The Special Collections has just acquired a small collection of material relating to the Southampton University Officers Training Corps providing additional information on the formation and workings of this Corps in the 1930s to 1951.
The Southampton University Training Corps traces its origins to November 1902 when around 20 students, mainly from the Education Department of Hartley University College, formed a Company for the Second (Volunteer) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. Foot drills were performed at the College Assembly Hall on a Saturday night after the Choral Society meetings and weapons training was held at the Drill Hall in Carlton Place.
In 1908 the Volunteers became part of the Territorial Force and joined the Fifth Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. By 1912 the Company was formed of approximately 100 men and was considered to be one of the best in the battalion. It was the county champion in the first Battalion Annual Sports meeting of 1912.
At the outbreak of the First World War members of the Company were immediately commissioned. Those who remained in the Company were sent to India as part of the Hampshire Regiment.
The Fifth and Seventh Battalions were merged in 1922 and, in 1929, a College Platoon of the Hampshire Regiment was formed. This latter was to form the nucleus of the University College Southampton Senior Division Officers’ Training Corps that was established in 1937. With this new Corps the long association with the Hampshire Regiment ended and it became the responsibility of the Rifle Depot at Winchester.
The new archive contains the memorandum on the proposed OTC by J.W.Ackroyd, University College, Southampton, 27 January 1937, in which he sets out the main items of expenditure required to support a Corps of 30 cadets, including for grants, certificates, uniforms at £3 each, office expenses, a miniature rifle range, drill hall, office, armoury and clothing store.
The War Office accepted the proposal and in their letter to the Registrar of University College, Southampton of 13 May 1937 replied that “I am commanded by the Army Council to acknowledge your letter No 916 of 20th April, 1937, and to inform you that they gratefully accept the offer of the authorities of the University College, Southampton, to furnish an infantry continent of the senior division, Officers Training Corps, and that an announcement to this effect will be made in Army Orders in due course.”
The OTC had over seventy cadets by 1939, but at the declaration of war that year all Officers Training Corps at Universities were abolished and replaced by Senior Training Corps.
Wartime undergraduates had to spend a considerable time in military training with compulsory parades at lunchtime and once per week. All cadets from the STC also were automatically enrolled into the Home Guard. Many hundreds of cadets served in the Corps between 1940 and 1944 and were commissioned into all branches of the armed forces. In 1944, the Ministry of Labour excused students from compulsory military training at University, with recruitment for the Senior Training Corps reverting to the voluntary system. This led to a drop in numbers, but the Southampton Corps continued although contingents in London, Exeter and Reading all closed. The University Training Corps replaced the Senior Training Corps in 1948. This change meant that for the first time cadets were enlisted in the Territorial Army, received pay for parades and were clothed and equipped at public expense.
However, this new status did not halt the dwindling strength of the Corps and in April 1951 it was placed in suspended animation. It was re-established in 1979, at the request of the University Military Education Committee, with Carlton Place becoming its permanent accommodation.
The new archive material for the OTC covers the period 1936-51. It is composed of a series of record books and parade rolls that provide details of the cadets, their training and service. The record books, 1937-48, provide a detailed account of the training and drills undertaken by the recruits in the Corps. Each cadet is listed by their name, with their date of birth, date of enrolment, number of years previously reported efficient – which applied to cadets who have joined the Senior Division at University from Junior Divisions at school – numbers of years attending camp, numbers of drills attended, their musketry level and certificates. At the end under remarks there are notes relating to resignation, promotion or commission in military service.
The two first names in the 1939/40 record book, for instance, relate to cadets who were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. Others in the same volume were commissioned in the Royal Marines, the RAF and the Wiltshire Regiment with quite a number also called for military service under the Military Service Act, which related to the conscription of men between the ages of 18 and 41 years in the armed forces.
The archive also contains a small quantity of correspondence and papers relating to the formation and history of the Corps. Of particular interest are papers from 1936-7 relating to discussions for the foundation of the Corps.
This archive provides a valuable addition to our holdings chronicling the history of the University. For more information on the development of the University why not look at our Highfield 100 blog series. And look out for future blogs detailing other new collections.