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In the Army Cadets

Find out about the voluntary youth organisation - the Army Cadets


There’s part of the Army that you can get very close to… and even join! It’s the Army Cadets!

For action and adventure, fun and friendship, the Army Cadets are hard to beat. It’s a voluntary youth organisation – you need to be 12 years old to join – or in Year 8 at school. Some of the activities have a military theme, others have more of a community focus but they all inspire young people to challenge their limits, become more independent, confident and able to step up to any challenge.

What happens at a cadet meeting?

So what goes on at a cadet meeting? Well, being a cadet means that you get to do lots of activities you wouldn’t normally do.  Cadets get together once or twice a week. At the start of a meeting, there’s a parade where the Detachment Commander inspects the cadets. There might then be some drill – that’s learning to march as a team – which may sound easy but when there is more than one person marching, turning and saluting at the same time, well things can go a little wrong! After that… activities!

They make obstacles around the hall using furniture and other objects. One cadet wears a blindfold while the other cadets on his team shout instructions to help him navigate his way across the room. This activity helps develop navigation and communication skills.

Field Training Exercises

Everyone gathers dressed in their military camouflage uniforms. After a kit inspection and notices, they’re off in a minibus to a nearby army training ground for a field training exercise.

They put ‘Camcream’ – that’s camouflage paint – on their faces and disguise their shapes with foliage. And once a safety brief has finished, they’re off on their exercise. Whilst the officers are playing the role of the enemy, the senior cadets are reminding the others of the basics of personal camouflage, and how to both move as an individual and work as a member of a section in the field.

Phew! By the time the exercise is over an hour or so later, everyone is exhausted but happy. The junior cadets are especially happy as they’re well on their way to the next star level. As well as cadet awards and certificates, you can work towards the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.

The history of the Army Cadets

It all started over 150 years ago. In 1859, Britain was under threat of invasion by the French but most of the professional soldiers were away in India. Because of worries about the safety of the general public, the Volunteers were formed – these were groups of adults who were prepared to train in readiness for an attack. Many young people joined too – and were known as the Cadets.

By 1860 there were eight official Cadet Units and the term Cadet Force was introduced – some schools even began to include Cadet Training within the school week. It was seen as a good way of teaching discipline and keeping young people fit.

Army Cadets today

Today there are over 41,000 cadets in more than 1,600 detachments all over the country, and the cadet’s remains one of the UK’s oldest, largest and most successful youth organisations. As you can see, it’s a group with a long history and there’s a lot you can learn – and sounds like plenty of fun too!

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Life in the Armed Forces

Find out about Life in the Armed Forces

More From Life in the Armed Forces