The Royal School of Military Survey

Hermitage Camp in August 1949 as
the advance party saw it.

The main HQ building which was occupied
solely by the School before the squadrons
moved to Hermitage in 1985.
Her Majesty The Queen signing photographs
during her 1980 visit to open the new buildings.

The School of Military Survey, always to referred to as simply ‘the School' by all military surveyors, came into existence on the 1st of January 1949 when the wartime survey training unit, the Survey Training Centre (STC) was renamed the School of Military Survey. During that year the School also moved from a hutted camp in the grounds of Longleat House near Warminster into a dilapidated camp at Hermitage that was in part occupied by Polish displaced persons. The camp was renovated and the entire move carried out on a ‘self help' basis with all ranks cleaning, repairing and decorating their accommodation before they moved into it.

At that time the School was commanded by a lieutenant colonel Commandant assisted by an RSM and the instruction was overseen by a lieutenant colonel Chief Instructor supported by a WO1 Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI). There were 550 all ranks on strength which were administered by four squadrons, A, B, C and D, although soon reduced to two, whilst the Instructional Wing comprised four Schools; Geodetic and Trigonometrical, Topographic and Cartographic, Photographic and Lithographic and Engineer Survey and Testing.

In 1960 the two administrative squadrons were combined and renamed 89 Survey Training Squadron, taking the title from the recently disbanded Survey Squadron that had been based in Kenya during the Mau Mau Crisis. Numbers at the School reduced considerably following the ending of National Service and the four schools were reduced to three in 1965 when the Engineer school was closed.

1971 saw the next major reorganisation when the establishment was reduced to 195, 89 Squadron redesignated as the Administrative Wing and the three schools became departments within the Instructional Wing entitled Field Survey, Air Survey and Cartography, and Lithographic Printing. The RSM appointment was discontinued in 1970 and the SMI in 1974 although WO1 posts were then instituted in the newly formed Training Development Team.

The need to rebuild or find better accommodation for the School had been identified in the early Fifties and there were a number of studies carried out over the ensuing years but it was not until May 1976 that work finally started on demolishing the old and constructing the new purpose built buildings. The new buildings were occupied in the main during 1978 with construction complete in 1979 and on Friday the 27th of June 1980 Her Majesty The Queen formally opened the new School of Military Survey in the barracks now named Denison after the first Superintendent of Surveying.

A major reorganisation occurred in 1985 when 42 Survey Engineer Regiment was disbanded and the two squadrons, 13 Map Production and 19 Topographic, moved into Denison Barracks and joined the School to form 42 Survey Engineer Group, the School in the process losing the Commandant appointment.

When the traditional map production process related soldier trade structure was replaced in 1993 so the School reorganised to match the new system. Such reorganisations and/or renaming of the departments continued until the present day to match the changes in requirements as regard the skills of the soldiers, changes driven mainly by operational needs and the rapid advances in technology.

In 1997, as part of the celebrations to mark 250 years of Military Survey, the School was granted the Royal accolade and the following year the School enjoyed a second visit by Her Majesty The Queen.

In 2006 the School ceased to be a Royal Engineer establishment, becoming a component school of the Defence Intelligence & Security Centre (DISC) and at the same time the post of Chief Instructor was replaced by a civilian Principal, the organisation of five teaching departments being, Geodesy & Navigation, Geospatial Imagery, Geospatial Information Exploitation, Geospatial Information Management and Map Production. A further change occurred in 2007 with the incorporation of Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) wing (formerly JSPI) from DISC Chicksands into RSMS, the existing departments being amalgamated into Geospatial Exploitation (GE) and Geospatial Information Management (GIM) wings.