‘Mountain expedition’ in the snow photograph dated 7th July 1966. Expedition is possibly by the Mountaineering Society.
What is an OTC?
The OTC, or Officer Training Corps, was established in 1908 to ‘attract’ young men into the British army. The Corps also laid the foundation for these young men to become fully commissioned officers, which the Army sorely needed. The OTCs operated throughout the war and were vital in providing officer candidates for selection. In fact, these training corps became so critical that in 1916 new military instruction was implemented which stated that temporary commissions could only be granted if a man had been through an Officer Cadet unit.
But how did the Corps come to be?
A committee under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Ward, then permanent under secretary of state for war, was tasked with reviewing the issue of low officer recruitment numbers. He and the committee then presented a report to the British government with the following proposals:
(a) To create a system of military instruction for prospective officers, existing School 11 and University Corps should be reorganized into an “Officers Training Corps.”
(b) A selected staff should be created in the department of the War Office to supervise the organization, instruction, and examination for certificates of the Officers Training Corps.
According to Edward M. Spiers, author of COMEC OCCASIONAL PAPER. No 4: ‘The corps was to be divided into a Junior Division for public schools and a Senior Division for universities.’ These programmes trained cadets to for Certificate A and B examinations; however, only university cadets could take the latter. The examinations were divided into written and theoretical parts. Exam B was much more rigorous, with compulsory papers in elementary tactics, military law and administration as well as practical and written papers in special-to-arms training. There was also an optional paper in military history and strategy. The requirements to take Certificate B were also much more rigorous. Cadets could only take the examination if they had proved their efficiency over a two year period with mandatory attendance of special events and training camps. Possession of a Certificate B was the rough equivalent of 6 months’ residence at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst.
Was the OTC successful?
Initially, no. While thousands of University students participated, relatively few went on to earn their Certificate B status. Even fewer went on to become fully commissioned officers in the British Army.
It wasn’t until 1914 that the OTC had a measurable impact. An appeal from the British government, (published on 10 August), urgently requested for 2,000 young men to come forward and take temporary commissions in the regular army. This appeal was directed specifically towards men who were, or had been, cadets in the ‘University Training Corps’. In 1914, the university students knew what was expected of them patriotically and allegedly volunteered in such numbers that the Army struggled to find them all commissions.
Spiers claimed that ‘the military contribution of the Universities’ OTCs can be assessed as 2,298 officers gazetted as officers, including regular officers, before the outbreak of war; 9,402 commissioned from August 1914 to February 1915; and another 3,278 serving in the ranks during this period.’
The Sad Plight of Jones caught my eye while I was scanning archived copies of Newcastle University’s magazines for the WWI archival project. While humorous, it seemed to me that the cartoon could be interpreted in a rather dark manner given the date of this particular issue.
A far cry from the boyish, carefree attitude of the OTC’s beginnings, the OTC of 1915 would have likely been suffused with feelings of the impending realities of service on the front lines. The cartoon takes the reader on a quick journey through Jones and his ‘plight’: a young man sees a beautiful woman on the arm of a uniformed soldier and thus joins the OTC. As a cadet, he is expected to ‘swot’ or study hard for his examinations, but is ‘haunted’ by visions of being shelled.
If we assume the shelling is freak mishap of a summer training camp scenario gone wrong, the cartoon is rather funny indeed. But if instead it is a reference to Cadet Jones being distracted from pretty young women and his studies by visions of being shelled on the front lines of a world war… the cartoon becomes quite bleak. As a student at Newcastle University myself, I can’t help but consider my own worries in a different perspective if the latter theory is true.
How disconnected and separate must these cadets have felt from their other university peers? It certainly leads one to wonder at the degree of patriotic duty these young men must have felt to have still continued with their cadet training despite these misgivings. I feel it is important to stress that the OTC in 1915 was not contractual. Once these cadets joined, there was no legal obligation to continue… yet thousands did.
Jessica Thomas is a student at Newcastle University and a volunteer on the ‘Universities at War’ project within the Newcastle University Robinson Library Archives.
