My father (a serving army officer at the time) sadly passed away when I was 10 and still at prep school in Wiltshire. My mother gave me the option of going to the local state or grammar school, or if I wanted to continue boarding with some potential options for public school. I opted for the latter as I enjoyed the boarding experience so much and wanted to continue.
The foundation programme at Wellington allowed my mother to follow my wish, for me to enjoy five years at Wellington in a fantastic boarding environment and develop me from a child to young adult. It allowed me to have not only a superb education but also wider life skills, socialisation, a passion for sport (I still play low level rugby at the ripe age of 35; I should stop!) and leadership.
The hardest thing about arriving at Wellington was the sheer size of the place and the number of pupils. My prep school was only 150 at the most and so going from that to a school of 800 or so was a shock. Going from a big fish in small pond to a small fish in a big pond was a challenge but the boarding house system made the transition slightly easier. Although slightly archaic the transition to having girls at school (Sixth Form only at that time) was new to me coming from an all-boys environment. I wouldn’t necessarily say this was difficult, just different!
I was not a natural academic and the educational side of Wellington was excellent at developing me and ensuring I could reach the standards required for GCSE and A-Levels. I was in the Stanley and it had a superb family atmosphere while I was there (1996-2001). Without a father I was perhaps lacking some male role models and so the staff at Wellington certainly helped with filling that void.
I thoroughly enjoyed my rugby and hockey although at a low level for school and house. I also became heavily involved in the CCF (I became RSM and won the Sword of Honour in my final year). I also took part in the Field Gun for three years in the A crew (I wasn’t very good at summer sports and so it was a good replacement!).
On leaving university I went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and commissioned in 2006. I am currently serving as a Major in the British Army in the Rifles (an infantry unit which has strong connections through its antecedent regiments to the Duke of Wellington).
The leadership skills I acquired at Wellington have undoubtedly helped me along the way (I gained an army scholarship while I was at Wellington and the support given to me through the process was excellent).
I have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as overseas training in Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands and Canada (twice). I am about to leave my role as a staff officer in an organisation responsible for Basic Training in the army and the similarities between that and Wellington are clear. The camaraderie, life skills, education, development of individual, and lifelong friends (although I am not the best example I suppose!) are clear parallels. I am about to go and command a rifle Company (of around 100 men) in 2nd Battalion The Rifles and prepare them for operations which will be an enormous challenge and thoroughly rewarding at the same time.