Army Cadet Force

Army Cadet Force

The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is a British youth organisation that offers progressive training in a multitude of the subjects from military training to adventurous training (such as Outward Bound) and first aid, at the same time as promoting achievement, discipline, and good citizenship, to boys and girls aged 12 to 18 year olds and 9 months. Its affiliated organisation, the Combined Cadet Force provides similar training within various schools. It has connections to the training of the British Army.

Although sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and being very similar in structure and activity, the ACF is not a branch of the British Armed Forces, and as such cadets are not subject to military 'call up'. A proportion of cadets do, however, go on to enlist in the armed forces in later life, and many of the organisation's leaders - formally termed 'Cadet Force Adult Volunteers', or informally 'Adult Instructors' - come from a previous cadet service or military background. The ACF is a registered charity [ [ Charity Commission "THE ARMY CADET FORCE ASSOCIATION"] ]


During the late 1850’s local Militia units (Predecessors of the Territorial Army (TA)), were organised into a nationwide Volunteer Reserve Force. These new Volunteer units formed Cadet Companies and eight public schools formed independent cadet units (fore-runners of the CCF)cite web
url =
title = MoD History of the Army Cadet Force (ACF)
author=MoD(A) website
] .

The late Victorian period was when the time of social change began to take hold in Britain and a Miss Octavia Hill who was considered to be a pioneer in Social Work founded Independent Cadet Corps units.

In 1908 when the Territorial Army was formed both the Volunteer and Independent Cadet Companies came under the control of the Territorial Forces Association, whilst the Public School units were part of the Officer Training Corps. In 1914 all independent Cadet units were taken under control by the War Office and the name Army Cadet Force was born.

In 1923 as a result of Defence cutbacks (Geddes Axe) all Governmental and Military support for the ACF was withdrawn. This led to the forming of the British National Cadet Association (BNCA) by notable figures such as Lord Allenby who were keen to maintain the ACF and lobby for Government funding, this was partially successful in during the 1930’s. From 1939 the Cadet Forces supported the Home Guard at a time when the threat of Invasion was very real, because of this in 1942 the ACF was re-formed (The public school units became part of the CCF (Army) in 1948).

Following a Government review of the Armed Forces in 1957 the ACF assumed its role of a national youth organisation sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The ACF celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 1960.


Ranks in the ACF follow that of the Regular Army with the exception that all ACF Cadets ranks are junior.

As well as learning new skills by working through the APC syllabus, experienced cadets can be awarded a rank. As the Army allows its soldiers to take on responsibility and leadership as NCOs, so too does the ACF give a greater role to some cadets.

In many counties there is the opportunity for promotion to Under Officer. Although this is not an official rank, it is a chance for senior cadets to gain experience as an officer. The titles of some ranks may vary as cadet detachments are badged to regiments of the Regular Army, and as such adopt their titles.

Rank insignia for cadets are usually still the large chevrons (sewn on to the brassard, part of cadet uniform) that have not been used by the regular army for several years. However, use of rank slides is becoming increasingly common, generally among CCF units, but the rank slide must be marked with the letters ACF or CCF (whichever the cadet belongs to) at the bottom to distinguish from regular army ranks. Almost all ACF units still issue the outdated sew-on chevrons to cadets, with rank slides being reserved for adult instructors. However, it is not uncommon for cadet NCOs to purchase their own rank slides and wear them.

Stable belts are coloured belts (colours varied according to regiment), although the ACF have their own stable belt, which can be used by any regiment in any detachment. In some counties, stable belts are issued to NCOs (providing they have achieved 3 star or above) and in others it is down to the cadet to buy them and wear them in working dress. But ultimately it is down to the CO's discretion.

If a cadet is seen as a good leader and excellent in all aspects of the cadet sylabus, promotion to Cadet RSM is awarded. only one cadet per county may achieve this rank at any one time. An example is RSM Michael Worden of Lancashire ACF (RSM 2006-2008).

Admittance of females to the ACF

Prior to the 1990's females were unable to join the ACF., although they were able to join an attached unit (if there was one at that location) of the Girls Venture Corps which had been formed in the early years of the Second World War.

