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Military Education Committee

The University Service Units have their origins in the Army reforms of Richard Haldane, Secretary of State for War, from 1905 to 1908.  In the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907, the Universities were invited to establish Officers’ Training Corps on the stipulation that they must have a Committee responsible for Military Education.  The University of Glasgow appointed a Working Party to consider the matter which reported thirteen months later, and the Military Education Committee was established on 21st April 1908 to deal with the formation and management of the UOTC and to conduct all correspondence with the War Office.  The Convener of that Working Party and the Committee (of twenty four years) was Dudley Medley, Professor of Modern History, who averred that, next to the work of his classes, the UOTC was his chief interest and pride.

The Committee vigorously went about its task and in November 1908 the UOTC was inaugurated by Richard Haldane, accompanied by General Sir Archibald Murray, Director of Military Training at the War Office.  Haldane was interrupted, as was the habit of the day, by suffragettes: it would be a hundred years before the first female UOTC Commanding Officer was appointed.

The Committee quickly recruited 400 Cadets, 1 in 7 of the student population, forming three infantry companies and one company of engineers.  The Committee concluded in 1910 that it must build its own headquarters.  Court gave the site and the Committee raised the necessary loans, which were paid off in a few years.  Building began in 1911, and the Officer Training Centre was opened in January 1912 by the Earl of Rosebery, Chancellor of the University.  The process was repeated with the then Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve Association at a cost of £1.3m to rebuild the premises, which were opened in 1988 by Sir William Kerr Fraser and Sir Graham Hills, Principals of the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde.

The Committee has always been at the forefront of new developments, both locally and nationally, in order to influence their direction, whether with the services direct or with the Council of Military Education Committees.  Professor Medley was involved in the initiative to create what is now COMEC and served as chairman for ten years.

During the Second World War the Committee facilitated the establishment of a University Naval Division which vanished with the end of war, not to be resurrected for another quarter of a century as the Royal Naval Unit in 1971.  They also sponsored in 1941 the inauguration in the Bute Hall by Sir Archibald Sinclair, Rector, of the national scheme for establishing Air Squadrons in Universities.

The Universities agreed to change the composition of the Committee in 1978 to give the University of Strathclyde parity of membership.

The Committee in 1996 invited the University of Paisley and Glasgow Caledonian University each to be represented by an active member.

Former Conveners

2011 - 2015  Prof. Roderick A. M. Galbraith
2005 - 2011  Mr. Roderick G. Livingston
1997 - 2005  Dr. J. Graham Herbertson
1995 - 1997  Prof. Gary F. Roach
1991 - 1995  Prof. John N. Mattock
1989 - 1991  Dr. H. E. Robin Preston
1985 - 1989  Prof. M. Lewis
1983 - 1985  Prof. G. Melvyn Howe
1980 - 1983  Prof. David L. Hamblen
1978 - 1980  Prof. William E. Tyler
1974 - 1978  Mr. Robert O. MacKenna
1969 - 1974  Prof. J. Bennett Miller TD
1966 - 1969  Prof. William A. Mackey TD
1963 - 1966  Prof. Esmond Wright
1957 - 1963  Prof. Peter Alexander
1932 - 1957  Prof. John D. Mackie CBE MC
1908 - 1931  Prof. D. J. Medley
Former Strategic Studies Lectures

The Committee instituted in 1982 a series of annual lectures on topics of general strategic, military and defence matters.

2019  Major-General Robert B. Bruce,  Military Secretary and General Officer Scotland, on Strategic Overview of Challenges for Defence

2017  Dr. Patrick Mileham, Vice-Chairman Council of Military Education Committees of the Universities of the UK, on Strategy, Ideology and Morality in Conflict

2016  Colonel Alison McCourt, Commanding Officer 22 Field Hospital and Kerry Town Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone, on Operation GRITROCK – The Challenges of Command and Leadership

2015  Major General Mike Riddell-Webster, former Director College of Management and Technology, on Reflections on Leadership

2014  Brigadier Charlie Herbert, Commander 4th Mechanized Brigade, on Integrated, Agile and Engaged; the Army in the 21st Century

2013  Rear Admiral John Kingwell, Director Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, on The Response Force Task Group and Libya - a Glimpse into the Future

