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Duke of York's Royal Military School

The Duke of York’s Royal Military School, more commonly called the Duke of York’s, is a co-educational Academy (for students aged 11 to 18)[1] with military traditions in Dover, Kent.[2] Since becoming an Academy in 2010, the school is now sponsored by the MOD, and accepts applications from any student wishing to board. Before 2010, only those students whose parents were serving or had served in the armed forces were eligible.[3]

The Duke of York's Royal Military School
Entrance to the Duke of York's Royal Military School - - 804590.jpg
CT15 5EQ

TypeSelective academy
Boarding school
Mottoes"Manners Maketh Dukie" "Looking Forward with Confidence, Looking Back with Pride"
Former: "Sons of the Brave"
Religious affiliation(s)Protestant
Department for Education URN136177 Tables
PresidentPrince Edward Duke of Kent
HeadmanAlex Foreman
Age11 to 18
Colour(s)Navy, Maroon & White               
Former pupilsLads

With the transition to Academy status, the school became a state boarding academy (and is both a member of the State Boarding Forum and Boarding Schools Association) and oversight transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the Department for Education.[4]

The Duke of York’s has many traditions and a rich history, which includes ceremonial parades and uniforms,[5] a monitorial style of education modelled on the English public school system.[6]

This rich history includes a long line of notable alumni, known as Dukies, including senior generals (such as Sir Archibald Nye and Gary Coward), famous musicians (such as Henry Lazarus), sportsmen (like Maurice Colclough), many leading academic scientists (including Professors Paul Shaw, Timothy Foster and Mark Gardiner) and clergymen (James Jones and Bill Ind) and a long list of decorated armed forces personnel.[citation needed]


Founded in 1803 by act of Royal Warrant dating from 1801, the school was until 1892 called the Royal Military Asylum. The school’s primary purpose was to educate the orphans of British servicemen killed in the Napoleonic Wars of 1793-1815. Between 1803 and 1909 the Royal Military Asylum was located at what is now known as the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea, London.[7] The school was co-educational; making the Duke of York's the second co-educational boarding school in the United Kingdom. The first co-educational institution was the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin, which was relocated and merged with Duke of York's after Ireland declared independence.[8] Today the Chelsea site is home to the Saatchi Gallery.

The school adopted the "Madras system of education" developed by Dr. Andrew Bell, to which Joseph Lancaster made certain improvements. In 1812, three African youths attended the school as teachers for several months thanks to the intervention of the Duke of Gloucester. They were then sent by the African Institution to Sierra Leone, where they were employed as teachers by the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, the Earl of Liverpool.[9]

The school's original site in Chelsea.

Between 1816 and 1840, the Asylum had a branch in Southampton which provided schooling for up to 400 military orphans and children of serving soldiers of both sexes until 1823, when the boys were transferred to Chelsea, with Southampton taking more girls. A decline in the school numbers resulted in its closure in 1840. From 1841, the buildings were taken over by the Ordnance Survey.[10]

One of the more notable Commandants of the Royal Military Asylum was Major General Peter Brown. A veteran of the Napoleonic Wars[11] Brown was unusual in that he was promoted whilst in post[12][13](from colonel to major general), which was highly unusual given the post was not an active command and his predecessors and successors were never promoted in post.

In 1892, the Royal Military Asylum was renamed The Duke of York's Royal Military School and in the process became an all-boys school. In 1909, the school relocated to new premises constructed on the cliffs above Dover in Kent. For the duration of World War I (1914–1918), the school was evacuated to Hutton, near Brentwood, Essex. The reason for the evacuation was to provide the military authorities with a transit point in Dover for troops moved to and from the Western Front. In 1940 the school was evacuated to the Saunton Sands Hotel, Braunton, North Devon, returning to Dover in 1946.

In 1994, the school re-admitted girls and returned to co-education.

Academic standardsEdit

Between 2007 and 2009 more than 90% of pupils gained 5 or more GCSEs at grades A*-C (including English and Mathematics). More than 13% of grades were A*/A during the same period.

