Ed is an explorer, author, TV presenter and motivational speaker. He is also a former Army officer and CCF cadet. In 2010, he became the first man known to have walked the length of the Amazon river, from source to sea – which took him 860 days. He tells us why he’s a big supporter of the CCF and other youth organisations.
Explorer Ed Stafford on how the CCF shaped him
As a boy, I had a thing about trying to be the best. My school, Uppingham in Rutland, had two CCF sections: Army and Royal Marines. The RM had tougher physical tests to get in, so I went for that. These days I don’t feel the need to beat my chest as much as I did then!
I was in the cadets for two years, until I left Uppingham with the rank of Sgt at the end of my GCSE year, to go to a school that didn’t have a CCF. After my A levels I went to Newcastle University to study geography, before entering Sandhurst in September 1998.
I learnt some of my most basic and useful skills in the CCF. You only learn to use a compass or to polish your boots once, and I learnt that in the CCF. Packing a rucksack, too – that’s still my job today. Mind you, sometimes I do still pack it and it looks like a banana.
I’m a big supporter of all youth organisations that get young people outside and give them a broad spectrum of skills to live their lives with. It doesn’t mean they have to join the military or become explorers later in life, but the experience of being lost at night, for example, and finding your way to a checkpoint in the dark, can be really formative.
I think it’s important to give young people responsibilities. The CCF is great at that: to train people to use a rifle, for example, teaches them responsibility. I think it’s important to introduce risk at a young age in a wholesome environment like the CCF. It helps them to push themselves in different areas of their life.
The CCF helps develop important qualities. Resilience is a big one: cadets learn to get through tough situations and out the other side. And commitment: they have to turn up, look smart, be positive, act as part of a team. Those qualities are relevant across everything they’ll do in life.
From cadet to Army officer to explorer to family man…
Home: Lives in Leicestershire with his wife, the adventurer Laura Bingham, and baby son, Ranulph.
Service background: Served for four years with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, including a tour of Northern Ireland in 2000. His final job in the Army was training recruits. He says: “I utterly loved that. It was my favourite job in the military: taking slightly lost, spotty boys who didn’t have much confidence and turning them into men who only 12 weeks later would be on the parade square gleaming with pride.”
Current work: When we spoke to Ed for this feature, he was “lucky to be on dad duty” having recently become a father. He started filming a new series for the Discovery channel in November.