Category Archives: OTC and Cadets

Air Defence Cadet Corps Lapel Badge

In the past we have looked at the lapel badges worn by the Air Training Corps during the Second World War. Before this organisation existed, it was preceded by the Air Defence Cadet Corps, which had been set up in 1938 by Air Commodore Chamiers. It was his aim to provide a pool of trained young men who had an interest in aviation that could be called upon by the RAF In time of war. The organisation caught the spirit of the time and rapidly expanded.

Each squadron’s aim was to prepare cadets for joining the RAF or the Fleet Air Arm. They tried to give the cadets as much Service and aviation background as possible as well as giving instruction in drill, discipline, how to wear the uniform and how to behave on RAF stations. The training the cadets received also meant development of personal physical fitness. PT, games and athletics, especially cross country running and long route marches, soon became standard squadron activities. Cadets were also encouraged to take part in activities such as shooting, camping and, of course, flying.

The organisation adopted a badge with a stylized bird with outstretched wings and a lapel badge was issued for wear by those out of uniform:imageThe rear of this badge had the typical half-moon fastener that allowed the badge to be secured in a button hole:imageThe work of the organisation was invaluable and in 1940 it was taken under the control of the government being renamed the Air Training Corps in which form it continues to the present day.

Derek Wilkins was one of those who started his wartime career with the ADC:

As a boy I was interested in aviation and so joined the Air Defence Cadet Corps (then the Air Training Corps) at the outbreak of war in 1939. As well as the normal military basic training we followed the aircrew syllabus of navigation, meteorology, signals, armament, aircraft recognition etc, giving us a head start over other pilot training aspirants.

All RAF aircrew were volunteers, so at the age of 17 I presented myself at RAF Uxbridge for stringent medical and aptitude tests. A year later I received my call-up papers and reported to the ACRC (Aircrew Reception Centre) at Lord’s Cricket Ground to be inducted and inoculated.

ATC Metal Lapel Badge

Last year we looked at an example of the plastic Air Training Corps lapel badge here. Tonight I am pleased to be able to bring you the more common metal version of the badge:imageThe design is identical to that of the plastic badge, but thinner and more refined as the materials it is made from are stronger. The back has a standard lapel fitting:imageThe Air training Corps was very popular amongst boys during the Second World War and the Daily Mail reported on 4th February 1941:

Hundreds of school boys between 16 and 18 who have joined the Air Training Corps will have their first training this week.

Each boy has to give up four hours a week to ATC work and, as many are working, classes and drills are to be held at weekends and in the evenings.

Some London boroughs including St Marylebone, began training last Saturday, the day the corps came officially into existence.

Rifle Practice

Squadron Leader A.H. Waite, head of the St Marylebone A.T.C. told me: “We met on Saturday and there were enough boys already enrolled to form four flights.

“The boys took drill and classes in electricity, the internal combustion engine, and map reading. On Wednesday evening we are going to a local rifle range for practice.

Air Commodore J.A. Chamler, commandant of the A.T.C. is visiting Manchester today to meet the Lancashire Committee organising the A.T.C. He will go on to Leeds to meet the Yorkshire Organisers…

Here we see an air cadet, Fred Matthews, wearing the lapel badge on his suit:helstonatcfredmatthews

Training Ship Fork

Tonight we have a delightful little fork, dating back to the Victorian era:imageThis fork has a large naval crest engraved into the end of the handle:imageThis has the angular crown of Queen Victoria and the letters ‘TS’ around an anchor. Note also the small /|\ mark indicating military ownership. Unusually this is stamped into the front of the handle rather than the rear. The fork itself is made of Electro Plated Nickel Silver (EPNS) as indicated by the initials on the back:imageQuite what the ‘TS’ stands for is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that it indicates the fork came from a ‘Training Ship’. Due to the quality of the engraving I would imagine that this fork was used by the officers instructing on the ship, rather than by the cadets themselves. Training ships were old warships that were used to train cadets and boy sailors in basic seamanship skills needed before sending them out to join the fleet. Two types of training ship were used, some were still operational ships and would go to sea to provide practical training in real life conditions. Others were older ships that were permanently moored in harbours and acted as floating classrooms, often extremely old sailing ships were used for this purpose.

The Royal Navy’s own first training ship was HMS Implacable at Plymouth in 1855 followed by HMS Illustrious at Portsmouth. They aimed to give a training in naval life, skills, and discipline to teenage boys (or ‘lads’ as they invariably called) and, of course, provide a ready source of recruits for Her Majesty’s ships.

Boys typically joined the ships at the age of eleven or twelve and stayed until they were fifteen or sixteen. Discipline aboard the ships was strict and the birch often used to enforce it. Food was limited in quantity and variety — biscuit, potatoes, and meat were the staples, with occasional green vegetables. Many of the new boys could not swim and needed to be taught — unfortunately some drowned before they mastered the skill! Sleeping accommodation was usually in hammocks, which could be comfortable in the summer but icy-cold in winter. As well as learning nautical skills, boys on training ships were often taught other useful crafts such as tailoring, shoemaking or carpentry.

