Aberdeen Universities Officer Training Corps

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Aberdeen Universities Officer Training Corps (AUOTC) is one of 18 University Officer Training Corps in the United Kingdom. AUOTC recruits from the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College, all primarily located within the city of Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland.


The first formed University Unit was a Battery of the 1st Aberdeen Volunteer Royal Artillery, raised in December 1885. The Battery was officered by members of the University Staff and commanded by Captain William Stirling, then Professor of Physiology. In March 1895 the University Battery was absorbed by the 1st Heavy Battery. In November 1897 an Aberdeen University detachment of the 1st Volunteer Battalion the Gordon Highlanders was recruited and in 1898 the detachment became University Company ("U" Coy).

The Officer Training Corps (OTC) was established at the University of Aberdeen in 1912 and administered by the newly formed Military Education Committee (MEC), under the chairmanship of the then Principal Sir George Adam Smith. The War Office authorised the formation of a Medical Unit and appointed as Commanding Officer Major G A Williamson, MA MD DPH.

"U" Coy had by this time become part of the 4th Battalion, the Gordon Highlanders and at the outbreak of the First World War was mobilised and sent to France; the only University contingent to go. The story of "U" Coy as a fighting unit is excellently told by Rule in his "Students Under Arms." Their record was magnificent but their casualties high. Their valour could not justify a policy which allowed so many highly educated young men to serve in the ranks of a combatant unit.

In February 1924 the War Office authorised the establishment of an Infantry Unit and the right to wear the Gordon Tartan. The Infantry Unit was commanded initially by Major J Boyd Orr, DSO MC; later Lord Boyd Orr, Nobel Prize Winner.

The Pipe Band was instituted in 1924 and became one of the most popular features of the unit. In 1929 the Scots Guards provided the Senior Warrant Officer of the Permanent Staff and established a Household Division link. However in 1995 the Scottish division took over this post, a link which continues to this day. In 1935 it was decided that the cap badge, which up to then had been the University Crest, should be replaced by the Boar's Head, the family crest of the Founder of the University with the motto "Non Confundar," translated: 'I shall not be troubled.'

During the Second World War the OTC expanded as all students of military age who had been granted deferment should join the OTC as part of a National Service obligation. At its peak AUOTC was some 491 strong with 4 Infantry Companies, 2 Medical Companies and a Signals Section. Throughout the war the OTC in conjunction with the University ran special technical courses for Royal Artillery cadets of which a total of 427 attended. In February 1943 the OTC provided the backbone of the 9th City of Aberdeen (University Home Guard) Battalion, in addition to its normal role.

In October 1948 a new establishment gave the OTC Medical, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Intelligence, Royal Engineer, Royal Signals and Infantry sub-units. As a result of various re-organisations over the years only the last 3 sub-units survive today. In 1955 women were allowed to join the OTC and a WRAC sub-unit was formed; this has now been absorbed into the existing 3 sub-units.

In 1985 the OTC became responsible for military Home Defence (MHD) planning for the Grampian Region[citation needed] and in 1986 it became responsible in all respects for Blackdog Range (five miles North of Aberdeen on the coastal plain). While the organisation and personnel have changed over the years the latest being TA Options for Change, the spirit of AUOTC nevertheless remains intact, receiving excellent support from the MEC.

In 1993 following Robert Gordon University being granted university status, AUOTC welcomed its first Robert Gordon members. In September 2008, AUOTC will accept its first members from Aberdeen College.

Present day[edit]

OTC members are classed as Officer Cadets (OCdt) and are "Group B" members of the Territorial Army, paid when on duty. As part of "Group B" they are neither trained nor liable for mobilised (active) service and do not receive the same annual bounty payment as members of the TA proper.

OCdts can gain appointments to Junior Under Officer (JUO) and Senior Under Officer (SUO) and can also apply to the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) which, if they pass, leads to the opportunity to attempt the TA Commissioning Course (TACC) with the goal of a commission as a Second Lieutenant.

Cadets have no obligation to join the armed forces when they leave university and can resign from the OTC at any time. The officers and non-commissioned officers, who function as instructors and administrative and support staff, are a mixture of Regular Army, Territorial Army and Non Regular Permanent Staff. The rates of pay for OCdts varies between £35 and £57 a day depending on qualifications/rank gained

AUOTC specialises in Infantry training but has specialist training for Engineering and Signals too. As of July 2008 it had 138 members, making up approximately just 2% of UOTC and DTUS population.

Training and Activities[edit]


Standard training[edit]

The MLDP 1 syllabus introduces new recruits into the UOTC. Students should be able to function in field exercises as a soldier upon completion of the year. First year recruits will study map reading, map craft, weapon handling, shooting, first aid, fieldcraft and drill.

MLDP 2 focuses more on leadership. Students will study how to process information about a battlefield, turn that information systematically into a set of orders and deliver them in a confident manner. They will also cover in more depth map reading, communication and work on personal skills such as public speaking, presentation, team work and confidence. Upon completion of MLDP 2 students may be awarded a NVQ Level 3 award in leadership and management[citation needed].

After MLDP 2 students may be placed in command[citation needed] positions training other officer cadets, others will go on to study Infantry, Engineering or Signals in more detail.

Adventurous Training (AT)[edit]

Throughout the year all students take part in Adventurous training. The British army’s stated aim for Adventurous training is; "To develop, through authorised challenging pursuits and within an outdoor environment, leadership and the qualities necessary to enhance the performance of military personnel during peace and war."[1]

Each year during December AUOTC takes its students to the Alps for a week of Ski and snowboard training and to select a team for the army snow sports competition[citation needed].

During the Easter vacation at leadership camp AUOTC spends a week conducting various AT activities which in 2008 consisted of climbing Ben Nevis and various other Munroes, Mountain biking in Glen Nevis, rock climbing, and ice climbing. Members of AUOTC have undertaken AT recently in the USA, Canada, France, England, Scotland, Wales, Czech Republic, Germany, Cyprus, Italy, Poland, Kenya and Uganda[citation needed].

Students are able to attend any[citation needed] courses that the British Army, Royal Navy or RAF organise and members are actively encouraged to attain qualifications in AT in order to improve their leaderships skills and teach other Ocdts.


The British Army recognise essential military skills such as leadership, communication, courage and teamwork are reinforced in sport and so AUOTC students are encouraged to take part in sports.

AUOTC fields teams in male & female rugby, football, hockey, badminton and tug of war with sportsmen/women representing their countries, Universities, local amateur teams and the AUOTC. The unit also has a very successful dance team.

The AUOTC football squad has been particularly successful over the last few years, competing in local competitions and university leagues.

The highlight of the sporting year is the annual Exercise Northern lights, competing against the Scottish and Irish UOTCs. The AUOTC won over all in 2008, finishing first in Football (not conceding a goal to another UOTC in 7 consecutive games), first in dancing, and runners up in Rugby and Tug of war. Only the hockey squad finished outside of the top two[citation needed].

Drums and Pipes[edit]

The Drums and Pipes, or Pipes and Drums as they are traditionally known, remain a popular feature of the unit and in 2009 had a strength of 19 pipers and drummers. The pipe major and drum major are permanent group A Territorial Army staff and provide continuity in training and organisation as well as set standards for music and discipline. In recent years the Drums and Pipes have visited Brittany in France, the Nova Scotia Tattoo Canada, Festival of the Lakes in Lithuania, The Kremlin Zoria Tattoo Russia, The Shetland Isles, Benbecula, North and South Uist, and has been a feature in the Edinburgh Military tattoo for several years[citation needed].

The Drums and Pipes take part in several military competitions throughout the year. these are the Territorial Army championships in which Officer Cadets compete in individual, quartet, mini band and full pipe band competitions. In recent years the Drums and Pipes have competed in the Army piping and drumming championships held at the Army School of Piping and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh. Piping and Drumming competitions are held at Exercise Northern Lights every year. This Exercise has its roots in a small Piping, Drumming and dancing gathering held in the past.


External links[edit]

  • AUOTC official page on the Army website
  • COMEC - Council of Military Education Committees, who liaise between universities and the British Armed Forces