Adult Instructors

Adults may join the ACF to instruct through two different routes - as Adult Instructors (AI) or as Commissioned Officers. Prospective Adult Instructors begin as a Civilian Assistant before passing a medical and an enhanced disclosure.They then become a Potential Instructor (PI). As a PI, adults then go on to complete the Initial Training Course (ITC) held at County Level and run by a Cadet Training Team (CTT). On successful completion of this course they will be appointed to the rank of Sergeant Instructor (SI). Progressive training takes place for Adult Instructors, as with cadets, an Adult Instructor may take part in various different courses. A further mandatory course at Frimley Park is the Adult Instructors Course which must be completed within three years of joining. The AI is then qualified to achieve the rank of Staff Sergeant Instructor (SSI). The King George VI (KG6) course is the final course for AI's and the further ranks of Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI) and Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor (RSMI) are possible. This means that AI Promotion is given on a combination of experience, merit, and leadership potential; as in the Regular Army. Adult Instructors will be expected to work in a team with their superiors and senior cadets to be responsible for, and deliver effective training to the cadets.

The other route an instructor in the ACF may take is that of becoming a commissioned officer. The instructor will apply and partake in the same selection process as above, however once a Potential Instructor, the individual may apply or be nominated to become a commissioned officer. To do so, as of 2006, the individual must then attend a Cadet Forces Commissioning Board (CFCB), similar to an Regular Commissioning Board though less physically testing. The applicant will be assessed on their literacy, problem solving ability, and leadership potential. Successful applicants will then be appointed a List B Commission in Her Majesty's Land Forces, making them a non-deployable Territorial Army Officer. During the selection/training process the applicant will hold the appointment of Under Officer, before receiving the initial rank of Second Lieutenant upon successful commissioning. Commissioned Officers in the ACF will hold senior leadership roles with more responsibility and commitment attached than roles occupied by Adult Instructors. The commissioned officers will also have a commitment to uphold the prestige of a commission in their personal discipline and behaviour - both on and off duty as they are subject to Military Law at all times. Officers are required to attend further courses to qualify for promotion to Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel.


Most British counties have centralised cadet forces that make up the ACF as a national whole. The counties are generally split into companies, each of which includes several 'detachments', the name given to a unit of cadets that parade in a particular town or village. Battalions are usually affiliated with a certain Regiment or Corps within the British Army, and wear their insignia including cap badge, colour of beret and stable belt subject to individual County/Area regulations. Detachments can be given special names, after famous battles fought by the British army, e.g. Rhine, Gibraltar and Waterloo. But some detachments are just called by the name of the town they reside in.




Core activities includecite web
url =
title = ACF Activities
author=MoD(A) website
] :

* Drill and Turnout
* Fieldcraft
* Skill at Arms
** Shooting
* Map and Compass
* First Aid
* Community Projects

Drill & Turnout

A time-honoured tradition of the military parade, cadets are taught drill. Having learnt the positions of attention, saluting and turns at the halt, recruits progress onto marching in quicktime. Many drill movements can be executed while standing still and while marching, and also while holding a rifle.

Each year, drill is used for Remembrance Day parades, and at annual camps large parades take place, with a colour party, in which cadets with rifles march with and guard the standard-bearer.

Closely linked with a cadet's drill is his or her turnout - each cadet is issued with a uniform by the Ministry of Defence and shown how to care for it and appear smart at all times, with ironed-in creases and polished boots.

The aim of drill is to produce a cadet who is alert and obedient and to provide the basis of teamwork. The purpose of drill is to move an indivudual or body of men from A to B in a smart soldier-like and uniform manner.

Drill has evolved over a long period of time and is now accepted as the foundation of military discipline. It has particular value for cadets; teaching them proper posture, to develop their lungs and muscles and improve their confidence.

The renowned expression "Drill Voice" is the tone volume and pitch of voice used by an individual taking a squad or parade etc. Cadets must make sure they are loud enough for the whole squad to be able to hear the word of command, clear enough so that the squad can understand, and aggressive enough that the words of command are heard as a command - not a request. This is learned through use of the mnemonic CLAP - Clear, Loud, As an order, with Pauses.


In fieldcraft lessons, cadets learn infantry skills such as patrolling, section battle drills, ambush drills, harbour drills, and how to survive in the field. Field exercises take place once every few months, and at annual camp.

Out on exercise, cadets wear Disruptive Pattern Material camouflage clothing, dulled boots, camouflage cream to eliminate the face's natural shine, a bush hat and foliage to break up the shape of the head and shoulders, webbing to carry rifle magazines, water bottles and emergency rations, commonly one of either the 58 pattern webbing or the newer PLCE system and a bergen to carry a sleeping bag and basha (improvised shelter) building materials. Cadets are issued with 24-hour ration packs and hexamine cookers as used by the infantry.