Training ships were often used to educate boys taken in by the workhouse and give them a trade. A 1904 report extolled their virtues:

The Poor Law authorities, who directly and indirectly encourage and support a training ship like the Exmouth are performing a great national service. The question which next arises is whether from the point of view of the boys themselves the Guardians are not doing the best that can be done for them in sending them to the Exmouth.

In the first place the life is a healthy one for the boys, their physical development is carefully attended to, their education from an intellectual point of view is adequate, and they receive at the age at which they can most readily profit by it that technical training which at any rate as far as the sea is concerned, can only be properly acquired at an early age. More than all, the so-called stigma of pauperism is removed, and the boys are sent out into the world with a profession of national utility and under the aegis of the name of their training ship, and, when the training ship has an established position, it is an enormous advantage to a boy in after-life, to be able to claim association with it.

The advantages of the Navy as a career can hardly be over-estimated. Quite apart from the great traditions of the service and the universal respect which the uniform inspires, there is the substantial fact that a boy who goes from the Exmouth into a naval training ship can at the age of 40 secure a pension of over £50 for life. What is more, there are few, if any, recorded instances of a blue-jacket receiving relief from the poor law.

In the Merchant Service the career is not quite so satisfactory, but a boy once launched into any of the first-class lines has only to do his work well and his worldly success is assured.

HMS Implacable was still being used as a training ship into the Second World War when this photograph was taken:large_000000

Scottish Cadets Postcard

This week’s postcard depicts three young lads in Scottish military uniform:SKM_C284e17110814270 - CopyThis photograph is helpfully dated on the back and comes form 1918. Looking at the ages of the boys I suspect they are cadets of some sort. Despite the army having abandoned full dress uniforms in 1914, these cadets are wearing the full highland dress uniform, with kilt and sporran:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy - Copy (3)High socks and spats:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy - Copy (4)Glengarry:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy - Copy (2)And full dress doublet:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy - Copy (5)Note on the jacket the cuffs, with three buttons and gold lacing. A simple black leather belt is worn with a metal buckle. The central cadet is holding a small cane ‘swagger’ stick in his hands:SKM_C284e17110814270 - Copy - CopyIt seems likely that these cadets were uniformed out of surplus stock left over from before the war. The issue of clothing cadets clearly vexed one reader of the Daily mail who wrote in March 1918:

Now that the importance of cadet training is being more fully recognised, the lack of co-ordination and organisation should be remedied without delay. Owing to the large numbers of youths being called up the ranks of cadet units are greatly depleted, with the result that quite small boys will predominate in the future.

There would be a great saving of money if, instead of the expensive outfit of khaki uniform, cap and puttees, a simpler, less expensive and more suitable uniform were adopted, similar to that supplied to cadets in Australia. This is especially applicable to junior cadets who do not feel, and perhaps naturally, the full sense of responsibility when wearing khaki…

Clearly this never happened, and even today cadets wear more or less the same uniform as the adult forces.

Plastic Air Training Corps Lapel Badge

A few years back we looked at plastic cap badges, made during the Second World War as an economy measure. However these were not the only badges remade in plastic; metal was a strategic resource and if a badge could be moulded out of plastic then it saved brass or steel for more important duties. As well as military cap badges many civilian and Civil Defence badges were produced in plastic as well as badges for various youth organisations such as the cadets. It is a lapel badge for the Air Cadet Corps we are looking at tonight:imageThis badge was worn on the lapel of a suit when the owner was out of uniform, allowing a discrete way of showing his role within the service and allowing other members of the cadet force to easily identify him as a member. It might seem strange today, but in the Second World War normal attire for teenagers was the same as for adults; shirt tie and jacket. As such they all had a lapel with a suitable button hole to attach the badge to. The rear of the badge has a straight post and a round top to it to allow it to fasten securely through a lapel:imageSmall lettering on the back of the badge indicates it was made by Stanley’s of Walsall:imageThis firm were a large manufacturer of badges and produced massive quantities for the armed forces. The badge itself is not made from Bakelite, but rather a form of cellulose. A larger circular cap badge was also produced in plastic for the Air Training Corps.

John Phillip Haseldine was a member of the ATC and recalls some of its activity:

From early 1940 I was going to the A.T.C. every evening and at weekends. We were shown how to recognise aircraft from all angles by black silhouettes – plus we did the normal square-bashing, of course. We used to be taught how to set a course allowing for wind speed and variation etc. and I was pretty good at all this sort of thing. Of course, nights in the winter especially were pitch dark and I remember two occasions in the black out. The first happened as I was riding my bicycle home when suddenly I flew through the air. For some reason a manhole cover in the road had been left off and my front wheel had gone into it. Luckily, being young, I was not badly hurt but my bicycle was a complete wreck. We used to have very bad smogs caused by all the coal fires, virtually the only kind of heating in houses. Added to the black out these smogs made it impossible to see even a yard ahead of you. On this one evening a group of us were going to A.T.C. training at a different venue than our usual place. We got completely lost, when a man bumped into us with his bicycle and said he lived in the road where we were going. He said if one of us held onto his bicycle and the rest joined in a line behind, he would walk there with us. We did this for a little way but then came to a dead stop as he had walked off the street into an air raid shelter. After this we groped about most of the evening and to this day I cannot remember whether we arrived.

