It was a pleasure to welcome Colonel Lucy Giles to the Bacon Theatre stage last week to deliver a whole school lecture to the senior pupils.

Colonel Giles was the perfect speaker to help commemorate 50 years of Co-Education at Dean Close, as the first female College Commander of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in its 300 year history. Colonel Giles spoke to pupils about her perspective of leadership and the lessons she has learnt through mistakes she has made throughout her career. Lessons that are not just applicable to army life but to the lives of Dean Close pupils.

Lucy’s journey started at Exeter University, where she studied Biology and joined the UOTC (University Officer Training Corps) which whetted her appetite and encouraged her to join the military. Post university, Lucy enrolled at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, she told pupils that she felt it was similar to school; there was a timetable to follow and she had to bond with fellow officers quickly. The friendships she made in these initial weeks of Sandhurst are friends she would have for life.

Colonel Giles believes strongly in leading by example and soon learnt that you cannot be an effective leader whilst sat behind a desk. She was incredibly keen to get out and engage with both her own troops and the wider world. Lucy was part of a troop of 70 men and one woman trying to create safe and secure environments all around the world; Indonesia, Germany, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone.  She was exposed to shocking scenes in a number of harrowing war zones; and Lucy encouraged pupils to appreciate what they have; having seen people living in such terrible conditions.

Lucy gave the pupils some of her top tips for army life that are transferable to school life.

  • Always be prepared
  • Avoid drama
  • Make the most of opportunities on offer
  • Have a purpose and be sure of your direction

At Sandhurst, officers believe that diversity is a strength; all ages, sexes, faiths, races and sexualities are considered as equal and Colonel Giles explained that everyone, no matter their background has an important part to play in the army and as such it is imperative at school and in later life that pupils are able to get along with all kinds of people.

When Lucy became the first female company commander at Sandhurst, she did not want a fuss to be made. She had passed the same fitness tests as men, completed the same exercises and had served as part of a troop with 70 men, she just wanted to be considered and equal. However, when a female Officer Cadet exclaimed that she had never seen a real female Senior Officer before, she decided that she should not shy away from being in the spotlight. She is proud to be a role model for future females of the British Army and encouraged pupils to be role models in their own right, no matter their level of responsibility; as a classmate, a prefect, a sportsman or a sibling. We all have a responsibility to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

Colonel Giles left the pupils with the following final thoughts; recognise that mistakes are part of journey, always be honest with yourself and the people you work with and perhaps most importantly, to be comfortable in your own skin.

Colonel Giles said “Your legacy is what you leave behind; your family and loved ones. My greatest achievement, without a doubt, is my husband and children”.