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The Small Arms School Corps (SASC) is a small corps of the British Army responsible for maintaining the proficiency of the army in the use of small arms, support weapons and range management.
Prior to 1851 the majority of British soldiers were issued with the "Brown Bess" Land Pattern Musket, a smooth-bore, muzzle loading musket which had seen duty in one form or another since 1704. Lack of accuracy was compensated for by the practice of firing in volleys. Musketry, as shooting was known, was more like parade ground drill and as such was a matter for the Drill Sergeant.
More accurate rifles did exist (indeed the principle of rifling the barrel had been known about since 1515) but took so long to reload that it was deemed unwise to have them on general issue. At this point only a few regiments had been equipped with rifles, notably the 60th and the 95th whose special rifle drill stems from this time.
In 1849 a Frenchman, Claude-Étienne Minié, produced a rifle named after himself which, although still a muzzle loader had an expanding bullet that greatly reduced the time required for reloading a rifle. Re-equipment of the Army with this new weapon began in 1851.
The consequence of this was that the Army now had a weapon that was not only more accurate, but had a longer range. For the first time since the demise of the bow and arrow true marksmanship was possible. Shooting ceased to be a drill and became an art based on personal skill. Elevation, windage and ballistics now played a part.
In order to study these new problems and introduce a shooting doctrine for instruction in Rifle Shooting it was decided to form a special Corps of experts, who would also develop and improve the rifles. In March 1853 the Army Estimates included the princely sum of £1,000 (about £90,400 today) for Lord Hardinge to form an "Establishment for the instruction of the Army in rifle and target practice."
In June of that year Colonel Hay arrived at Hythe, Kent with a small staff of officers. On 1 August the first instructor, CSgt MacKay of the 19th Foot, was appointed. By 15 September a further three instructors were on strength. They were Sgt. Ruston (3 Gren Gds), Sgt. Lobes (2 Gren Gds) and Sgt. Morris (97th Regt).
The first mention of the establishment of the School was in the Army List of 1854 when it was referred to as the School of Musketry, a name it bore until 1919 when its name was changed to the Small Arms School.
In September 1855 a Corps of Instructors was added to the establishment, consisting of 100 First Class and 100 Second Class Instructors who, as soon as they were sufficiently experienced (except for three who remained at Hythe), were distributed to Depot Battalions and Regiments as required. These men were the Corps of Instructors of Musketry, a misnomer as muskets were being withdrawn from service.
World War I
The Machine Gun Training Centres had been established in 1914 at Grantham and by the BEF in Wisques, France. This was followed on 14 October 1915 by the creation of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). Originally equipped with the Maxim gun, these were replaced by the Vickers machine gun shortly after formation of the Corps. In 1926 the School expanded to include the Machine Gun School at Netheravon, in 1931 absorbing the Chemical Warfare School at Winterbourne Gunner as the Anti-Gas Wing.
The original badge of the School was crossed rifles surmounted by a crown. In 1929 the present badge was introduced, consisting of crossed rifles and a Vickers machine gun, surmounted by a crown and surrounded by a laurel wreath. The title Small Arms School Corps came into being at this time.
On the occasion of the centenary of the Corps in 1953, March of the Bowmen from the Robin Hood Suite was adopted as the Corps March.
In 1969 the School moved from Hythe to Warminster where Headquarters SASC remains to this day.
The SASC does not recruit directly from civilian life, but only accepts applications from soldiers already serving in the British Army. All its members hold a minimum rank of Sergeant. Volunteers transfer to the SASC from All Arms and Services, although primarily from the Infantry.
The principal source of volunteers is successful students attending School of Infantry Phase 3 courses at Infantry Battle School at Brecon, Infantry Training Centre (ITC) Warminster, SASC Training Advisory Group (Germany) and the Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) Gunnery School at Lulworth Ranges who are identified as having the potential to be future members of the SASC. In addition, any eligible soldier holding an appropriate instructor qualification, such as All Arms Skill at Arms Instructor, may apply to transfer.
Phase 1 - Selection and Training
Phase 1 takes place at Land Warfare Centre, Warminster and lasts for 11 weeks. Candidates are assessed to see if they have the ability and capacity to instruct Skill At Arms to the standard required by the SASC. The phase consists of how to train the trainer in the instruction of Small Arms, Defence Instructional Techniques (Trainer), Command, Leadership and Management training and Small Arms design principles. Candidates are also trained to assess instruction and conduct de-briefs. Their suitability to undertake the role of an SASC Instructor at a Phase 3 Training Centre is also assessed. The candidates conduct the The Live Firing Tactical Training (LFTT) course at the Infantry Battle School at Brecon which is an additional 5 weeks in duration. The LFTT course is conducted either at the end or about half way through Phase 1.
Phase 2 - Probation
Phase 2 usually takes place at the Infantry Battle School at Brecon. Probationers will instruct, under the guidance and supervision of an SASC Staff Instructor, on the Section Commanders Battle Course or the All Arms NCO Skill at Arms Course. Probationers normally wear the SASC cap badge and rifle Green Beret, but no other regimental insignia. On completion of Phase 2, successful candidates will be transferred to the SASC and awarded their stable belts and regimental shoulder flash.
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2013), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- Hythe School of Musketry
- School of Musketry Photo Francis Frith 1890
- Official site
- SASC Comrades association site
- SASC Weapons Collection
Order of precedence
Royal Army Veterinary Corps
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