An Officer and a Gentleman

"For years I thought my father, with his experience and flair, had discerned in me the qualities of military genius. But I was told later that he had only come to the conclusion that I was not clever enough to go to the Bar."

For young gentlemen of Winston's social class only certain professions were considered suitable. The university was the gatekeeper to all but the military, and Winston's poor performance at school closed the university's doors to him.

Winston's lack of attention to studies nearly ended his military career before it began. He took three attempts to pass the entrance exams for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, scoring just enough points to be admitted to the Cavalry, but not the Infantry.

Lord Randolph had hoped for at least an infantry career for his son, and was deeply disappointed.

The Cavalry became a source of both joy and tension for Winston. Riding became a passion and he proved exceptionally good at it. However, since the British Officer had to pay for his own uniforms and horses, Cavalry service taxed his family's financial resources.

But, at Sandhurst Winston finally hit his stride, applying himself to subjects that interested him and earning good marks. "I was no longer handicapped by past neglect of Latin, French or Mathematics. We had now to learn fresh things and we all started equal. Tactics, Fortification, Topography [mapmaking], Military Law and Military Fortification, formed the whole curriculum. In addition were Drill, Gymnastics and Riding." Churchill found his work at Sandhurst exciting. He drew contoured maps of the hills in the area, designed paper plans for the advanced guards and rear guards, and even thought up simple tactical schemes. He learned how to blow up masonry bridges and make substitute bridges out of wood.

Sandhurst's eighteen months of practical studies concluded Winston's formal education, and he graduated 20th out of 130.

“Leave the past to history especially as I propose to write that history myself.”

Winston S. Churchill