During this period (2007–2009) 19% of grades gained were A/B at AS level and 12% of grades were A/B at A2 level. A total of 32% of grades gained were passes at A2 level.[14]

Most recent results can be found on the School website.

Sports facilitiesEdit

Pupils have access to extensive sporting facilities; indeed sports take place every day, with main sports like rugby and hockey being played twice per week. Pupils can also engage in sports and athletic training in their own time each day. The school has a strong sporting culture. The 150 acres (607,000 m²) of land on the school site includes a full size athletics track, two sports halls, swimming pool, indoor squash courts, gymnasium and a dozen full size grass pitches for rugby union, cricket and tennis. £24.9 million was invested in the School's facilities in 2014, with a Sports Hall designed to Sports England specification being added to the site to enhance its already impressive facilities.

Exchanges with NATO member military schoolsEdit

The Duke of York's runs exchange programmes with military schools within NATO. Of these the most notable is the programme run with the school's French equivalent, the Lycée Militaire in Aix-en-Provence. There are also placements for recent school leavers from respective military schools to assume teaching assistant posts at corresponding schools. The Duke of York's also maintains connections with Missouri Military Academy, Valley Forge Military Academy and College, Wayne, Pennsylvania, and Faujdarhat Cadet College, Chittagong, Bangladesh.[15]

Parading, military instruction, adventurous trainingEdit

Ceremonial Parades take place on some Sunday mornings; the grandest of these being on Remembrance Sunday and the Grand Day at the end of summer term. On Parade, as well as for all military activities, pupils are called cadets and are organised into ceremonial Guards or they play an instrument in the Band. Cadets wear the standard dark blue ceremonial uniform of the British Army. The Duke of York’s Royal Military School Ceremonial Band is the largest within and since 2010 outside the Ministry of Defence, being larger still than the Massed Bands of the Foot Guards of the Household Division. The considerable number of notable musicians educated at the school over the last 207 years demonstrates the very high standards in music tuition. In recent years the band has performed at:

  • Twickenham Stadium (for the annual rugby match between the Royal Navy and British Army)
  • Lord's (for International Test Match Cricket)
  • Chatham Historic Dockyard (Armed Forces Day), alongside The Band of HM Royal Marines
  • Aldershot (for the Army Rugby League Finals).

The school employs a Regimental Sergeant Major to co-ordinate ceremonial drill and military instruction.

All pupils are cadets, with ranks ranging from cadet to senior under officer, and entrance to the armed forces at all ranks - as either a ranking soldier or commissioned officer entrant – occurs regularly.

Adventurous Training is run by the school and is available to senior school pupils. Each training camp is completed on Dartmoor at Oakhampton Training Camp and lasts one week, comprising mostly fieldcraft and endurance skills; but always including an extended exercise.

High TableEdit

High Table where a member of the Senior Leadership Team, two sixth form prefects and other students (taken from each house in rotation) and guests take luncheon. The table is waited on. Guests are invited from the Officers' Messes of nearby Army battalions, Royal Navy ships and Royal Air Force squadrons. Members of the school's board of governors, who are themselves among the most senior military officers and leaders in business and commerce, are also invited regularly. In 1986 there was a protest at the standard of the catering in which boys refused a meal.

Boarding housesEdit

The school is currently divided into twelve Houses, nine of which are named after famous British generals, one after a famous admiral of the Royal Navy, another after a famous marshal of the Royal Air Force:[16]

Junior Houses(Years 7)

Senior Houses(Years 8-11)

Years 12-13

  • Centenary House (opened in September 2010)

In 2014, a £25m refurbishment of School premises was completed including a new sports hall, upgrading of the main hall into a performing arts centre, two new teaching wings and four new residential houses along with the upgrading of the existing ones.School pupil numbers capacity has been increased by over 50%.


Music plays an important role in the life of the school. The school has several music ensembles of varying size, predominantly featuring military band instruments. The school's marching band has performed at public events such as the Chatham Dockyard Remembrance Day Parade and has been a regular pre-match feature at the Army vs Navy rugby match at Twickenham for many years.