Early in 1944 I went with other of the A.T.C. to a test centre in London. I cannot recall where it was but we were given medicals and things I remember we had to do was to blow into a tube that raised mercury to a certain level and hold it there for one minute; also a Japanese book which had numbers in it made up of all different colours. We were asked what numbers we saw when the pages were turned over. Then we were interviewed separately and asked questions, most of which I thought were crazy, by three R.A.F. officers. The only one I can remember was how a combustion engine works, which I knew.

I would have been coming up to 18 at this time. Some months later we were taken in R.A.F. trucks to airfields; we were not told where. I remember one we were taken to. There was a very large building with a ballroom-type floor, at one end of which was a dais with a seat and an aircraft joystick, in front of which was a flat board which you could lie on, with a bomber’s teat by the side. A map of Germany was projected on the whole of the floor which moved as if you were flying over it, both pilot and bomb-aimer were about 20’ above. Whoever was pilot was given a target on the map and as the map moved and you approached the target to get into the right position the bomb-aimer would give directions left or right of it until he thought you were in the right position. Then he would press the bomb teat and release the bombs. This was not as easy as it seems as you had to allow a time lag for bombs to drop. A bright spotlight would then show where your bombs had landed and the map would stop.Air_cadets_learn_the_basics_of_flight_at_RNAS_St_Merryn_in_Cornwall,_February_1944__A22064

1970s Cadets Photograph

This week’s photograph is a little bit different to the usual ones we look at, being both post war and in colour! This photograph depicts cadets at a summer camp at an army barracks, practicing first aid on a ‘ressusci-annie’:Having spoken to some who served in the cadets, our best guess is this photograph was taken in the early 1970s. The wooden buildings in the background are barrack accommodation and again although I have no way of being certain, it looks very much like the old Deverall Barracks at Ripon (of which I have had some personal experience many years later). The barrack blocks are large wooden huts, each holding approximately thirty men:In the foreground we can see the training dummy, used to practice mouth to mouth resuscitation:An adult instructor is leaning over demonstrating to the cadets how to use it:The cadets wear olive green uniform, with a number of styles and varieties worn, most wear beret:One though wears a jungle boonie hat:Interestingly he also wears a woolly pully over a shirt, with a 37 pattern belt round his waist. Other cadets seem to be wearing a version of a 1960 combat smock:Or shirt and lightweight trousers:This cadet seems to have some sort of mustard scarf around his neck as well! Then as now, cadet forces had very limited funds and items had to be ‘scrounged’ or purchased from a variety of sources with a somewhat hodge-podge result in many cases. Nigel Dickinson was a cadet and recalls:

That’s the kit I was given in 1975 or so, only to have it taken away almost instantly and replaced with DPM trousers – cadet pattern – and proper woolly pullies… If you wanted a smock, hard luck. There was a horrible pullover anorak thing, or of you were lucky, you got a Jacket, Overalls, OG.

Cadet photographs are pretty rare, so this informal personal snap is a very nice find, especially as it illustrates the variety of the uniform worn in this period.

CS95 Air Cadet’s Shirt

We have looked at various examples of the CS95 DPM shirt on the blog over the last couple of years and I must confess I am only picking up new examples for my collection if they have interesting patches and markings on them. Tonight we have a nicely badged example that saw service with a member of the Air Cadets:The ‘Air Cadets’ is an umbrella term for young people who are members of either Combined Cadet Forces (RAF) which are run in over 200 schools across the UK and those who are members of Air Training Corps groups which are small local detachments of cadets dotted across the country. Both organisations are volunteer services that give teenagers the chance to learn more about the RAF, volunteer and take part in various aviation related activities. The Air Cadets are of course closely aligned with the RAF and wear very similar uniforms- indeed much of their equipment and uniform is either military surplus or produced under the same contracts but in smaller sizes to the regular uniform. This shirt for instance has the same NATO sizing and details as any shirt issued to the military, it is often just the smaller sizes that are indicative of cadet use:Above the breast pocket of the shirt is a large ‘Air Cadets’ patch sewn on to clearly identify the organisation:A large and detailed tactical recognition flash is sewn onto one shoulder:The Air Cadets are given the following guidance on wearing the DPM uniform as combat clothing:The DPM uniform is now being superseded by more modern MTP uniforms within the cadet force- permission being given to wear them in 2014. This guidance on insignia placement from the Cadet’s website therefore applies to the newer uniform, but is indicative of what has been sewn onto the CS95 shirt above: