The History of Frimley Park Cadet Training Centre

Frimley Park dates back to the 17th century

The Cadet Training Centre was established at Frimley Park at the end of the 1950s but the house itself dates back to 1699 and has a long and distinguished history.

The Manor of Fremley was, at the time of the Doomsday Survey, part of the monastic estate of Chertsey Abbey. On the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII gave the estate to his daughter Mary and when she became Queen in 1553 she gave the estate to Sir John White of Aldershot, as a reward for his service as Lord Mayor of London.

A granddaughter of White's married Sir Walter Tichborne in 1602, who succeeded to the estate as part of the marriage settlement. The present mansion was built in 1699 by James and Mary Tichborne, the sixth generation of the family to own the estate, on the site of an unpretentious hunting lodge. The last of the Tichbornes to own the estate, Sir Henry Tichborne, sold the house and estate to James Laurell in 1790 for £20,000. George IV, as Prince of Wales, was a frequent visitor to the house and it was James Laurell's son, who, it is said, staked and lost the estate in 1857 at cards to one John Tekel, in the presence of the Prince.

The estate was then 1457 acres and included Tekel's Park, Barossa Common and the whole of what is now Camberley. In 1860, after Tekel died, his widow, daughter of the third Earl of Stanhope and niece of William Pitt, divided and sold the estate, Barossa Common becoming additional training grounds for the new Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Up until 1890 the estate changed hands a number of times, but the next known owner was Colonel (later Sir Malcolm) Fox of the Black Watch, Inspector of Gymnasia, who lived in the house until 1897.

In 1898 The Crown Prince of Siam was a gentleman cadet at RMC Sandhurst and was subsequently attached to Army units in the Aldershot area. During this time he lived at Frimley Park, his bedroom was one of the smallest rooms at the top of the house because Siamese royal protocol ordained that members of the royal family must sleep above the commoners and servants of the royal household.

From 1920 to 1947 the house was owned by Theodore Ralli, a Liverpool cotton broker, who made many improvements including the sunken garden, formal garden and pergola and the oak panelling in the dining room. The panelling was brought to Frimley Park from the Rallis' house in Liverpool and had originally come from Chillingham Castle. He also built three bedrooms over the stately drawing room (now the main lecture theatre, Marlborough Hall) as a nursery suite for the Ralli children.

During the Second World War the house became a maternity hospital, Marlborough Hall being the delivery room. From 1947 to 1950 the house was used by the Officers' Association. In 1951 the house and grounds were taken over by the War Department for the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) Staff College, which remained in situ until 1957. 181 Regular and 34 Territorial Officers of the WRAC passed through the college during that period.

In 1956, with the War over and national service coming to an end, the government set up the Amery Committee to report on the future organisation and training of cadets. The Amery Report, published in 1957, proposed that a training centre for the Army Cadet Force (ACF) and Combined Cadet Force (CCF) be established under a Board of Governors and the War Office decided its home should be the manor house at Frimley Park.

In September 1958 the first Commandant, Lieutenant Colonel J H Warwick-Pengelly OBE, arrived and started a programme of extensive renovations to the house and grounds.

Cadet Training Centre (CTC) Frimley Park opened its doors in 1959 and the first course assembled on 5 April: an ACF Officers' King George VI Memorial Leadership Course of 18 students. This course had first been run in 1955 at the School of Infantry, Warminster, paid for from the KGVI Foundation which had been set up for the development of leadership. A capital sum of £10,000 plus £1,000 a year for five years was provided. The course runs at CTC to this day.

A formal opening ceremony was held on 8 July 1959; the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Francis Festing, was the Reviewing Officer.

Since 1966 the grounds have been much reduced in size, most being given up to the local hospital, but CTC remains just large enough to cope with the needs of the wide range of courses it offers.

CTC has frequently been visited by distinguished people including, on 12 July 1978, Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited again in 1991 to open the new administrative block, which replaced two Nissan huts, and provided offices, classrooms, a .22 range and showers. A gymnasium, shared with the new MOD Hospital Unit (MDHU), was opened in 2001. In October 2008 Prince Philip visited Frimley Park once more to mark the 50th anniversary of its foundation.

Although the names of many of the courses might seem familiar to those who passed through CTC in the early days, the course content has greatly increased and the number and type of courses has had to adapt to the growth of both the ACF and CCF. Since 2007 an extra course has been provided each year for both Commandants and Area Commanders.