A speech by His Majesty The King at the 200th Sovereign's Parade, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Published 18 April 2023

It is the lifelong friendships which are forged through shared hardship, and the humour that you find in the darkest hours of the coldest, wettest nights, which remain with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so very pleased to be with you today for the 200th Sovereign’s Parade and to share in this most special of days for those of you commissioning as the future leaders of the British Army, and the Armies of our close allies.  I am under no illusions as to how hard you have all worked over the past forty-four weeks and I hope you feel justifiably proud of your achievements.  Of course, I know you would not be here without the tremendous support of your family and friends who, I am delighted to see, can join us in such numbers today.  And, speaking as a father of two alumni of this Academy who remembers their passing out parades, I know they will be full of immense pride in witnessing you on parade.

Having attended – and survived! – two of the other Military Academies fifty years ago, I think I have some idea of the challenges which are inherent in military training.  I have experienced the nerves, the exhaustion – even the self-doubt – but, despite such recollections, it is the lifelong friendships which are forged through shared hardship, and the humour that you find in the darkest hours of the coldest, wettest nights, which remain with you.

You are joining the Armed Forces at a particularly demanding time - full of opportunity and challenges.  Our adversaries and our competitors are challenging the rules that govern global security and prosperity.  In response, Defence is undergoing a significant modernization programme, which will ensure the Army remains credible and agile to match current and future threats.  The demands on the organization are ever increasing and widespread and, as a result, much will be asked of you and your leadership over the course of your career, starting from now. 

War has returned to Europe on a scale not seen since 1945.  As we have now passed the first anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine, it is worth saying that I have been particularly impressed and proud of the role the British Army, alongside wider Defence, has played in supporting Ukraine.  The U.K. has been a leading nation in delivering training expertise, equipment and advice alongside our allies and partners.  Following a recent visit to Salisbury Plain and through the discussions I had with President Zelensky a few weeks ago, I have learnt at first-hand about this support and the positive impact it is having on the ground.  For as long as the conflict endures, you will all no doubt have some part to play in our unrelenting support, alongside allies, as the courageously indomitable Ukrainian people endeavour to protect their sovereign rights. 

The conflict in Ukraine has reminded us of the importance of partnerships, not only across N.A.T.O., but globally, including with non-traditional allies.  Such partnerships have been strengthened over the course of the past year, perhaps most evident through Finland’s accession to the Alliance which reinforces the enduring strength of our collective resolve to stand up to illegal and unprovoked aggression.  As history has demonstrated, such alliances are vital in securing our peace and freedom.  In this regard, it is most heartening to see fifteen other nations represented here on parade – a tangible demonstration of these partnerships which you all will experience, and assist in developing, throughout the course of your careers. 

Just as pressure in the East remains, so the peaceful world order which we so took for granted, particularly here in the West, is by no means a guarantee.  We face challenges at home and abroad, all of which, I know, draw on our Army to assist in keeping the country safe and functioning. 

These challenges will be varied and persistent.  Some who stood here only two years ago have evacuated the most vulnerable at no-notice from Kabul; supported our Border Force and ambulance crews; assisted the Government response to a global pandemic and trained in ever more far-flung places in Africa, the Middle East and the Indo-Asia Pacific.   Never before has there been such a test on our junior leadership in confronting such a diversity of tasks, whilst keeping pace with the integration of new technologies.  You will need to balance mastering your core skills whilst determining how your people best work alongside - and not in competition with - these new enhancements.  However, whilst training and technology will provide us with the tools to remain a credible modern army, you must not lose sight of the fact that it is our people who lie at the centre of your core business, as our most valuable and adaptable asset.  People remain at the heart of all we do; they are our competitive advantage, and we must continue to transform our culture and training to retain this, at the same time as continuing to deliver capable Officers for the future.  I believe it is the confidence in your own skills taught here, in those of each other and those of the soldiers you will command that, combined with your values and standards, will see you make the right decisions in often unfamiliar, sometimes lonely and, occasionally, frightening circumstances. 

I am sure that the training you have received will stand you all in good stead to face such challenges for the future.  As symbolised by the new Academy Colour, you represent a living institution, proud of its heritage but confident to embrace the change necessary to respond to new challenges as leaders of the future.

I can only wish each of you every possible success and good fortune as you embark on your future service to this nation, and a most fulfilling career. We are fortunate to have you – as well as those here today who so loyally support you.

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