools for boy entrants
- To act as masters in the Duke of York's Royal Military School, the Queen Victoria School, and the Royal Hibernian Military School
- To teach the children of soldiers in garrison schools
The last two functions were handed over to civilian agencies after the Second World War.
From 1944 to 1992 the RAEC was headquartered at Eltham Palace. Subsequently they were based at Trenchard Lines (the former RAF Upavon), Pewsey, Wiltshire.
Aspirant National Service Sergeant Instructors underwent training at the Army School of Education, situated at the end of the Second World War at Buchanan Castle, Drymen in Scotland, and later, from 1948, at the Walker Lines, Bodmin in Cornwall.
In 1910, the Army opened its own Normal School at Aldershot to train Army Schoolmasters. Before this they had been trained at the Duke of York's Military School and many of the recruits had started as pupil teachers at the three military schools. Many personnel were former front-line soldiers who had decided to take more sedentary jobs in the later years of their service. Two AEC officers, Archie Cecil Thomas White and James Lennox Dawson, had won the Victoria Cross in the First World War.
By 1938, AEC recruits were required to be between 20 and 25 years of age. They had to be either qualified teachers or university graduates. They initially enlisted for twelve years and were immediately promoted Sergeant. During the Second World War many university lecturers joined the AEC. After the Second World War, National Service men with degrees or good secondary school educations were accepted for service in the RAEC, and trained at the Army School of Education, before being posted to units as sergeant instructors.
- "Illiterate Recruits" in The Times (London) (23 August 1947).
- Colin Day, National Service with the RAEC in Cornwall Part 1, at www.colindaylinks.com/dayspast/raec49.html (accessed 7 December 2010).
- War Office, His Majesty's Army (1938).
- Official homepage of the ETS
- Duke of York's Royal Military School
- Playwright Peter Whelan on his experience as a Sergeant in the Educational Corps. Video Interview
- RAEC Association
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