& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


The book does what it says on the tin. It describes the experience of enduring the commissioning course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst from a female perspective. It was well received in hardback last year, and the pb is due out 17 January.


The author was inspired to write it whilst on her first tour in Afghanistan, and it is closely based on the diary which every cadet is forced to write during their time at the RMA.


Nonetheless the book shows that she has the underlying dry wit to succeed in the Army. Her arrival there is quite serendipitous. Beginning to loathe her job in a major bank at Canary Wharf (shades of Jake Wood in Among You), she is at a loss as to where to redirect her career. Fortuitously, she meets a Para officer at a dinner party, who declares she would really suit the Army. There is barely a military corpuscle in her blood: she had avoided the CCF at school, swerved the OTC at Uni, and her immediate family are resolutely civilian.


So for someone who is predisposed to Clarins rather than cam cream, it all came as a bit of a shock. Goodley has a good turn of phrase – “saving Ryan’s privates” (possibly not original that one), “fribbling tedium”, “one-sided Escher-like hill”…. She survives the beasting of the first half of the Sandhurst year through her intelligence, her appreciation of the absurd, and (at least by the low standards of bankers) being remarkably grounded.

An Officer & a Gentlewoman

The Making of a Female British Army Officer

Heloise Goodley, Constable 2012 (PB January 17 2013)

ISBN 9781472102171

Goodley 1 working at the wharf 2 Sandhurst 2

Heloise before...

...she escaped the tedium of the "world's local bank" at Canary Wharf

It would be fair to say she did not strike up a great rapport with CSM Porter:


One morning, as I unwittingly performed  a Prussian goosestep, at the halt he swooped in, darting across the parade square as if he owned it,  halting sharply in front of me.  He swung his pace stick into a hover,  a hair’s breadth from the tip of my nose,  and forced his scrotum through a mangle as he  released the most high pitched squeal.


What the f… was that , Miss Goodley?  If you can’t sort out your shagging legs, I’m going to break them both. Then I’ll ram this pace stick up your f…… nose  and use it to flick you into the lake. You useless idiot”.”


One of several episodes that give the reader some twisted amusement. In a later account – which will make any parent wince with embarrassment - she explains the root of her problem:


[on a  day when parents were welcome at a service at the RMA chapel] “My father …. could not resist the urge to execute some Nazi-style marching, demonstrating for  SSgt Cox and CSM Porter that my drill ineptitude was not due to personal ineptitude but  the fault of my unfortunate genetics.”

Sandhurst 1