Thursday 1st August 1963 was the “Appointed Day”. In 1908 the federal University of Durham was set up by an Act of Parliament when the existing colleges of the University of Durham were formed into two divisions – the colleges located in Durham became the Durham Division and the College of Medicine (founded in 1834) and Armstrong College (founded as the College of Physical Sciences in 1871) in Newcastle, the Newcastle Division. In 1937 Durham College of Medicine and Armstrong College were amalgamated to form King’s College in the University of Durham. With two centres 15 miles (24 kilometres) apart there were several strains in the relationship between the two divisions over the years, and this led to several calls for the establishment of a University, or University College, in Newcastle, none of which came to fruition. However on 29th January 1960 the Academic Board of the Newcastle Division at an Extraordinary General Meeting passed the following motion: “That this Board is of the opinion that the healthy development of this Division of the University makes desirable the establishment of a University of Newcastle in place of King’s College.”
Surprisingly there was little real opposition, in either division, to the proposal and eventually a Bill was presented to Parliament which became the Universities of Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne Act 1963. As the “Appointed Day” dawned the newly created University of Newcastle upon Tyne came into existence. However as E.M. Bettenson remarks in The University of Newcastle upon Tyne: Historical Introduction:
“Apart from changes in the notepaper headings and signs on the buildings it was difficult to tell that anything had happened… No member of staff found his conditions of service altered, no student whether graduate or undergraduate varied his studies, degree regulations and instructions to examiners remained the same.” The only events of note on this the “Appointed Day” were a visit to the new University by Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Alderman Harry Simm, accompanied by the Sheriff and the Town Clerk ; and the formal meetings of the Court, Council and Senate of the new University. During his visit the Lord Mayor presented the University with a “noble salver of Lindisfarne silver”.
At the final meeting of the Court of the federal University of Durham on 29th July 1963 gifts were exchanged between the old and the new universities.
On the afternoon of Monday 13th November 1967 in King’s Hall a congregation was held to award an honorary Doctor of Civil Law. Present at the ceremony were the Chancellor of the University, His Grace the Duke of Northumberland and the Vice-Chancellor Dr. C.I.C Bosanquet.
The Public Orator, Professor J.H. Burnett, in his speech of introduction described some events from the life of the candidate:
“I do not suppose that many of us, shopping with an eight-year-old son, have been required to sit in a particular part of a shoe shop because of the colour of our skin, nor do I imagine that our wives have often had to explain to distraught children that “Daddy went to jail to help other people”, and, although I hope we could all behave in this way, I seriously question the ability of most of us to return to a wife and young baby in a bomb-blasted house surrounded by a clamouring crowd and say “Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. We are not advocating violence. I want you to love our enemies”…
The man being honoured on that day 45 years ago was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the American civil rights leader.
Unusually, but perhaps not surprisingly, as he was probably one of the 20th Century’s greatest orators, Dr. King delivered a speech in reply.
The speech, according to the report of the event in the Courier, was made without the aid of notes.
Extract from Professor J.H. Burnett’s speech
“… I can assure you that honouring me today in this very meaningful way is of inestimable value for the continuance of my humble efforts. Although I cannot in any way say that I am worthy of such a great honour, I can also assure you that you give me renewed courage and vigour to carry on in the struggle to make peace and justice a reality for all men and women all over the world. …”
“… It may be true that morality cannot be legislated but behaviour can be regulated: it may be true the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless: it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can restrain him from lynching me. …”
“… So while the law may not change the hearts of men it does change the habits of men if it is vigorously enforced. Through changes in habits, pretty soon attitudinal changes will take place and even the heart may be changed in the process. …”
Dr. King’s extremely busy schedule meant that he had to leave Newcastle almost immediately after the ceremony, to return to America.
However, earlier in the day, before the ceremony he had had time to meet a group of students for an informal question and answer session.
Find out more
Featured in a digital exhibition as part of Freedom City 2017; a city-wide programme commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s honorary degree – https://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/special-collections/digital-resources/martin-luther-king/
26th November 2010 marks the bicentenary of the birth of Lord Armstrong. William George Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Cragside, was a scientist, engineer, inventor and businessman. His achievements brought him world renown and fixed Newcastle and the North East of England firmly on the science and engineering map.