In addition to the concerts and military band engagements that are held throughout the year, the school choir has featured in local television and radio broadcasts with their special version of "Wherever You Are", a song by the composer Paul Mealor which was performed by the Military Wives Choir at the 2011 Festival of Remembrance. The Duke of York's School version featured a pupil of the school reading a letter to her father who served in Afghanistan over Christmas 2011 and was broadcast on the Chris Evans BBC Radio 2 breakfast show on Wednesday 14 December and repeated several times in full on BBC Radio Kent throughout the Christmas period. The YouTube video of the Duke of York's School averaged 1000 hits a day during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Marching BeatsEdit

  • Regimental Colour - the School has its own "stand of Colours". The School Colour is trooped at many Parades.
  • School Quick March: Sons Of The Brave
  • School Slow March: The Duke Of York
  • School Song: "Play Up Dukies"
  • School Hymn: "Sons of the Brave"
  • School March off: "Marchin' through Georgia"

Military ColoursEdit

Along with Eton College and Cheltenham College, the Duke of York's Royal Military School is one of only three English schools to have military colours. While Eton and Cheltenham parade their colours on rare occasions, the Duke of York's Royal Military School parades its colours briefly as the Parade enters Chapel, and on a number of ceremonial parades in the course of the year.

Chapel and War MemorialsEdit

Despite pupils having multi-faith backgrounds the school adheres to the practices of the Church of England. Chapel is taken each week day morning by pupils with a full church service on Sunday following Parade. Consequently, cadets go to church services in Chapel wearing their ceremonial uniforms. On days of special religious significance the Chapel follows High Church traditions.

The walls of the chapel are laid up with the battle honours belonging to former Cadets' regiments and corps; but of more note are the historic carved marble tablet lists of the hundreds of Dukies who have sacrificed their lives in Great Britain's various wars and conflicts since 1803. The school has a memorial to the Great War and the Second World War placed just inside of the ex-main entrance to the school. The Parade and Band pays its respects here on the Armistice Commemoration. A great number of former pupils, many of them in the Armed Forces, also attend, along with Dukies who are now Chelsea Pensioners.

Guards' Competition and Grand DayEdit

At the end of each summer term the school parades for Grand Day. This is a special parade of much greater complexity, and is similar in style and length to the Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards. The purpose of Grand Day is to display the school at its finest to a visiting dignitary, who is either a member of the Royal Family or a member of the British armed forces General Staff. Grand Day has its origins in the school parading before its founder, the then Prince Frederick Duke of York and Albany when the school was founded in 1803.

In the build-up toward Grand Day the Guards (each corresponding to boarding houses) undergo the Guards' Competition, nicknamed "Drill Comp". The purpose is to test skill at ceremonial drill and standards regarding kit turnout. The outcome of the Guards' Competition ranks the Guards' Order of Precedence for Grand Day. The winning and therefore senior Guard is referred to as Number One Guard, with the others in declining order. Old Dukie, the late Sir John Carter, organised a visit to the School by Lady Margaret Thatcher. George Pooley of Pooley Swords donated a sword called the Thatcher Sword of Honour which is granted to the best performing Guard Officer each year.

Performing ArtsEdit

Performing Arts at the Duke of York's Royal Military School has developed and produced several international semi-professional musical production. With a partnership school in West Point, Virginia. The international productions take place every two years with the first production 'Cabaret' 2014 and more recently Phantom of the Opera 2016. Many other productions and performances are produced during the year. Ever other year a smaller scale musical is produced with this years production being Hairspray. A range of other productions such as the annual dance festival and Grand Day production are great showcases to show what the school has to offer in the art form.

Bi-centenary and new ColoursEdit

The School celebrated its bi-centenary in 2001–02. It held a commemorative service at Christmas in 2001 as well as a special Parade at the end of 2003, when it received new colours from Prince Andrew Duke of York.

The school celebrated the centenary of its move to Dover in 2009 and amongst many special events hosted a reception at the House of Lords, as well as parades and drama productions.

A change in traditionsEdit

Until 1999 the School's headmasters were all serving military officers of the rank of at least lieutenant colonel. Since then there have been four civilian headmasters. The school also has a regimental sergeant major among its staff whose primary role is to co-ordinate military standards and drill discipline.

