For 60 years officer candidates for the British Army, including Princes William and Harry, have travelled to Westbury to face the Army Officer Selection Board.

The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire John Bush, Westbury mayor Sue Ezra and Westbury MP Dr Andrew Murrison were among the guests invited to celebrate the anniversary on Thursday, June 18.

Brigadier Philip Mostyn, who led the tour of the facilities at Leighton House, which span the main A350 through the town, said: “It is a special year for us.

“It was in 1949 that the Regular Commissions Board moved from Sussex to Westbury. We became the home of officer selection. It has been a very happy 60 years.”

During the tour guests were warned to remain quiet while the young men and women were put through their paces at what Brig Mostyn called ‘the cross-roads’ of their lives.

Behind the tall walls of Leighton House are hidden 40 acres of land, featuring a 19th century manor house, a trout lake and an assault course with 112 different command tasks.

The selection board for both the regular and Territorial Army offers three days of training to prepare successful candidates for the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

The three days see potential officers tackle the assault courses, undergo interviews and perform in mental and fitness examinations.

Dr Murrison, the Shadow Minister for Defence, said that there was talk of moving the board out of Westbury to Sandhurst when he was first elected as an MP, in 2001.

He said: “At the time I spoke to Adam Ingram, the minister of state for Armed Forces, and said I really wasn’t happy about that.

“I argued that it was much better placed here because it would be better to have their first exposure to Army life here. People could be put off by the sheer scale and grandeur of Sandhurst, especially if they are not from an Army background.

“It is an important part of the town. If it was to be moved to Sandhurst it would be very bad, I think, for the Army and for Westbury.”

officer candidates are expected to communicate well, think on a practical level and work effectively in a group. On average, only two-thirds of candidates each week are successful.

Brig Mostyn said: “It is better to learn in three days that this is not the job for you, rather then after three months in Sandhurst or worse, after three hours into an operation.”

The land in Westbury was bought in 1585 by the Phipps family, when Westbury was a thriving cloth town.

In 1800 Henry Phipps built Leighton House, a neo-classical Georgian box house.

The whole estate was bought in 1888 by William Laverton, who ran a wool mill. He extended the house and planted trees, including a walk of Chilean pines which still stands today, and ran a home cinema until money ran out in 1921 and the Laverton family were forced to move. The house then became a college and a prep school until it was bought by the War Office in 1939.