November 11th marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. The Allied victory was won through a series of battles in what has become known as the 100 Days Offensive. The role of the fighting units during this campaign is well recognised; less understood is the part played by the Army Corps’ who created the conditions in which it took place.
To remedy this, military museums from the Corps Museums Network are hosting a travelling exhibition over August-November to showcase the role played by their respective Corps’ during the 100 Days. These are the museums of the Royal Engineers, Royal Signals, Intelligence Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps and Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC).
Accompanying the exhibition, a series of short films have been produced outlying the role played by each individual Corps. These can be found on the Corps Museums Network channel on Youtube.
From 22nd October – 9th November the travelling exhibition is hosted by the RAPTC Museum at the Army School of Physical Training. It comprises a series of display boards telling the story of all five Corps and a special focus on the role played by the RAPTC, or as it was then called, the Army Gymnastic Staff (AGS).
The AGS had played a crucial role during the War, both in training recruits and maintaining the physical and mental fitness of those serving in the Front Line. For the latter, a daily regime of assault course, bayonet fighting, P.T and sports led by AGS instructors helped strengthen bodies and relieved stress. Exercise therapy was used to help rehabilitate the wounded and return them to their duties.
As the War progressed, AGS instructors developed training such as bomb-throwing exercises and unarmed combat techniques specifically designed to help troops negotiate the conditions they would find in the trenches This was invaluable for the inexperienced new formations being fed into the cauldron of the Western Front.
When open warfare broke out in August 1918 the ability of Allied forces to maintain their advance was largely due to the physical training and morale-strengthening exercises they had received. This provided them with the stamina and psychological capability to adapt to a war of movement, to absorb an enormous number of casualties, to repeatedly engage the enemy in battle and ultimately defeat him.
The stories of some of these AGS instructors, the objects they used and medals they won can be found in the exhibition; a testament to their contribution to the final Allied victory.