I grew up with a Dad in the British Forces and so I moved around a lot and attended a few different Army Schools. Growing up this way has been a huge part of what has shaped me as an adult and I also feel that no-one truly knows me unless they understand what it was like to grow up this way. I am still friends with people I went to school with and we all agree that no-one from the regular world gets what it was like to grow up in the Armed Forces environment and so I want to write about it to give people an insight into our lives. There is so much to life like this that it would be impossible to talk about it all in one post and so for the moment, I am going to be talking specifically about Army Schools. Before I get into it, I have to let you all know that if you are living in an English-speaking country then you attend regular school but if, like me, you lived in Germany then you go to a specific Army School.
In school, no matter where you are from you have to take part in the English schooling system. I had already left school before moving back to Scotland but I can’t imagine how hard it was for the children that had to leave their GCSEs and try to pick up their schooling in a different system. When I first moved back to Scotland, I was half way through my first year of A-Levels and didn’t exactly know what to do. I was offered a place at my sister’s school but I would have to be held back two years to get Scottish qualifications. In Army Schools you are taught regular subjects until Year 10 where you then get to choose your subjects. You still have to do Maths, English, Science, Physical Education and Religious Education but you can then choose three extra classes. I chose German, Art and Performing Arts. I have learned from people who went to school in the UK that French is the main language they learn in school but for us it was German as we lived in Germany, I learned French for 6 months when I first started secondary school. All our teachers are British and have chosen to move to Germany in order to teach at an Army School but it comes with perks. They earn a generous amount of money, get superior housing, schooling for any children they have, don’t pay rent or tax and many other things that make being a teacher in a different country appealing. In Germany, there was only a couple of secondary schools so you normally had to travel for up to an hour to get there. There was King’s School, Gloucester School, Windsor School and Prince Rupert School (RPS). We had the regular school rivalries which was confusing considering most of us had been to multiple schools, like I attended King’s and Gloucester.
Because there was only four, most of us had to travel to different cities for school. As there were much fewer secondary schools than primary schools it was likely that you would end up bumping into people from years ago and re-spark old friendships. There were occasions though where you would move to a school you didn’t know anyone or the person you were friends with moved away so being in this environment, you got used to making new friends. For me, this has given me a confidence I don’t think I would have had and moving away from people who were your friends definitely tests if it was real or just convenient. I am still friends with people I went to school with and some actually live near me now. Even though people are moving all the time and you have to regularly make new friends, this didn’t stop there being cliques in school. Everyone was obviously just being teenagers but people still got bullied and stupid things still happened. The worst thing was if because of the different Army Bases, you didn’t live near your school friends. When I first started secondary school, I didn’t live near anyone I was friends with but over time people moved in and out, I moved and eventually ended up living in the same place as all my friends which was a welcomed change.
The actual school campus was widely different depending on what school you went to. Gloucester was a huge modern building with lots of windows, space and everything in the same building. King’s was four old army blocks that where converted into a school meaning if it was raining you still had to go outside to get to class. Nearly every school I went to was on an Army Base, we would have to arrive in our school buses through the guarded gates and this would also mean that we couldn’t leave until the school day was over. During my A-Levels I would have free periods at the end of the day but would have to wait around as I couldn’t leave and had no way of getting home. Because of the security level on bases and in the schools, you had to be a child of someone in the Armed Forces or a teacher to attend the school.
I attended King’s School though my GCSEs and part of my A-Levels as I couldn’t just go to college. If you finish school at 16 and wanted to study your A-Levels at a college, you would have to go to leave your family and move back to the UK on your own as there was no colleges for Army Children. Every secondary school offered A-Levels instead and I guess to make it feel like regular college, we got a few perks. We no longer had to wear school uniform but instead had to wear smart casual clothing and god forbid you were caught wearing jeans. We were also allowed access to a common room that no-one used and to leave the school grounds and use the Naffi (Army Shop) or JBs (Soldier Canteen). We still got detentions, had to engage in school activities and where taught by the same people.
As it was the English schooling system, you leave school at 16 once you finish your GCSEs. When we left school, we had a sort of graduation called NRA. We all got dressed up and walked across the stage in front of our parents to accept a piece of paper from the RSM. Along with a graduation, we also had a prom. Every year the Year 11s all put on a winter market we called enterprise day to raise money for the prom. We would all break up into teams and come up with an idea for a stall at the market which we would then have to plan, pitch to a board made up of teachers, get approval, get a loan, buy materials and set up the stall. On the actual enterprise day, we would have to work our stall all day tricking 12-year olds into paying £3 to have their hair sprayed purple or to have a go on a bouncy castle. The prom committee (which I was on) would then use this money to put on a prom, but all we actually did was choose a theme (black and white, very inventive) and design the tickets leaving the teachers to do the rest. Our prom was held at a hotel in the same city as the school. People all turned up in limos, on space hoppers, on rollerblades and one group of boys got handcuffed and chased into the hotel by the Military Police. My prom was pretty fun. The teachers all got drunk, most people had vodka in flasks, if you were lucky enough to be 16 you could get drinks from the bar, we had a prom king and queen, voted most likely to’s and danced terribly all night. At the end of the night it was kind of sad but most people I was friends with where coming back for A-Levels so it wasn’t the big goodbye everyone thought it was going to be.
Although there was a lot of fun things about Army life, there was also some not so fun things. As school was on military camps there was always a level of threat and for as long as I can remember it was on medium or high, never low. Soldiers with guns guarded the gates and most people had parents away at war. Every school does fire drills, as did mine but we also had bomb drills and a few scares. The practice was the same at fire drills but when there were actual scares it was different. If there was a suspicious package or a bag left somewhere then we would be evacuated somewhere away from the ‘bomb’ but still on the base while they dealt with the issue. My Mum said it was always so scary as she would have to wait outside the base with all the other parents while this happened as the base would go into lockdown with no-one allowed in or out. There was even one time someone parked a car outside the base and was acting suspicious and so the car was carefully blown up, turned out it wasn’t a threat and the poor person returned to find their car on fire.
Everyone’s experiences are different, especially in Army life. Some people’s parents left the army when they were very young, some people’s parents never went to war, some people have lived in a crazy number of places and some people have never left their home town. My experience will be unique to me and even with some people sharing those experiences, I bet they have been in a million situations that are different to me. I loved the way I grew up and I didn’t know there was anything weird about it until I got older, even with some horrible times I still wouldn’t change it for the world.
‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ ~ Albert Einstein
Thank you so much for reading! This post is about my personal experiences/opinions and may not apply to everyone. Please feel free to like, comment, share and get in contact with feedback or ideas of what I could post about in the future. You can also subscribe to get notified when I post. New post coming Friday, check out my last post ‘My Makeup Routine’.
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