Three different experiences of summer camp

Posted on September 25, 2017

West Midlands Schools Mastering Archery

For most CCFs, annual camp is the culmination of a year of hard work: a chance for cadets to put their skills to use and to learn new applications for those skills. And of course, to have fun.

We caught up with three very different CCFs on their return from camp to find out what their cadets got out of this year’s summer activities.

Whitgift CCF, South Croydon

Whitgift is an independent school with boarding facilities and a well-established CCF. All three services are represented, with 250 cadets in the Army section, 100 in the RAF section and 50 in the Royal Navy section.

Commanding Offi cer Lt Col Keith Smith describes this year’s summer camp: “This year we took 50 cadets to Germany to visit the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in Paderborn. It was a great experience. We were in the hands of a regular unit who ran all the training. They could show the cadets pieces of kit that we just couldn’t have done. We were the only cadets there, so I think the students gained from that because they saw the regulars at work and how the soldiers learn from their training.

“It was great for the kids to meet the real thing. But I think it’s a two-way process, too: the Army is keen to show the range of activities it does and what opportunities are available. From the minute we arrived, they ran our entire programme – it was brilliant. We did a mixture of weapon training, fieldcraft, platoon attacks, demonstrations from the support company – things like F javelin anti-tank mortars and snipers. And we managed some tourism too.

“Annual camp wasn’t the only summer activity this year for our CCF. A group of cadets spent a week at sea on HMS Ocean (with which we’re affiliated) on a cruise from Sunderland to Plymouth. We also had an adventure training camp in August in Devon. But annual camp is the most popular by miles. The kids love it – as long as it’s well run, which it certainly was this year.”

Brompton Academy CCF, Kent

Brompton Academy is a large state school. Its 50-strong Army section was formed under the CEP in September 2014. SSI Capt Matt Loughrey and Lt Paula Knight, Contingent Commander, together talk about the preparation that goes into camp:

“This year was our third camp and we’re getting more and more confident and experienced. The staff have done all the training packages now, and where they may have felt out of their comfort zone initially, they are now leading on events.

“It’s the same for the cadets: they are a lot more confident and proud of taking part in camp activities and competitions. They want to compete against other schools.

“Our aim with camp is to give cadets the best value. That doesn’t mean we aren’t ambitious, but it does mean it has to be affordable. So for the past three years we’ve gone to Crowborough Training Camp, which is quite nearby. We do lots of fundraising so the cadets feel that they’ve contributed. And the instruction at Crowborough is amazing, the value we get is fantastic.

“For the cadets, preparation for summer camp starts in September. For new cadets, we do an induction weekend, where they stay overnight at school. This can be really helpful for students who haven’t spent much time away from home. Throughout the year we have fieldcraft weekends and in May we take them away for four days to sleep outside, so when they get to camp they’re quite hardy.

“It makes a huge difference for our students, because a lot of them can struggle with confidence, communication and working as a team. But we see a big change between September and camp in the summer. We had one cadet who couldn’t ride a bike in September; at camp she was mountain biking.

“Our cadets more than hold their own at summer camp. They love the competition day at the end and in fact one of our cadets won top cadet in camp this year. It’s great to see them so full of confidence and proud to wear their uniform.”

Arnold Hill Academy CCF, Nottingham

Arnold Hill, a state school, didn’t have its own CCF when we spoke to 2Lt Andrew Craze in August. It was due to set one up in September under the CEP with a cohort of 23 enthusiastic cadets, already smashing its year one target of 15. However, the school’s CCF staff designate (three officers and one SSI) had spent a year training with Nottingham High School CCF in a partnership so successful that Arnold Hill managed to recruit 13 new cadets into the partner school’s CCF.

These cadets went on their first annual camp – at Penally in South Wales – this summer, and will form the core of the new Arnold Hill CCF in September. It was Andrew’s first camp too, and he tells us about the experience:

“It was an awesome camp. It exceeded my expectations in terms of the experience of the cadets. You could see them growing up before your eyes: everything from watching one kid learning to take responsibility for the table at dinner, to another cadet who had a complete fear of heights overcoming that fear to do an abseil. He was given a special recommendation by the instructors for showing the core value of courage.

“A lot of the experiences were new for the cadets. The overnight exercise was much colder than they expected, and for some of them it was their first time camping and cooking out. Our cadets had never shot a blank or live round – they’d only shot on a laser range – so the bangs were a shock for some of them.

“But they were kept so busy that they didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point. Credit has to go to 160 Brigade for that: they were good about tailoring what they did on an exercise where it was obvious our cadets hadn’t yet had the time to develop the training. They adapted to us and the needs of our cadets. Nobody was left behind.”

Read the magazine article here: