Royal Military College of Science

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Royal Military College of Science
Royal Military College of Science Shield.jpeg
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
RoleTeaching of military science
Motto(s)Rerum cognoscere causas (To know the causes of things)

The Royal Military College of Science (RMCS) was a British postgraduate school, research institution and training provider with origins dating back to 1772. It became part of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom in 2009, and ceased to exist as an independent unit in 2015.


The college traced its history back to the Military Society of Woolwich, founded by two artillery officers in 1772 'for the theoretical, practical and experimental study of gunnery'.[1] The Society did not outlast the Napoleonic Wars; but in 1839, inspired by its example, two junior officers (Lt (later Gen Sir) J. H. Lefroy and Lt (later Maj-Gen) F. M. Eardley-Wilmot) proposed the formation of an Institute to train artillery officers along similar lines. This led to the establishment the following year of the Royal Artillery Institution "for the study of science and modern languages".[2]

Initially the RA Institution was supported by voluntary donations, but a grant of public money in 1850 put the establishment on a firmer footing and led to the appointment of a Director of Artillery Studies to oversee ongoing training of artillery officers.[3] In 1864, in light of fast-moving advances in technology, an Advanced Class for Artillery Officers was formed within the Institution, again at Lefroy's instigation, to provide a more rigorous, two-year course of study leading to a recognised qualification. A full-time Professor of Applied Mathematics was now appointed, as well as visiting lecturers in Chemistry, Metallurgy and Physics and Practical Mechanics, while students were also provided with 'professional' instruction within the Royal Arsenal in the properties of guns, carriages, ammunition and small arms.[3]

In 1885 the Department of Artillery Studies moved from the Institution into Red Barracks, Woolwich and was renamed Artillery College. At the same time its courses were made available to all officers of the Army and the Royal Marines, not just those of the Artillery. Artificer training was also offered by the College. In the early 20th century new chairs were established, alongside that of the 'Bashforth Professor of Mathematics and Ballistics', with the appointment of Professors of Chemistry (1900), Electricity (1903 - later renamed Electrical and Mechanical Engineering) and Physics (1918). In 1889 the College further expanded and a commandant was appointed; in 1899 it was renamed Ordnance College, before reverting again to its former name in 1918. Courses were suspended for the duration of the First World War.[3]

After World War I the college continued to expand and it took over the whole of Red Barracks; in 1927 it became the Military College of Science, reflecting its now wider remit.[4] By 1939 there were 22 civilian academic staff and the College was more akin to a University in its operation - albeit with military instructors continuing to provide specialist teaching in the Royal Arsenal alongside the academic subjects which were taught in Red Barracks.[4]

At the start of the Second World War the college was moved from Woolwich, which was vulnerable to aerial bombing. It moved, initially to the artillery ranges at Lydd in Kent, then scattering to various locations (the Artillery Equipment section to Stoke-on-Trent, Fire Control Instruments to Bury, Mechanical Traction to Rhyl and (later) Tank Technology to Chobham) until after the war, when the college was reconstituted and reopened at Beckett Hall in Shrivenham. (The Rhyl section, however, was renamed the Royal Artillery Mechanical Traction School and moved instead to Bordon).[5]

At Shrivenham the college was organised into four faculties: Mathematics and Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering and Instrument Technology. Military instruction was, for the first time, absorbed into the academic faculties; it was overseen by three Military Directors of Studies (in Weapons, Fighting Vehicles and Fire Direction). After the war the college was granted formal recognition by London University, enabling its students to be examined for the award of degrees. The college also provided for postgraduate studies in such specialist areas as Guided Weapons Systems and Nuclear Science and Technology and was allowed to develop as a centre for research as well as teaching.[6] In 1953, the college was granted its "Royal" title and became the Royal Military College of Science ('RMCS').[4]

In 1984 Cranfield University became the main academic provider of the college.[7] A contract entered into in November 2005 extended the Cranfield relationship to 2028.[7]

The new Defence Academy building in Shrivenham.

In 2004 the Royal Military College of Science amalgamated with the Defence Leadership Centre to create the Defence College of Management and Technology ('DCMT'). Then in 2009 DCMT itself became part of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, and was therefore renamed the Defence Academy - College of Management and Technology (DA-CMT).[8]

The college was based, like the majority of Defence Academy institutions, at MOD (Ministry of Defence) Shrivenham, located between the villages of Shrivenham and Watchfield in the south-west corner of Oxfordshire (Vale of White Horse), and had training centres around the country. DA-CMT facilities at Shrivenham were run by Serco Defence. The departments included: Centre for Defence Acquisition and Technology, Centre for Defence Leadership and Management, Defence Centre for Languages and Culture (formerly The Defence School of Languages),[9] Nuclear Department and the Defence Technical Officer and Engineer Entry Scheme (DTOEES).[10]

Since 2015 the College has ceased to exist as a distinct unit within the Defence Academy; its work is continued in several of the constituent units of the Academy, including the Technical School, Nuclear Department, Shrivenham Leadership Centre, Business Skills College and DTOEES.[11]

Notable staff[edit]

Notable members of staff of the College included:[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Skentlebery, Norman (1975). Arrows to atom bombs: a history of the Ordnance Board. London: Ordnance Board.
  2. ^ "History of the (Royal) Military College of Science" (PDF). Cranfield University. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Whiston, J. H. R. (1948–49). "A Short History of the Military College of Science" (PDF). Journal of the Military College of Science: 106–109. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "A Short History of the Royal Military College of Science, 1864–1964" (PDF). Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  5. ^ "Reid, Robert Tennant". Unit histories. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b Daish, C. B. (1964). "A Short History of the Royal Military College of Science 1864-1964" (PDF). Journal of the Military College of Science. 4 (1): 9–13. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Cranfield University - Academic Provider to the Defence College of Management and Technology". Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  8. ^ "A student's guide to Shrivenham" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  9. ^ "The Defence Centre for Languages and Culture (DCLC)". Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. British Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  10. ^ "Defence Sixth Form and Undergraduate Training Scheme". Defence Academy. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  11. ^ "About us". Defence Academy. MOD. Retrieved 15 September 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°36′11″N 1°38′25″W / 51.6030°N 1.6404°W / 51.6030; -1.6404