A Brief History of IJLB

In 1952 The Infantry Boys Battalion was formed and stationed at Tuxford. Once again Harrogate played a part as ‘A’ Company was permanently detached to Harrogate. The Infantry Boys Battalion was something different however. The success of training young apprentices was to be transferred to infantry training. The concept was simple, Recruit young men between the ages of 15 and 17 who had the potential to become Non Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers. Give them top class educational training alongside leadership and infantry training to prepare them for Rank.

This 1952 Recruiting Poster shows Lt Colonel Ian Cartwright as a Boy Soldier

The Battalion name was changed to The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion in 1954 to reflect the status of the young people who were selected and the high quality training aimed at producing NCO’s and Warrant Officers. The Battalion moved first to Plymouth when ‘A’ Company joined them from Harrogate and in 1960 it moved to Park Hall Camp Oswestry where it was to be stationed for the next 15 years. At this time under the auspices of Lt Colonel Coutts and Lt Colonel Barker (Later Brigadier General Barker) the syllabus was amended to reflect the Sandhurst training model. The first year was a mixture of Education and Military Training. Education was based upon a syllabus to enable the ‘Junior Leader’ to obtain Army Certificates of Education which would enable them to gain promotion in their service careers. Most were successful in obtaining ACE Senior or First Class levels in such subjects as Maths, English, Current Affairs, Map Reading etc. which meant that they were able to be promoted to Warrant Officer Level due to this achievement. The second Year was Military Training culminating in several strategic tests such as an escape and evade exercise and a March and Shoot alongside tactical and weapon training. Signalling was also covered to ensure a fully rounded professional soldier passed out.

Oswestry (212)
The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion March into Park Hall Camp in 1960

Those passing the entrance exam to become Junior Leaders at the recruiting office were from all walks of life and all parts of the country. The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion became known as The NCO’s Sandhurst as it successfully trained NCO’s and warrant officers for The Guards and the 54 Regiments of the line.

 Oswestry continued to be the base for IJLB and many ex juniors were posted back as Permanent Staff Instructors as they were promoted through the ranks. This was extremely successful as their experience of being Junior Leaders was invaluable in passing on insights and motivating the junior soldiers. At this stage the lowest Permanent Staff training instructor was a Sergeant Instructor. Junior Leaders themselves were designated Junior NCO’S and Warrant Officers and were given the responsibility of section commanders, Platoon Sergeants, Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Sergeant Major with the corresponding responsibilities. The Junior Regimental Sergeant Major took the whole responsibility for the Battalion Passing Out Parade whilst other Junior NCO’s and Warrant Officers took appropriate responsibilities for their rank.

Oswestry (213)
Junior Leaders Passing out Parade Oswestry

So successful was the concept that ex Junior Leaders became the backbone of The British Army for many years right into the new Millennium.

In 1967 The Junior Infantrymen’s Battalion was formed at Shorncliffe in Kent.

In 1970 a Junior Infantryman’s Wing was added to the Oswestry camp. These recruits were young people who were unable upon enlistment reach the desired level for joining IJLB .

In 1973 The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion was awarded The ‘Freedom of Oswestry, in recognition of its association with the town an unusual accolade for a boys Battalion.

In September 1972 and in preparation for the change in the school leaving age the last intake to complete the 7 terms (two years training) was taken in at Oswestry. Intakes in January 73 completed 6 terms. April 73 5 Terms and September 73 4 terms. New Intakes were not recruited after January 1974 all those at Oswestry passing out together in December 1974 when the camp closed.

On 31st July 1974 The Junior Infantrymen’s Battalion at Shorncliffe was redesignated “The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion”.


In September 1975 the school leaving age was changed from 15 to 16 years of age. This meant a rethink of the training programmes as those joining were now only available for 12 months training before being posted to adult service. The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion first intake under the new regime were posted to Shorncliffe September 11th, 1974.

The IJLB continued until Defence Cuts were implemented in 1985. The Government and MOD became concerned that the costs involved in training Junior Leaders was too high. It was reported that nearly 20% of the Warrant Officers and senior NCO’s incumbant in postings in the UK were involved in training Junior Soldiers due to the strict training requirements and Regiments became concerned about loseing this high quality personnel. The change in training curriculum also brought about an extreemly high drop out rate of Juniors in training.

 On 16th September 1985 the IJLB was disbanded and redesignated “The Junior Infantry Battalion Shorncliffe”

Those Junior Leaders still in training were posted to their respective training depots to finish their training in Junior Leaders Companies.

“The Junior Infantry Battalion Shorncliffe” continued with personnel from The Queens Divison, Prince of Wales Division and The Pioneer Corps remaining at Shorncliffe with those recruits being known as Junior Leaders. In 1992 JIBS itself was closed and The Junior Leaders concept was lost to the British Army a sad day in history.

A” Junior Soldiers” compliment was continued at Shorncliffe until 1993 when they were then posted to Barracks throughout the UK and to their respective Corps or Regiments.

The tradition of Junior Soldiers Continues through The Army Foundation College.

Formed in September 1998 after The Army Apprentice College closed The AFC is the only remaining Junior Entrance method within todays British Army.

You will see by the details laid out above they follow in the footsteps of thousands of successful young recruits who have joined The British Army at an early age.

Those of us who served at IJLB up to 1975 were particularly lucky to have two years of intense training preparing us for great careers within the military. Many of us went on to serve distinguished careers and become commissioned into high rank. We have numerous senior officers amongst our brotherhood.

The Education, army training and discipline we all experience laid the foundations for life.

Many have gone on to distinguished civilian careers after leaving the forces and we put this down to the grounding we had as young soldiers.

Whilst all Junior Leaders Regiments have Associations attached to their particular arms The Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion Association is unique in so much as it includes members of the Foot Guards and every Regiment of The British Infantry. Whilst we are all proud of our individual Regimental History the one great thing that binds us together is that we all started as young soldiers together.

No matter when we served as Junior Leaders we all went through the same training. This is what binds us together no matter where or when we served.

If you ask any one of us would we do it again?

You Bet we would in a heartbeat!

You can follow the Association news and ask any questions you may have from us old lags by checking out our Association Website at www.ijlb.com.