In the nineteenth century the British Army realized that a modern
army, using modern equipment, needed a trained and educated class of
soldiery to make it run smoothly and efficiently. Reading,
writing and arithmetic were of special importance. Unless a man had
a solid background in arithmetic, he would be less able to calculate
the trajectory of the shell he was to fire at a target.
Eventually, no soldier could achieve even the rank of corporal
without sufficient proof of education to a certain level.
were encouraged to attend classes in the evening, and some regiments
even excused men from drill if they attended classes.
Attendance was not compulsory, so many soldiers did not take
advantage of the opportunity.
of soldiers were included in the military school system, too.
Children like their fathers were dependent upon the Army for every
necessity of life, and the Army decided that it was time for
payback. Children were channelled into courses of study which
would lead them often to more productive lives within the army.
Boys had such tasks as leather working and smithing, while the girls
learned sewing and darning.
education was far superior to any school system available to
lower-class children in Britain, and it was free to the soldiers'
British Army employed qualified teachers known as schoolmasters or
-mistresses, who needed to complete a two-year course in Britain
before obtaining a certificate. A prerequisite for every
teacher was to be morally beyond reproach. A letter of good
character from a clergyman was required before applying to take the
course. These teachers were sent around the globe to various
postings to educate both soldiers and children.
fourteen, the children had to leave because they were considered old
enough to fend for themselves.
boys, the first option was to join the army itself, becoming first
drummers or buglers, then possibly switching to the infantry or
artillery. Another option would be to become an apprentice to
a tradesman whose skills the army could use, such as a leather
worker or blacksmith.
another opportunity was to leave the barracks behind and find work
as a child labourer. Dressed in cast-off uniforms, the
children quickly became streetwise — swearing, drinking beer and
gin, smoking cigarettes and short-stemmed clay pipes called
"nose warmers." One officer stationed at Fort Henry
referred to them as "little bandits."
grew up to marry, hopefully non-commissioned officers, if they were
lucky, or possibly finding employment as a domestic servant for an