The Sovereign’s Parade concluded in traditional fashion in the Queen’s absence at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst yesterday.
But it was revealed that the parade-ground pomp and pageantry masked a deeply embarrassing chapter in Sandhurst’s history.
Just days ago, its commandant, Major General Duncan Capps, felt compelled to expel at least seven foreign cadets – all of them from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
‘The cadets’ trainers got the boot too,’ man on the parade told. This is due to what has been described as a ‘series of events’.’
Capps would not take such a decisive step lightly, not least because of the diplomatic discomfort it would cause the Foreign Office – and the potential cost to the Treasury.
Oil-rich countries pay handsomely for their connections to Sandhurst; The UAE recently built a new housing block there, the Zayed Building, at a cost of £15 million.
The expulsion comes amid strained relations with the UAE. The Dubai ruler was ordered by a British court last December to pay a record £554 million to his ex-wife and their two children. Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a horse-racing friend of the royal family, must pay for Princess Haya’s security for the rest of her life when she flees to Britain to escape him.
At Sandhurst, there may have been cultural differences between Arab princelings and British officer cadets.
At one point, the problem became so serious that the military police investigated allegations of ‘huge bribes’ – for BMW and Mercedes cars, Rolexes and overseas holidays – being offered to Sandhurst trainers.
Capps did his best to sound a warning about this last year, when, in an interview for Middle East Readers, he said: ‘Regardless of background or position, officer cadets are treated the same. Kings are treated like everyone else.’
Some find it hard to accept. ‘Among the meals one of them wanted to do harinam early in the morning [guard duty],’ a Sandhurst ex-student said, ‘so he approached the company sergeant major with a wad of £10 notes — the whole wad — in hand.
‘The company sergeant major took off his head figuratively and put him on guard at two o’clock in the morning.’
More recently, there have been difficulties with ‘cultural days’ in London.
‘You want to see a play or go to a museum – and it descends into chaos when alcohol is introduced into the equation,’ explains another Sandhurst man.
Less impressive were the foreign cadets, he added, known as ‘floppies’ – ‘F****** lazy foreign potential enemies’. An army spokesman declined to comment.