Army graduation ceremony marks historic change for platoons

Thomas Stewart graduates at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Thomas Stewart graduates at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

A Bedford man has graduated from Sandhurst in an historic ceremony which sees women integrated into mixed platoons.

Thomas Stewart, 23, from Bedford, joined hundreds of officer cadets at the graduation at the Army’s world renowned Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where the Prince of Wales represented the Queen, on Friday, December 11.

Until now, potential women officers at Sandhurst would be in an all-female platoon, but a new integrated approach has been introduced to mirror how the Army works on a day-to-day basis. The officer cadets have been living, training and carrying out military exercises together for the past 44 weeks.

Thomas said: “Being part of an elite group of people that have graduated from Sandhurst as an officer in the British Army makes me extremely proud. It’s one of the biggest challenges I have ever undertaken, but also one of the most rewarding.

“The training and support I have received has been excellent and I cannot wait to start putting it into practice with the Household Cavalry and to be given the chance to make my contribution on both operations, adventure training, and missions overseas. I would recommend an officer career to anyone looking for an exciting career away from the mundane nine to five.”

More than 160 officer cadets from 26, 27 and 28 platoons Gallipoli Company and 29, 30 and 31 platoons Ypres Company passed out from Sandhurst, marking the completion of nearly a year’s worth of intensive military and academic training, combined with adventurous training and sporting challenges. After graduation the cadets undertake a period of specialist role training before enjoying leadership responsibilities and taking charge of a platoon of between 20 to 60 soldiers.

With friends and family in the audience, Thomas and all the graduating cadets took part in the Sovereign’s Parade before The Prince of Wales. The parade is a key milestone for every Army officer and has been run at the end of each term for more than 200 years.

The ceremony coincides with a nationwide Army recruitment campaign, designed to attract people into hundreds of exciting full-time Army officer jobs.

The campaign, ‘With Heart, With Mind’, the first officer-specific recruitment drive in eight years, is successfully increasing officer application figures which were down last year.

Lieutenant Colonel Lucy Giles, the first female College Commander at Sandhurst, said: “Today marks an historic day for Sandhurst and for all those junior officers on the completion of their training. This graduation demonstrates the Army’s intention to increase talent and diversity, and to train together as we are likely to be employed in barracks and on operations.

“The Army is always looking for its next generation of leaders to take up the challenge of an officer career and, over the past 44 weeks, the cadets have demonstrated dedication, determination and professionalism. I look forward to seeing each of them realise their full potential as they embark on their careers within the Army.”

The parade ended in traditional fashion with the Academy Adjutant riding a horse up the steps of Old College, following the graduating officer cadets through the grand entrance.

After a formal lunch with friends, family and regimental officers, the day concluded in spectacular and celebratory style at the exclusive commissioning ball. Then, at the stroke of midnight, the newly commissioned second lieutenants proudly displayed their rank insignia for the first time.

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