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UK Gear’s training shoes were originally designed in association with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC). These elite fitness professionals were closely involved in the development and tested our products in some of the most inhospitable conditions on Earth. Only when approved by the Military do we consider our products... Built to survive.

The Times - Muscles trained to ensure that soldiers are always fit for purpose

>>08 December 2010


One of the smallest Corps in the Army has just been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen with the prefix “Royal” in its title to mark the 150th anniversary of its founding.  The Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC) headquarters, based at the Army School of Physical Training in Aldershot, is responsible for all aspects of physical training and fitness of personnel serving in the Army as well as providing exercise remedial instructors to work with injured soldiers in rehabilitation centres.  RAPTC Instructors, traditionally bearing the sobriquet “Muscles” are attached to every battalion and regiment in the Army.

British_Army_Badge.pngThe Army Gymnastic Staff, as the Corps was originally known, was formed to address the shortcomings in physical fitness revealed by the Crimean War.  In 1860 Major Frederick Hammersley of the 14th (West Yorkshire) Regiment of Foot and 12 non-commissioned officers from different regiments were selected to attend a six-month course of physical training at the new gymnasium in Blue Boar Street, Oxford, under the pioneering physiologist and gymnastics teacher Archibald MacLaren.

The following year, the Army's first gymnasium was built in South Camp, Aldershot, and Hammersley was appointed Inspector of Gymnasia.  In April this year, a road relay from Oxford to Aldershot was run by members of the Corps to commemorate the move to Aldershot of Hammersley and “the Twelve Apostles”, as they became known.  The Army Gymnastic Staff were renamed the Army Physical Training Staff in 1919, and subsequently awarded Corps status in 1940.

The Corps is one of only a handful that does not recruit direct from civilian life because it is essential that those who volunteer are fully trained soldiers.  Serving soldiers, male and female, who wish to embark upon a career in the RAPTC first complete an Assistant Physical Training Instructors (PTI) course and then return to his, or her, unit for continuation training as a regimental PTI.

On further selection they attend a 30-week training course, and successful candidates then become members of the RAPTC and are promoted to Sergeant Instructor (SI), the lowest rank in the Corps.  Warrant Officers, Class 2 are known as Quartermaster-Sergeant Instructors (QMSI) and Warrant Offices Class 1 are known as Sergeant Major Instructors.  Commissioned officers in the Corps, all former Warrant Officers (Class 1 or 2), are known as “Masters-at-Arms”, reflecting the early emphasis on sword and bayonet practice.  The RAPTC badge consists of crossed swords and crown.  A notable former member of the Corps is the Olympic Silver sprint-relay athlete (QMSI) Kriss Akabusi, MBE.  

An RAPTC instructor deploys with their unit on operations to help to maintain fitness in the field as well as filling other appointments appropriate to the situation and their own experience before transferring to the Corps.

On operational tours in Northern Ireland or the Balkans an instructor in an infantry battalion would usually run the commanding officer's close personal protection team.  In Iraq and Afghanistan many have trained additionally in the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  The Corps is also “gender-free”, a female SI could be posted as an attached arm to the Infantry or the Royal Armoured Corps.

Today instructors also specialise in adventurous training (eg, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing, caving, skiing, etc), sports coaching (particularly athletics and boxing, whereby the Corps is currently training several Olympic hopefuls) or rehabilitation.

The latter has grown enormously in importance with the significant increase in operational and training injuries because of Iraq and Afghanistan, and indeed the overall strength of the Corps has increased in recent years.  It now consists of some 400 non-commissioned instructors, and 50 officers, the largest number since the days of National Service and the Army's peak in the 1960s.

Exercise-rehabilitation instructors work at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court in Surrey and various regional rehabilitation units and primary care rehabilitation facilities.  They support badly wounded soldiers and those with lesser wounds to return to their units fit to fight or before being discharged, by bridging the gap between physiotherapy and the normal unit training regime.

The Corps Quick March is “Be Fit” inspired by lines in Kipling's Land and Sea Tales: “This is the Law which every law embraces – Be fit – be fit!  In mind and body be fit!.  The Corps motto is, appropriate, Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

Its expertise is also being marketed outside the Army.  Last year it collaborated with the sports physiologist Sam Murphy to produce the Official British Army Fitness Guide, a 14-week training programme encapsulating the Corps' 150 years' experience of training.  The RAPTC has also collaborated with the Warwickshire-based company UK Gear Ltd to develop the first running shoe in the world designed to last 1,000 running miles, the “PT-1000”.  The PT-1000 prototypes were rigorously tested by 40 RAPTC instructors.


The RAPTC has a small museum in the grounds of the Army School of Physical Training, with items and memorabilia on display telling the story of physical training in the British Army from 1860 to the present day, including details of Corps members who have represented the country at international and Olympic level.  Details of the RAPTC Museum may be found at the Army Museums Ogilby Trust website: armymuseums.org.uk.