RAPC Apprentice College

Original RAPC Apprentice School (College)



The Royal Army Pay Corps Apprentices School opened in September 1962 at Worthy Down, with 38 apprentices and 11 military staff. Twenty three years later the College (as it had become) closed, when the 54 Apprentices of intakes 60 and 61 passed out on 3 August 1985.

These bald facts disguise that between these dates around 1,500 Apprentices joined for duty at the College with at various times as many as 140 under training.

Original Charter

The aim of the College was to train young soldiers as accountant clerks for entry into the Corps with a view to them becoming future Non-Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers and Commissioned Officers of the Corps.

The school was organised and run on similar lines to a boarding school with students receiving academic, military, physical and character training. In the academic and technical field the aim was to take boys to GCE “O” and “A” level followed by examinations of the professional accountancy bodies.

From the beginning the College was divided into Bednall, Rooney and Campbell Houses, bearing the names of previous Paymaster-in-Chiefs, Major General Sir P Bednall KBE CB MC, Major General Sir OJP Rooney KBE CB and Major General Sir HM Campbell KBE CB.

College Achievements and Activities

Throughout the life of the College, sport was always an important part of the routine and despite being the smallest of the junior units in the army, notable successes were achieved across a diversity of sports as follows:

  • Association Football: Army Junior Soldiers Champions on 7 occasions.
  • Hockey: Army Junior Soldiers Champions on 13 occasions.
  • Basketball: Army Junior Champions on 8 occasions.
  • Cricket: Army Junior Champions on 13 occasions.
  • Army Junior Champions in various years in Cross Country, Athletics, Rugby, Badminton, Skiing, Volleyball and Orienteering.
  • Tennis: Army Junior Singles (Under 18s) Champion 1966, 1967 and 1968.

Many Apprentices represented the Corps, the Army and in a few cases the Combined Services.

One of the unique features of the College was its boarding school type education curriculum leading the majority of Apprentices achieving passes at “O” level and /or “A” level. The exam pass rate over the years was generally better than that of the national average which said something about the quality of the educational instructors and the hard work and application of their pupils.

Over the years adventurous training was possibly the most popular activity. From the very first expeditions to the Lake District to the last climbing expeditions in Bavaria and Austria, adventurous training took the Apprentices all over (and under!) the UK and many places abroad. Some favourite haunts were Tregantle Fort, Dartmoor, the Lakes and the caves at Llangattock and Halton. There was almost a folklore associated with adventurous training escapades and each Apprentice had his own memories of challenges faced and personal goals achieved.

It should not be forgotten that the College brief was to train soldiers first and foremost and military training was the single most important item on the curriculum. Four victories against teeth arm units in the British Legion March and Shoot competition in the mid-70’s reflected the professionalism of the Instructors and the quality of the Apprentices.

Apprentices and staff involved themselves with the local community and in early years were active in the National Association of Boys Clubs, in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and a programme of local hospital and nursing home visits. In later years the focus moved towards fund raising with one of the most ambitious and successful projects being the raising of £1,100 towards the Army contribution to the 1984 British Olympic Appeal; a sum which represented 10% of the total given by the Army.

One of great pleasures of the instructors was to follow the successes of ex-apprentices with in later years a number returning to be instructors in their own right.

Was it a Success?

A great deal of blood, sweat and tears was expended at the College in the drive to turn young civilians into young soldiers who were capable of performing a variety of functions within the Corps and wider Army. On the way some mistakes were made, but at the same time, the path was strewn with positive achievement, particularly personal achievement. The most significant features of which have been the way that generations of young men responded to the challenge, realised latent potential and developed valuable personal attributes. In so doing, they destroyed the fantasy and myth that the youth of the post-war era were in some way inferior to their predecessors. They were capable of hard sustained work both physical and mental. They were capable of overcoming obstacles and personal shortcomings through gritty determination, reflection, honesty of spirit, a willingness to learn and a generally healthy respect for the values and attitudes prized not only by the Army but by the community at large.

Post the Closure - RAPC Apprentices move to Bovington September 1985

The Junior Leader' Regiment Royal Armoured Corp was located in Bovington Camp, near Wareham, Dorset. All Household Cavalry, Royal Military Police and Army Air Corps Junior Leaders were trained at Bovington and, as a result of various studies, it was decided that RAPC Apprentices would be trained there from September 1985.

In July 1985 the RAPC Permanent Staff moved to Bovington and the RAPC Troop formed up in September with 65 Apprentices. RAPC Apprentices and subsequently Adjutant General’s Corps (SPS) Apprentices were trained at the Regiment until its closure in 1993.

Where Are They Now?

Many of the Apprentices from later intakes are still serving whilst those from the first intake are mostly retired and enjoying life as seventy year olds do. Many stay in touch with old friends and reunions are held from time to time with the next reunion being held in September 2017. For those ex-apprentices or members of staff who may have lost touch over the years, information on reunions and other activities can be found by contacting the RAPC Association Apprentice College coordinator at the following email address: rapcweb.appcoll@gmail.com.

The End!!

It was reported on June 4 2018 that as part of the Worthy Down reconstruction the former RAPC Apprentice College buildings had been demolished!!


Photo: Mick Cotton