British Army Cadet Force: History--World War II

Figure 1.--Boys of all ages wanted to assist the war effort. Boy Scouts could aid the Home Guard as runners. At age 13 1/2, boys could join the Cadet Corps. It was a voluntary effort and a private organization --the British National Cadet Association. The Government finally reestablished the Army Cadet Force as an official organization (1942). By this time the threat of a German invasion was fading, but the need to train youths for military service had become increasingly evident. The press caption here read, "Young Enhland learns soldering: England's youngest soldiers are the boy cadets, 14-17 years of age, who study map reading and field strategy and learn to handle the Army's up-to-date weapons and instruments. At 17, they're drafted into the Home Guard until they're old enough to join the Regular Army. Here lads of the Devon Army Cadet Force fire 25-pounder guns. Passed by censor " The photograph was dated August 21, 1942. The 25-pounder was introduced into service just before World War II. It served as the major dual-purpose British field gun/howitzer throughout the War. The British were not serious about preparing for war in the 1930s or even during the first year of the War under Prime-Minister Chamberlain, training boys this age for war shows that after the Blitz they were very serious indeed and no longer alone or unarmed.

Many British people thought naively that there would never be another war. The rise of Fascism on the continent, especially the NAZIs in Germany gradually changed this outlook. Unfortunately the public mood and the outlook of the politicians did not change fast enough for Britain to prepare adequately for war. The Germans launched a massive rearmament program. When Germany invaded Poland, an unprepared Britain declared war on Germany (1939). In less than a year, the Germans had defeated France and the panzers stood at the Channel preparing to invade Britain. The Cadet Forces with only limited Government support aided the Home Guard during the early part of World War II when for a time it looked like a German invasion was imminent. The British National Cadet Association supported the Home Guard as a possible German invasion loomed. The Government as a result of the War decided to reestablish t he ACF (1942). We do not yet have a good history of the Cadets. We have the impression that it was no longer a force reserved to secondary schools or even an entirely school based effort. Rather it was a kind of community based force like the Home Guards. Unlike the school based program of World War I, it does not seem to have been an officer training program. The boys at age 17 joined the Home Guard and at 18 the regular Army. Here we need to find a serious history. Our understanding is that boys could join when they reached 13 1/2 years. There was a lot of marching and once Britain with American aid was rearmed they got their hands on real weapons, including rifles and Bren Guns and eventually artillery pieces. As you can see here the Cadets are having a go with 25 pounders (figure 1).


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Created: 4:00 AM 1/20/2014
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Last updated: 2:02 PM 1/20/2014