2012  Lt. Gen. Andrew Graham, former Director General Defence Academy of the UK, on Preparing the 21st Century Commander

2011  Lt. Gen. Sir Hew Pike, former General Officer Commanding and Director of Military Operations Northern Ireland, on From the Front Line - Family Letters and Diaries 1900 to the Falklands and Afghanistan

2010  Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, Commander in Chief Fleet, on The Role of the Royal Navy Today and in the Future

2009  Brigadier Andrew Mackay, Director Field Army Liaison at the Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre, on The Man in the Arena

2008  Centenary Year Lecture  Professor Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford, on The Utility of Strategy

2007  Lt. Gen. Sir John Kiszely, Director of the Defence Academy, on The Nature of Future Conflict

2006  Major General Euan Loudon, General Officer Commanding 2nd Division and Governor of Edinburgh Castle, on The Security Challenges Facing Tomorrow's Armed Forces

2005  Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge, Commander in Chief Strike Command, on The Present and Future Role of the RAF

2004  Lt. Gen. Richard Dannatt, Commander Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, on The Nature of Future Warfare

2003  Lt. Gen. Sir Hew Pike, former General Officer Commanding and Director of Military Operations Northern Ireland, on Reflections on Leadership at Tactical Levels in the South Atlantic Campaign

2002  Professor Paul Wilkinson, Chairman Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence University of St. Andrews, on Terrorism Today

2001  General Sir Hugh Beach, former Director Council for Arms Control, on British Defence Issues Revisited

2000  Major General Alistair Irwin, Military Secretary, on The Challenges for Technology in Future War

1999  Major General Julian Thompson, former commander 3rd Commando Brigade, on The Falklands Land Campaign

1998  Professor Colin S. Gray

1997  Lt. Col. Richard Callander, Queen’s Own Yeomanry, on Experiences of the Troubles in Bosnia




1993  Dr. Peter Foot, Royal Naval College Greenwich

1992  Dr. Nicholas M. Hope, Modern History University of Glasgow

1991  Dr. Hugh N. Kennedy, Mediaeval History University of St. Andrews, on The Gulf

1990  Dr. David Gillard, History University of Glasgow, on The Pacific Ring

1987  Professor Gavin Kennedy, on The Defence Industry, Saviour of the UK Manufacturing Industry?

1986  Mr. John Wilson, Bristol, on The Oil Industry, Particularly Offshore, the Terrorist Threat, and How it is Dealt With

1985  Professor Bill Wallace, Soviet and East European Studies University of Glasgow, on The Arms Talks

1984  Mr. James Wyllie, International Relations University of Aberdeen, on Strategic Aspects of US Foreign Policy

1983  Professor Melvyn Howe, Geography University of Strathclyde, on The Soviet Union and its Geographical Problems

1982  Dr. Brian Dicks, Geography University of Strathclyde, on The Middle East

Service Units

Members of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College, as John Anderson’s Institution had become, joined the Glasgow University OTC contingent from 1908.

Former UOTC Adjutant, 1912-1914, Lt. Col. John Cassels Monteith

The Great War

The Corps trained many potential Officers for Kitchener’s New Army, and by the summer of 1916 had provided 2,800 Officers.

Glasgow University’s online Roll of Honour records the names of those from the University community who served during the War.

On the outbreak of the Great War it was proposed to form a battalion of Royal Technical College members, but in the interests of more speedy mobilization the 17th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry was formed in co-operation with the Chamber of Commerce.  Their Farewell Meeting in the RTC Assembly Hall:

A Strathclyde University Roll of Honour records Honours awarded, a Roll of the Fallen and Sacrifice and Service in the War.

After the Great War experience, a  Medical Contingent and half a Battery of Artillery were added, and later a Signals detachment.

Second World War

The Corps’ role in the Second World War was to train Officers from those students conscripted into the Army and to provide basic training for those who remained behind as a Home Guard Unit.  At its height, the Corps rose to 1,500.

During the Second World War the Committee facilitated the establishment of a University Naval Division which vanished with the end of war, not to be resurrected for another quarter of a century as the Royal Naval Unit in 1972.  They also sponsored in the Bute Hall the inauguration by Sir Archibald Sinclair, Rector, of the national scheme for establishing Air Squadrons in Universities in 1941.

