1918 Rhodesian Cadet Photograph

This week’s photograph is an unusual portrait of a cadet at a high school in Salisbury in Rhodesia during the Great War. Many schools in both the UK and the Empire had their own cadet forces at this time. Cadet units were seen as a way of preparing boys for a future life in the military, but were also a way of instilling discipline, creating esprit de corps within a school and offering a form of extracurricular activity and competition to amuse young lads. In Great Britain many of these cadet units were designed to prepare young men for officer positions in the regular military. In Britain’s colonies the chances of permanent commissions were reduced, however there was a tradition of young men so trained being brought up as part of a citizen army in times of conflict and rudiments of military training would be very useful. Our cadet here wears a simple uniform of shorts and a shirt with a slouch hat:

The rifle he carries is a Lee Enfield, however as the nose is not clearly visible it is not easy to tell whether this is an SMLE or an earlier pattern, the latter being most likely for a cadet unit in Africa. Funding for cadet units was always short, and they relied on older equipment and goodwill from the military authorities rather than any large injections of cash from central government. Despite this the cadet units offered vital ab initio training to boys  and at least an introduction to martial skills that could be called upon later in life if needed.

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