The Army Apprentices School at Arborfield was originally designed to house and train up to 1,000 apprentices at a time. Most of the civilian instructors had served in the Forces and thus knew the requirements of the job. Due to their long service, they had the knowledge and experience to put the interests of the boys above all else. The roads around the camp were all named after famous men with an engineering background, such as Nuffield, Faraday, Whitworth, James Watt, Stephenson, Kelvin and Newton.
Many of the serving ‘officers and gentlemen’ became legends within the boys’ memories, particularly during those early years of the school’s history. Many tales are told, over and over again, about the exploits and behaviour of such men as ‘Ben’ Cook, Grenadier Guards, who was the original RSM between 1939 and 1941. He was then commissioned and took up post as the School’s QM in the rank of Captain. He was largely instrumental in laying out the playing fields, gardens and hedgerows that all ex-apprentices of those times remember so well.
RSM Cook’s replacement will also be long remembered in the annals of Arborfield. He was RSM McNally MBE, Scots Guards, who filled the post of School RSM for an unbroken stint of some fifteen years, from 1941 until 1956. After that, the post became more regularly filled on much shorter appointments, drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of ‘The Guards’, of one variety or another. The only exception to this long tradition was RSM Roy Matthews REME, who served a two-year spell during the late Nineties.
By the 1990s, however, the original barracks were replaced with those of a more modern construction. But, to many generations of ‘old boys’, they were regarded as far inferior to the original wooden and corrugated iron accommodation ‘spiders’ and other buildings.
Arborfield, known affectionately as 'The Boys’ School', was the last surviving of Army apprentice soldier trade-training establishments, with a history stretching back some 65 years. However, during its long life, the establishment was known by a number of different names: -
* Army Technical School (Boys) 1939 to 1947
* Army Apprentices School 1947 to 1966
* Army Apprentices College 1967 to 1981
* Princess Marina College 1982 to 1995
* Army Apprentices College (again!) 1995 to 2000
* Army Technical Foundation College 2000 to Aug 2004
(Courtesy of Peter Gripton, Past Author of the Arborfield Apprentice and David Schofield, AOBA Secretary)