As part of a platoon, cadets set up harbour areas (operations bases), post sentries, and send out patrols to carry out reconnaissance, lay ambushes, and assault enemy positions. Cadets become familiar with a vast range of hand signals for silent communication, and various patrol formations for crossing different types of terrain, such as the arrowhead formation for crossing open country. Patrols stay in touch with military radio sets, operated by cadets who have passed courses in signalling.

Skill at Arms

New recruits are taught how to safely handle, clean, operate and fire the Number 8 .22 Rifle and the L98A1 Cadet GP (General Purpose) 5.56 mm Rifle. The Cadet GP is a hand operated single shot adaptation of the British Army's L85A1. Having mastered the Cadet GP and passed the one-star Skill at Arms (SAA) test, cadets can fire them using blank rounds in field exercises as part of a section, taking part in ambushes and assaults on enemy forces. They can also fire live rounds on a range, usually at annual camps, gaining marksman badges if they have enough skill. To pass one-star skill at arms, Cadets must show they can handle the weapon safely, perform stoppage drills, and field strip the weapon for daily cleaning.

Senior Cadets who have passed two-star Skill at Arms, are introduced to the Light Support Weapon which, unlike the GP, can fire in semi- and fully automatic modes. With its longer barrel and bipod, the LSW has a greater range and muzzle velocity, and with its SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux - the optical sight on top of the weapon), it also allows for greater accuracy. The LSW is also used by the infantry, and having mastered this more difficult weapon, cadets can mimic the tasks performed by regular army LSW gunners, using its higher rate of fire to provide fire support during section attacks. However, the LSW is slowly being phased out of service due to increase in military demand.

There is also a deactivated version, Cadet L103A1 DP (Drill Purpose). The DP is generally used for teaching cadets the basics of the weapon they are handling. It is also used for 'Rifle Drill' which is general drill but integrating motions carried out with the rifle, this can also be done effectively whilst marching.

The L98A1 Cadet GP Rifle is expected to be replaced some time within the next five years with a modified version of the L85A2 (SA80) which will be semi-automatic. This rifle will be designated the L98A2.

The first of these new weapons will start to filter through to the cadet units in 2008, however most detachments will not have these for the next few years to come, with Combined Cadet Force units due to receive them first.


After basic lessons on weapon handling and particularly safety, cadets are first taught to fire a .22 calibre rifle on a 25 m rifle range. Cadets are taught the principles of marksmanship - natural pointing, position and hold, sight alignment and shot release and follow through. These also apply to the GP Rifle, which is fired typically on 100 m, 200 m and 300 m ranges during annual camps or weekends away. Senior Cadets are also allowed to fire the Light Support Weapon at the same ranges.

Cadets who perform exceptionally in rifle shooting can achieve a range of proficiency badges and go on to earn county colours for representing the county at CADSAM, the Cadet Annual Skill At Arms Meeting shooting competition. The country is split into divisions, each being numbered. Though each division conducts the competition differently, the competition revolves around the same practices. Involved is zeroing shoot at 30m, snap shoot at 100m, gallery run which starts at 300m where the cadets fire 2 sighting shots and then 10 shots against the clock and run to 200m where they shoot another 10 shots and then run to 100m where they shoot a further 10 shots, again against the clock. Some competitions are held at barracks, such as 4 Division at Pirbright, hold a DCCT (Dismounted Close Combat Trainer) range which consists of cadets using SA80s which use a laser system onto a screen. Scenarios and different ranges can be used on this system. Some divisions have a shotgun shoot. There is a pull bull competition where cadets put in money and try to get as close to the bull as possible. The cadet who wins receives all of the money. There is the ETR (Electronic Target Range) where cadets fire at a fixed position onto targets at 100m, 200m and 300m. There targets are controlled electronically and the scores are also calculated electronically. All of these competitions are conducted on Saturday. On the Sunday all the teams (some counties have more than one) compete in the falling plate competition which involves the cadets running from 300m to 200m and trying to get 10 plates down as fast as possible. The divisions conduct the competition slightly differently. In 4 Division, each team competes against one other team but in the fist two rounds there are two competitions happening at the same time (four teams total). The results ceremony is conducted after the falling plate competition.

Cadets also have the opportunity to fire the L81 A2 Cadet Target Rifle in competition at Brigade (CTRM), National (Interservices Cadet Rifle Meeting) and International ( [ Dominion of Canada Rifle Association Matches] ) level. Many cadets go on to become part of the national team representing the UK in international competitions.