The school's first civilian students were accepted in 2011 after the school was granted academy status.[17] Prior to this, the school had taken only students whose parents were veterans or currently serving in the United Kingdom's military forces.

Notable alumniEdit

Alumni are known as "Dukies".

  • Lieutenant-General Sir Gary Coward ret'd, CB, OBE, beginning his career in the Royal Artillery before transferring to the Army Air Corps, Coward was Quarter-Master General of the British Armed Forces, formerly Chief of Staff of the Permanent Joint Headquarters and before that General Officer Commanding United Kingdom Joint Helicopter Command. Coward is decorated with the Order of the Bath and the Order of the British Empire.
  • Ramon Tikaram, stage and screen actor who shot to fame in BBC2 drama This Life, where he played a bi-sexual, Mexican bike courier called Ferdie.[18]
  • Maurice Colclough, rugby player for the England national rugby union team and British and Irish Lions
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Nigel Wylde, QGM, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Intelligence Corps, former-bomb disposal expert and intelligence operative decorated for gallantry who has cast doubt on the legitimacy of the state's moral conduct in anti-terrorist campaigns from the 1970s to the present day. Wylde has appeared as an expert witness to the Barron Inquiry on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974.[19]
  • SirJames Stuart Jones, British Anglican clergyman and former Bishop of Liverpool
  • Bill Ind, British Anglican clergyman and formerly Bishop of Truro
  • Professor Arthur Buller, ERD, FRCP, Professor of Physiology, University of Bristol, 1965–1982, Emeritus Professor, since 1982; Chief Scientist, Department of Health and Social Security, 1978–81, and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians[20]
  • Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Nye, GCSI, GCIE, KCB, KBE, MC, Vice-Chief of the Imperial General Staff as well as being involved in Operation Mincemeat, Governor of Madras in 1946, UK High Commissioner in Delhi from 1948 to 1952, High Commissioner to Canada from 1952 to 1956, chairman of the Nye Committee.
  • Detective Inspector D.H.C. Nixon, Metropolitan Police, subject of the novel Nick of the River by Anthony Richardson and the accompanying television series.[21]
  • Lieutenant Peter Cartwright, Royal Scots Fusiliers, Special Air Service, died trying to save three comrades from drowning on training exercise during the Malayan Emergency. Despite pressure he was never awarded a posthumous gallantry medal.[22]
  • Colonel W.A.T. Bowly, CVO, CBE, MC, President of the DYRMS Old Boy's Association 1937-1945, as well as being Headmaster of the DYRMS during World War II, recipient of the Royal Victorian Order, the Order of the British Empire and decorated for gallantry in combat during World War I.[23]
  • William Henry Debroy Somers, inter-war composer, lyricist, blues and jazz musician who formed the Savoy Hotel Orpheans, performed on Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy, and performed in the Horlicks Show to rival the Ovaltineys [1], as well as performing in the Royal Variety Performance.[24]
  • Group Captain George Gardiner, DSO, DFC, Légion d'honneur, Croix de guerre, Croix de Chevalier, Royal Irish Regiment, Queen's Lancers, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force, fighter ace in World War I.[25]
  • Lieutenant George William Hanna, MM, Duke of Wellington's Regiment, infantryman in the Boer War and World War I.[26]
  • Henry Lazarus, the premier British clarinet virtuoso of the nineteenth century and professor of the Royal Academy of Music
  • Thomas Sullivan, professor of the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall and father of the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame[27]
  • Roger Tomlinson, master of British military music, who ended his career in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as Senior Director of Music of the British Army[28]
  • Alfred James Phasey, a star musician during the Victorian age, including playing with the Philharmonic Society of London (progenitor of the Royal Philharmonic Society, professor of the Royal Army College of Music.
  • Ann Vanpine, mill worker turned teacher to the benefit of her community and testament to the spirit of service encouraged at the Duke of York's; moreover Vanpine was a pupil in the earliest years of the school (1821–1825) and in a time of extremely limited opportunities for orphans but especially women, making her accomplishments the more remarkable.[29]
  • John Francis David Shaul, recipient of the Victoria Cross as a Corporal of the Highland Light Infantry at the Battle of Magersfontein, 11 December 1899. Corporal Shaul's bravery and humane conduct were so conspicuous that, not only was he noticed by his own officer, but even those of other regiments remarked upon it. Corporal Shaul was in charge of stretcher bearers and was most conspicuous in dressing the wounds of the injured. He was born in King's Lynn on 11 September 1873. He received his VC from the Duke of York at Pietermaritzburg on 14 August 1901.
  • Mat Gilbert, Bath Rugby, Llanelli Scarlets and England Deaf Rugby player.
  • George Ridgwell, stage performer and minor composer/lyricist, later pioneer silent film-maker including the first Sherlock Holmes shorts
  • Peter Birch, Actor. Roles have included Herr Ulrich in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, consultant Jack Hathaway in Casualty and Arthur Eliott in The House of Eliott.

