Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Mystique of Royal Military College, Duntroon

The Mystique of Royal Military College, Duntroon

By Graeme Wong
Spirit News
November 23, 2072

The Royal Military College, Duntroon, is the Australian Army's officer training establishment. It was founded at Duntroon, in the Australian Capital Territory, in 1911 and is located at the foot of Mount Pleasant near Lake Burley Griffin, close to the Department of Defence headquarters at Russell Hill. Duntroon is adjacent to the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), which is Australian Defence Force's tri-service military academy that provides military and tertiary academic education for junior officers of the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy.

The Royal Military College, Duntroon, was opened on 27 June 1911 by the Governor-General, Lord Dudley. Situated on the Campbell family homestead in Canberra, which had been named "Duntroon" (1833) after Duntrune Castle—their ancestral home on Loch Crinan in Argyll, Scotland—the college was one of the first Commonwealth facilities established in the newly created capital. The Australian Government first rented the Duntroon homestead for two years (November 1910 – July 1912) and finally acquired the freehold to the estate and 370 acres (1.5 km²) of land after the creation of the federal capital.

The first Commandant of the college was Brigadier General William Bridges, who later died on a hospital ship after being wounded by a sniper on the shores of Gallipoli. Under his recommendations the college was modelled on aspects from the Royal Military College of Canada and the military colleges of Britain, and the United States of America. Several British officers, including Lieutenant Colonel Charles Gwynn as Director of Military Art, were assigned as faculty to the newly established college. During Bridges' frequent absences, Gwynn served as acting Commandant.

The First World War provided the college with its first chance to demonstrate its worth. However, when the war broke out in August 1914, there had not been enough time for the first class to complete the full Duntroon course. Nevertheless, it was decided to graduate the class early so that they could be sent over to Gallipoli, where General Sir Ian Hamilton, commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, said that "...each Duntroon educated officer was...worth his weight in gold". During the war 158 Duntroon graduates had been sent overseas on active service, of which 42 were killed or died of wounds and another 58 were wounded.

In the beginning, the college offered a four-year course, during which the first two years focused upon civil subjects and the last two years focused upon military subjects. Over the entire course, however, there was military specific training, including physical training, drill, signalling and weapon handling. Over the years, however, with the impact of the two World Wars, the duration and focus of the course changed as the requirements of the Army dictated. For a short period of time in the 1930s the college was forced to relocate to the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, due to the economic downturn caused by the Great Depression. During the Second World War short courses of between six months and a year were run, and ultimately 696 graduates of the College undertook active service overseas in either the Australian, British or New Zealand armed forces, while a further 122 former cadets who had not graduated served in varying capacities. Of these 122, three went on to have quite distinguished careers, with one rising to the rank of brigadier in the Australian Army, another to brigadier in the New Zealand Army and a third, R.C. McCay, reaching the rank of lieutenant general and serving in the British Indian Army and then becoming chief-of-staff of the newly formed Pakistan Army.

Following the war, the length of the course was set at four years again and efforts were made to increase the level of academic rigour in the college's programs. This culminated in 1967 when the college affiliated with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to offer Bachelor courses in Arts, Science or Engineering, commencing in the 1968 academic year. Under this program, the first degrees from RMC were awarded in 1971. In order to graduate, cadets had to achieve passes in both military and academic studies and leadership. The link with UNSW was almost severed in 1969 when Duntroon was the centre of an inquiry after Gerry Walsh, a member of the academic staff, revealed details of bastardisation passed on to him by a student at the college. The inquiry resulted in at least one army career ending, while other personnel were severely punished. A further bastardisation scandal was exposed in 1983.

With the closure of the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, in December 1985, and the closure of the Women's Officer Training Wing at Georges Heights, Sydney, in December 1984, the Royal Military College, Duntroon became the sole General Service Officer training institute in the Australian Army, as all Regular Army officers serving in combat, combat support or service support Corps were required to attend Duntroon in order to be commissioned. Shortly after this, the role of the college changed again with the establishment of the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1986. As a result of this change, Duntroon ceased to offer university degrees as ADFA became responsible for the academic training of Army cadets, as well as those from the Air Force and Navy. The same year, the college celebrated its 75th anniversary (1911–1986). As an acknowledgement of this, 33 cent stamps featuring the head of a male officer cadet were printed; the first day of issue was 27 June 1986.

RMC's purview was expanded in 1995 as it "became responsible for the initial military training of all full-time, part-time and specialist service officers in the Australian Army". This resulted in the centralisation of all officer training courses under the college's auspices; this included short courses for specialist service officers such as doctors, nurses, lawyers and chaplains, under the auspices of Romani Company, as well as the delivery of the final module of the Reserve officer training continuum. For a brief period, under the Ready Reserve Scheme, Reserve officers attended the college for a cut-down six-month version of the full-time course. For the full-time General Service Officer cadets, though, the program essentially unchanged from that which had been established after the formation of ADFA, when the course had been reduced to 18 months, and broken up into three distinct classes—III, II and I Class. Under this program, which has been maintained since 1986, cadets who wish to pursue a degree attend ADFA for three years upon appointment before going to Duntroon for 12 months, and starting the course in II Class.

Anonymous reviews of officer training in 2007 brought to light racism and harassment of female recruits. In 2011, Andrew Wilkie admitted to being both a victim and perpetrator of bullying while at Duntroon. The same year, the college celebrated its cententary (1911–2011); as part of the celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II presented the college with new colours. A series of 1 oz silver dollar coins were also minted.