From 2011, Glasgow University students who have successfully completed each stage of military training, or been appointed to positions of responsibility in their University Service Unit, have this information included on their Higher Education Achievement Report when they graduate.

Officer Cadet training was accredited in 2012 by the Chartered Management Institute towards an Award or Certificate in Management and Leadership.

Strathclyde joined the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme in 2014 when a partnership agreement was signed to educate and support students from Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College preparing for a career as a technical officer or engineer in the armed services or Ministry of Defence.  Students attend selected degree courses in a range of subjects at Strathclyde and are assigned to the DTUS Trojan Squadron in Newcastle, while receiving weekly training support from the Glasgow and Strathclyde UAS.

Early Military Interest

Numbers of graduates from the 16th Century onwards chose a career as an officer in the army, either in one of the Scottish regiments or as a professional soldier in a foreign army.

Jacobite Risings

The Universities had an interest in military matters during the two centuries before Haldane.  On 20th March 1708, the Principal and Professors of the University of Glasgow subscribed to maintain fifty one men, for the space of forty days from being called upon, against the threatened invasion by the French and Irish in support of James VIII.

In August 1715 the Faculty, being informed of James VIII's design to invade Britain, signed to maintain a company of fifty armed men for King George.  The King thanked the Principal, but assured him that the government had taken such precautions and measures as to disappoint and defeat their enemies, and there should be no occasion for proceeding further.  In September the Faculty, being informed of the rising in the north and the Duke of Argyle's request to march as many men as they could to the defence of Stirling, resolved to maintain the fifty men formerly offered.

John Anderson

John Anderson, founder of the University that was to become Strathclyde, was a volunteer officer in the corps raised to defend Stirling during the Jacobite War of 1745-46, and things military always had a great attraction for him.  He was responsible for the location of the powder magazine in Glasgow, planned and superintended the strengthening of artillery batteries at Greenock against the danger of attack or invasion by the French, published Essays on Field Artillery in 1788 to counter the causes of imperfections in gunnery, offered his services in 1795 to William Windham, his former student and Secretary for War, to negotiate peace with France, and advocated reform of the Department of Ordnance and recruitment of a Board of Science.

Anderson’s various interests and military inventions are illustrated in an engraved portrait of 1792 by William Kay:

•             Musket carried by Anderson in 1745-46

•             Fire balloon to carry messages over fortified frontiers.  The balloons were made of paper, varnished with boiled oil, and carried streamers:

“O’er hills and dales and lines of hostile troops I float majestic,

Bearing the laws of God and Nature to oppressed men,

And bidding them with arms their rights maintain.” 

The balloons were used successfully to export French revolutionary ideas to Germany.

•             Two kinds of perforated cannon-shot, a ball and a spheroid, which improved range and accuracy, in 1779

•             Two kinds of bomb timing fuse, which fired when the shell struck an obstacle

•             Six-pounder made of alloy

Anderson experimented at Dumbarton Castle in 1782 with his own design of cannon to increase the power and efficiency of artillery.  The field piece could be transported by horse-drawn litter, and had a light gun carriage which took up the recoil by compressed air.  It could be manoeuvred by half the number of “artillery-men of the most ordinary intelligence” necessary for an ordinary cannon, and could also be used on the decks and tops of ships and “on the back of an elephant”.

He offered his invention to the British Government, at first when it was distracted by pressing business in America, and then at trials at Woolwich Arsenal in 1789.  However, because of conflict with the Duke of Richmond, Master General of Ordnance, it was coolly received and not taken up.

Anderson was sympathetic with the ideas of the French Revolution and, having failed to convince the British of the value of his invention, in 1791 he had his design inscribed as “The Gift of Science to Liberty” and offered in person to the French Government.  They enthusiastically embraced it and used it in large numbers in the victory at Jemappes in 1792.  After war broke out between Britain and France in 1793, Anderson destroyed the engraving plate and most copies of the print.

Anderson also admired the Americans, and John Paul Jones observed the advantages of the gun for his navy.

University Companies

In 1859 and 1860, the University of Glasgow raised two companies which were incorporated into the 1st Lanarkshire (or Glasgow 1st Western) Rifle Volunteer Corps and then in the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Military Education Committee, in conjunction with

did you know - The Universities' Air squadron flies 600 hours each year