Notable MastersEdit

  • Regimental Sergeant Major Lincoln Perkins, British Empire Medal, Grenadier Guards, RSM at the Duke of York's Royal Military School 1979-2006, extensive career including Britain's East of Suez conflicts and service in the Royal Household.
  • Mr C.H. Connell, Head of English at DYRMS post World War II in the 1940s to late 1970s. Operative in the Special Operations Executive during World War II, Connell was also an author with at least seventeen novels and books published, plus a number of plays.[30]
  • Colonel W.A.T. Bowly, CVO, CBE, MC, Headmaster of the DYRMS during World War II, as well as being President of the DYRMS Old Boy's Association 1937-1945, recipient of the Royal Victorian Order, the Order of the British Empire and decorated for gallantry in combat during World War I.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel S.G. Simpson, OBE, Headmaster of the Duke of York's Royal Military School 1922-1927, recipient of the Order of the British Empire, graduate of the universities of Cambridge, Lille, Paris and Heidelberg.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Priestley,CMG, Medical Officer at the Duke of York's Royal Military School 1919-1922, recipient of the Order of St Michael and St George.
  • Brigadier-General George Colborne Nugent, Irish Guards, Commandant of the Duke of York's Royal Military School 1913-1914, commanded the 5th London Brigade in World War I and was killed in action on 31 May 1915.
  • Captain William Siborne, Adjutant of the Royal Military Asylum from 1843 to 1849, having previously demonstrated that the Duke of Wellington's account of his victory at the Battle of Waterloo was erroneous, and was in fact due in considerable part to Prussian assistance.[31]
  • Major General Lloyd Howell, CBE, Director of Army Education 1976-80, Headmaster [and commandant]1967-72.

Dukies' Corner in Guston ChurchyardEdit

Sadly pupils of the school did die and some of those are buried in the churchyard of St Martin of Tours church in the nearby village of Guston.[32] There are 12 grave markers for boys of the school (although in one case an Old Boy is buried). There are also two members of staff are buried in Dukies' Corner.

Other British Educational Establishments with Military ConnectionsEdit


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  18. ^ Cook, Emma (21 June 1997). "Interview: Ramon Tikaram - The mane man". The Independent. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  19. ^ "Guilty until proven innocent". Archived from the original on 30 May 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  20. ^ "A Dukie seeks to prevent MRSA". Archived from the original on 14 May 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  21. ^ "Detective Inspector D.H.C. Nixon CID (1894–1956)". Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Homage to a fallen comrade". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Archibald Edward Nye (1895–1967)". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  24. ^ "William Henry (Debroy) Somers (1890-1952)". Archived from the original on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  25. ^ "George Cecil Gardiner DSO, DFC". Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  26. ^ "Lieutenant George William Hanna, MM". Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  27. ^ "Thomas Sullivan, a proto Dukie". Archived from the original on 26 May 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  28. ^ url= |work=Safe Music |accessdate=5 May 2017}}
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  30. ^ "Dictionary of staff bios A to M". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  31. ^ "Captain W. Siborne, Adjutant of the RMA (1843–1849)". Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  32. ^ "Duke of Yorks - Guston". Retrieved 6 June 2017.

External linksEdit