** school uniform : military schools

Military Schools

Figure 1.--This American boy pictured with his sister appears to an American military school in the early 1900s. Note that he wears knee pants rather than knickers.

Military schools have been operated in many European countries and America. We have relatively little information on them, especially before the 20th century. We do know that some were operating in the 17th century, but a few may have been founded earlier. The fact that many officers bought their commissions meant that military schools in the modern sense were not needed. The development of more professional armies using increasingly sophisticated technology eventually mean that schools to train officers were needed. The schools developed in different countries were often quite different. The age of the boys and conditions varied substantially from to school. Interestingly, military schools became important in America during the 19th century, the country least involved with military arms raves until the Cold War

Historical Background

Military schools are a relatively recent development. The earliest schools that we have noted so far are French schools operating in the 18th century. Presumably there were earlier schools, but probably not large numbers. There are two primary reasons that there were not very many earlier military schools. First, officers often purchased their commissions. This helped to ensure the king got officers from the nobility that would support the regime. It also meant that one did not need schooling or other qualifications. Secondly, until the French Revolution when the whole citizenry was mobilized, armies tended to be relatively small and did not need to train large numbers of officers. The increasingly sophisticated technology required in modern war also mean that better trained officers and enlisted personnel were needed. Another impetus was the welfare of the children of service men. Men were the primary supporters of families, at least in a material sense. The death of enlisted servicemen meant that in most cases, their families were reduced to poverty and in many cases the children were orphaned. As a result, some schools were created to care for the orphaned children of servicemen as well as the children of servicemen posted overseas. This was the case in Britain, although we know less about other countries.


There are various types of military schools. HBC still has relatively little information on the different types of these schools. We know that the schools were based on the different service branches. Schools serve children and youth of various ages. There are also schools with varying purposes. There are both national military academies to train a national officer corps as well as schools for children and youth. There were also military schools founded largely as orphanages.


Most military schools are army schools. These army schools are by far the dominant type of military schools. There are a few navy schools, but very few air force schools.


Military schools exist for both various academic levels. There are some for young primary school boys. More common are secondary level schools. Te are also some college (university) level schools. Historically the current academic level breakdown of the schools, was somewhat different as most officers entered te service without university degrees.


Military schools have been founded for a variety of reasons. National military academies began to appear in the 18th century to train future officers in the increasingly technical aspects of modern wars. Some British schools were established to educate the children of indigent or orphaned service people. Many military schools were established in the 19th and 20th century primarily to offer a disciplined, structured learning experience rather than train officers. This was most common in the United States. American military schools were in many ways similar to British preparatory and public schools, but with a military environment. These schools were not designed to train future officers, but provided boarding school experiences for children. Parents had a variety of motives in choosing these schools. Some parents traveled or had unstable marriages. Others thought their children would benefit from a more structured school experience. Others thought more discipline was needed in their child's life. Some parents with troubled children felt a military school might be beneficial.

Country Differences

A historian specializing in children in the military writes, "U.S. military schools are quite different from the British military schools. U.S. schools (except for the service academies) are privately run and privately funded. They actually have no standing with the U.S. military authorities. The British military schools are, however, part of the British military establishment, run by the military and part of the annual military estimates passed by parliament. The French (until post WWI) catered to their military children through their regimental system. Each unit was required to care for a certain number of children (orphans or otherwise) and provided unit officers and NCOs to their care. The Germans ran military academies (for children, not to be confused with Officer Cadet training units as is the same case with the Brits at Sandhurst and Canadians at the RMC, Kingston, or the U.S. at West Point). No, the German academies or asylums or orphanages were for the children of soldiers, but I know little about them. My specialty (with Peter Goble's help and a few other scholars and researchers) is the British military school system. Much of this is dealt with at my internet site. Peter's research site offers researchers a vast store of material on CD and, apparently does well. He reckons that the descendants of children on his list number in the order of 2.5 million. Some number that." [Cockerill]

Individual Countries

Information on military schools in individual countries includes the following. As explained above, there are different kinds of military schools and the types of schools which developed varied from country to country. National military academies began to appear in the 18th century. These were formal schools for boys intending to pursue military careers and reflected the increasing technical aspects of war. Most of the boys attending these schools in the 18th century were drawn from the nobility. Information is generally easily available on national military academies to prepare professional soldiers. Less available is information on private often boarding schools for children on the U.S. model.


Cockerill, Art. E-mail message, Jukly 2, 2004.


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Created: October 27, 1998
Spell checked: 10:52 PM 12/9/2018
Last updated: 10:52 PM 12/9/2018