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History of the Cadet Forces

An overview of the history of the Cadet Forces.

The history of the cadet forces dates back to the 1850s with the formation of several forerunners of the existing organisations.

The Cadet Corps, the forerunners of the Combined Cadet Corps, were formed firstly in certain schools as a means of training young people to support the masses of volunteers who were required to boost the Army following heavy losses in the Crimea and the possibility of further war. These Cadet Corps were recognised by the War Office and permitted to wear the uniforms of their parent Volunteer battalions, later to become the Territorial Army. Gradually there developed additional battalions outwith schools. As the threat of war receded, some Cadet Corps developed into Rifle Clubs, and cadet battalions not associated with schools became Social Welfare Organisations - the forerunners of the current Army Cadet Force.

Meantime, also during the 1850s, a number of orphanages were established to look after children orphaned as a result of the Crimean War. These were run with the help of sailors returning from the Crimea. An organisation was then formed called the 'Naval Lads' Brigades' and over the following 50 years or so 34 Brigades of Boys were established and granted recognition by the Admiralty in 1919 and the title 'Navy League Sea Cadet Corps' adopted.

Following the First World War there was a reluctance on the part of the public to support any military organisation because of the huge losses incurred in the War, and the Cadet Forces for a while received no support from the Government, but had to be entirely self-supporting.

Then, in 1938, a retired officer from the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, Air Commodore Chamier, had the foresight to see the need for people trained in airmanship and started the Air Defence Cadet Corps. This comprised units set up in some schools to provide part-time training for young men intending to join the Royal Air Force. They were hugely successful and their value noted by the government at the time. Developing from the Air Defence Cadet Corps, the Air Training Corps was formed in 1941 by Royal Warrant.

By 1942 the other Cadet Forces started to thrive once again and be heavily supported by the government.

Today the Cadet Forces are very different to those early groups of young people. The focus now is on developing tomorrow's citizens through the provision of challenging and interesting activities, although the values and ethos of the Armed Forces are used as a means to achieve this aim. Up to 40% of a cadet’s time is spent on adventurous training activities. Cadets not only have the opportunity for self-development, but also to get involved with volunteer and charitable work in the community. The work that cadets do can lead to the gaining of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and a vocational qualification – a BTEC in Public Services. Adult volunteers also have the opportunity to gain recognized qualifications.

Many cadets do go on to join the Armed Forces, and we are delighted to welcome them, but there is absolutely no pressure for cadets to follow military careers. The Ministry of Defence accepts that the Cadet Force organisations add value to the youth of today and for this reason continue to support them wholeheartedly.

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