This photograph depicts Lord Armstrong standing at the doorway to Cragside, his country home in Rothbury, Northumberland, in c. 1897 when Armstrong was in his old age. In the photograph Armstrong appears to be content, satisfied and self-assured, if a little tired, and a glance at the story of his life and achievements explains why.
Armstrong was born on 26th November 1810 at 9 Pleasant Row, Shieldfield, in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was the only son of William Armstrong, a corn merchant and local politician. Armstrong Senior wanted his son to enter the legal profession and, upon leaving school, Armstrong took articles under the wealthy Newcastle solicitor and family friend Armorer Donkin, becoming a partner in the firm in 1835.
Armstrong was a good solicitor, but his passion lay elsewhere. From an early age he had possessed a fascination with all things scientific and mechanical. This continued into adulthood and a turning point in his life came in 1835 when, during a fishing trip to Dentdale in Yorkshire, his attention was captured by what he recognised as an inefficient use of water in an over-shot water-wheel. Over the next ten years, Armstrong devoted his spare time to developing the effective use of water as a motive power, and his tireless work culminated in his demonstration, to great applause, of a model hydraulic crane at the Literary and Philosophical Institute in Newcastle in December, 1845.
During this early period of his career Armstrong’s imagination was also captured by an aspect of science which was to become one of his greatest loves: electricity. When, in 1840, workers at Cramlington Colliery in Northumberland began to experience electric shocks from steam escaping at high-pressure from a boiler, Armstrong applied his capabilities to establishing and describing the cause of the phenomenon, later named The Armstrong Effect in his honour. He published a series of papers on the effect and developed a spark-inducing hydroelectric machine which he exhibited at the Literary and Philosophical Society. His discovery led to him being elected a fellow of the Royal Society in May 1846.
In the mean time, Armstrong’s hydraulic cranes had impressed many and were in such high demand that, in 1847, he established Messrs W.G. Armstrong & Co., in partnership with Armorer Donkin and others, to manufacture machinery using his hydraulic technology. He finally resigned from his solicitor’s job shortly afterwards. In the same year the partners founded an engineering works at Elswick on the banks of the River Tyne, just to the west of Newcastle. The Elswick Works were to go from strength to strength and evolve through several incarnations over the decades, Armstrong’s reputation as an engineer and a businessman growing alongside them.
In the 1850s Armstrong moved into the field of armament production when he developed a new type of field gun in response to the high loss of life experienced during the Crimean War, and was commissioned to supply the War Office with Armstrong Guns, receiving a knighthood for his services. Later, after the government ended its contract with the Elswick Works, Armstrong went on to sell armaments, including naval guns, indiscriminately to foreign countries. Although this seemed controversial to some, Armstrong felt justified in doing so.
Armstrong became a nationally and internationally renowned figure and, as he amassed great wealth from his engineering successes, he became a great benefactor to his native Newcastle. His gifts included Jesmond Dene, the landscaped park which he gave for the benefit of the town’s inhabitants, and substantial financial support towards the foundation of a College of Physical Science, ultimately to evolve into Newcastle University.
He was awarded many honours for his achievements, including election to the Presidency of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1863. During his inaugural address as President at the Association’s meeting in Newcastle in the same year, he spoke about the issue of finite coal reserves and the potential for harnessing solar power, adding “visionary” to his many other accolades.
In the same year, Armstrong purchased land near Rothbury and began the construction of his country residence Cragside, where he would increasingly spend his time as he retired from the day-to-day running of the business. These later years of Armstrong’s life saw his love-affair with electricity re-surface when, in keeping with his instinct for innovation, Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit using hydroelectric power and the first to be lit by Joseph Swan’s newly-invented incandescent light. He experimented further with electricity and in 1897 published the volume Electric Movement in Air and Water which contained a set of striking photographic images of electric discharges taken by the Rothbury-based photographer John Worsnop, who also took the photograph of Armstrong shown here.
Armstrong was raised to the peerage as Baron Armstrong of Cragside in June 1887. When he died in 1900, he left an enduring legacy and was remembered as having been a towering figure of the Victorian era.