Map and Compass

Cadets learn how to navigate using a map and compass. Cadets gain the same skills taught to soldiers so that they can plan operations and navigate any terrain. First, cadets learn to care for and use Ordnance Survey maps (and the MOD's maps produced by DGIA (Defence Geographic and Imagery Intelligence Agency) of United Kingdom Training Areas), plot and find six-figure grid references, calculate distances between points, and to recognise various conventional signs.

The two-star map and compass course then introduces cadets to the Silva (4/6400) and Suunto (M-5N) lightweight protractor compass. Cadets learn to use and plot grid and magnetic bearings in both mils and degrees, to understand the three different types of north, to account for deviation of the grid-magnetic angle, and to understand contour lines and more advanced conventional signs. With this knowledge cadets can draw up route cards to undertake night navigation exercises or orienteering competitions.

First Aid

As part of the training syllabus Cadets are taught First Aid to recognised standards and are awarded relevant certificates.

Community Projects

This subjects enriches local knowledge and encourages good citizenship, usually a cadet can contribute to his/her community by Poppy selling, public parades, helping with local services and helping at public events. This involvement within the community is important with improving confidence and improving social skills.


The ACF engages in physical activties such as:

* Sports
**Cross-country running
* Canoeing
* Kayaking
* Summer and Winter Mountaineering
* Climbing
* Orienteering
* Caving
* Mountain Biking
* Archery
* Paintball
* Parachuting
* Expeditions
* Foreign Exchanges

Duke of Edinburgh Award

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical, cultural and adventurous activities for young people aged 14-25. The Award programme consists of three levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each have differing criteria for entry and the level of achievement necessary to complete each awardcite web
url =
title = The Duke of Edinburgh's Award
author=DoE website
] .. Cadets who meet the age criteria can join the award scheme.

Each award is broken down into 4 areas (5 for gold) which participants must complete successfully to receive their award. These are:-

*ServiceHelping others in the local community.

*ExpeditionsTraining for, and planning of a journey.

*SkillsDemonstrate ability in almost any hobby, skill or interest

*Physical RecreationSport and fitness.

*Residential Project (Gold Award only)A purposeful enterprise with young people not previously known to the participant.

Cadets are often encouraged to achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards as they progress through their cadet careers. Some cadets aged 16 or over used to be able to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh's Millennium Volunteers Award, this has now been overtaken by another authority and it is currently being reviewed on whether or not cadets will be able to undertake it as it has a new structure.

The Award is widely recognised by employers as it helps demonstrate that award holders are keen to take on new challenges, have a higher level of self confidence than their counterparts, have leadership qualities with the added experience of teamwork.

Leadership Training

Leadership Training is available and is recognised by a professional body (ILM), both the following two awards qualify for a professional qualification [] which is recognised in industry by employerscite web
url =
title = Leadership Training
author=MoD(A) website
] .

Leadership training is an important part of the ACF training programme, with training available at higher levels too. Most areas run NCO courses, designed to help newly promoted NCOs to perform their duties well, or to train those eligible for promotion. There are also a number of courses run centrally by the ACF, including the Junior Leaders course.

Junior Leaders

Cadets over the age of 17 and of the rank of at least Cadet Sergeant can complete a leadership course called Junior Leaders, renowned for being the toughest course in the ACF. Upon completion, the cadet is awarded a green and wedgwood blue DZ Flash for wearing on the DPM uniform and also the Certificate in Team Leading which is a professional qualification validated by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) [ ['s The Junior Leaders Association - What is Junior Leaders accessdate=2008-10-10] ]

Master Cadet

The Master Cadet Course is a mixture of theory and practical elements with an emphasis on leadership, teamwork and communications, Cadets who complete the Master Cadet Course are eligible for this Certificate in Team Leading from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

See also

*The Cassino Band of Northumbria Army Cadet Force
*Air Training Corps
*Sea Cadet Corps
*Combined Cadet Force
*Girls Venture Corps


External links

* [ Army Cadet Force Official Site]
* [ Unofficial Army Cadet Force Forums]
* [ Derbyshire Army Cadet Force (Mercian Regiment)]
* [ North Devon ACF]
* [ Devon ACF A Company]
* [ Clwyd ACF]
* [ Dyfed ACF]
* [ Gwynedd ACF]
* [ Gwent ACF]
* [ Powys ACF]
* [ Humberside & South Yorkshire ACF]
* [ B Coy - Humbs. & S. Yorks. ACF]
* [ Yorkshire (North and West) Army Cadet Force]
* [ Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland ACF]
* [ Greater Manchester Army Cadet Force]
* [ Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Army Cadet Force]

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