Originally formed in 1853 at Hythe as the staff of the School of Musketry, the involvement of these instructors with the Vickers machine gun starts in 1913 when the first course was taught at Aldershot between 25 October and 15 November 1913; however, the Experimental Establishment had also been based at Hythe and staff by men of the Corps had been involved in the trials of the Vickers machine gun in 1911.
At this time, it was an all ‘other ranks’ Corps without their own officers. Officer instructors and administration were posted to the Schools from their parent regiments.
The first instructors of the Machine Gun School established in France in 1914 were two Quarter-master-serjeant-instructors of the School of Musketry and the commanding officer was an ex-officer instructor of the School.
At the end of the Great War, the School of Musketry was renamed the Small Arms School and under the command of General Headquarters, shortly to be joined by the Machine Gun School when it was detached from the Machine Gun Corps.
From 1919, the School of Musketry had become the Corps of Small Arms Schools and then Army Order 63 of 1923 amalgamated these instructors with the Instructors of the Machine Gun School, Netheravon, to form the Corps of Small Arms and Machine Gun Schools.
The Small Arms School Corps was then formed in March 1929 from the Corps of Small Arms and Machine Gun Schools.
Second World War
During the Second World War, the Corps was expanded to staff a Wing at Bisley known as the National Rifle Association (N.R.A.) Wing. They also provided some instructors to Command Weapons Training Schools, the Sandhurst Officer Cadet Training Unit and the Non-Commissioned Officers’ School.
A few members of the Corps served overseas, including four who were sent to France prior to the evacuation in 1940.
Post-Second World War
In 1949, the Corps accepted their first commissioned officers.
The Corps’ centenary in 1953 also say a change of cap badge with the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen.
The last machine gun course was taught in 1961 and this ended the Corps’ association with the Vickers in British Service, yet remained involved through their attachments and secondments to other nations around the world. One formed Quartermaster-serjeant-instructor recalls using them alongside the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces in the 1970s.
For those interested in the history of the Small Arms School Corps, Richard Fisher has authored a comprehensive study, published by Helion and Company in 2019.