School Cadet Programs

Figure 1.--This 1900 portrait shows a group of the Australian Cadets at the Orange Superior Public School in New South Wales. They are the Cadet Shield winners in 1900.

British schools and schools in their Dominions (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa) had a cadet program. American schools had comparable programs, the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). There were also cadet programs in other countris like Austria, France, Ger,any, and Russia, but our information is still limited. These programs have varied greatly in popularity over time and among different countries. At time they have been strongly supported. At other times they have been sharply criticised by groups with pacifistic sentiments. We do not yet have detail on the creation and organization of these programs. Some information is available on their uniforms.


South Africa

The Cadet program was popular in South Africa during the 1950s and 60s and started to decline since then. It was devised as a form of discipline and pride, not military preparedness. One was supposed to learn obedience. Most cadets spent their cadet time (spent as extra periods after school) marching and playing instruments in a marching band - drums, cymbals and valveless bugles. Some schools had rifle shooting training, using .22 calibre rifles. These were obviously the better endowed schools with large fields. Uniforms consisted of khaki coloured short pants and shirts with epulettes, long khaki knee socks and brown boots. Sometimes caps were worn. It looked very similar to that worn by the Hitler youth in Nazi Germany and the type of thinking that promoted the cadet program seemed suspiciously similar.

America, Latin


A German boy in Bolivia during the late 1940s and eraly 1950s reports, "I don't recall Bolivia having Boy Scouts. In school, starting when I was 13 years old, there was a sort of "pre-military" service every Saturday morning, organized by the government for all schools. For this we were given uniforms consisting of olive green shorts and dark brown jerseys with a little olive green military cap. We were all very proud to put them on once a week. These Saturday mornings were spent mostly on athletic fields, drilling for future parades, or on field trips carrying real rifles - with the ensuing pains in the shoulder from their considerable weight. With this uniform we wore our own socks and shoes (mine were brown)."

America, North


A Canadian reader has provided some information on the Canadian Cadet program. "The Canadian military in the years before World War I was trying to copy everything British. This did not really change until the 1970s. I am sure that there were some changes in the 1970s for many years but now it is more British again. The Canadian uniform and rankings are copies. There could be some differences in combat fatigues. Here in Canada for all three branches there have been many cadet outfits set up all over the country. And in large cities like Montreal there are numerous outfits. In the early 1960s my brother was in both the Army and Navy cadets mostly so he could be in a marching band. He usually ended up being head bugler or trumpeter. In the late-1960s I joined the Air Cadets. The officers at my Air Cadet Wing were Reservists who were volunteering their time.Depending on where you lived you were assigned to a Cadet Wing. I was there for ages 17 and 18, but I could have joined at 14. The main reason was that we were promised that the top 10 percent of the aeronautics and aviation classes would be recruited the summer after 18th BD for flight training. First we would get glider training and if we pass that then on to power flight training in Cessnas for a civilian pilot license and then be sent to the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario for officer training and then after graduation there off to military flight training. I was near top of 10 perent in both classes. was refused because I wear glasses. That irritated me off big time."

United States

We notice American military schools before the Civil War. These were essentually school-wide cadet programs. America has a rather limited history of boarding schools, but for some reason quite a number of the military schools that did exist were military schools. I'm not sure why this was, but by the mid-19th Century several such schools were in operation. We note cadet programs in the 19th century at schools that were not military schools. We assume this ocuured at both private abd public sxchools, but our information is still very limited. The first programs we can find at this time are programs introduced during the Civil War. The United States has a college level program called the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC) to help train officers as the graduates of the military academies are not adequate to train the number of officers needed by the services. There is also a program for high schools called Junior ROTC. Most military schools participate in this program, but there are also Junior ROTC units at regular public high schools--often inner-city schools.



The Indian National Cadet Corps (राष्ट्रीय कैडेट कोर)--NCC) is the Indian military cadet corps. The NCC traces its roots to British colonial India. During World War I, a University Corp was created by he Indian Defense Act (1917). Further developments followed World War I during the inter-War era and during World War II. India played an important role in both the vBritish World War I and WorldWar II war effort. The NCC was foundedat independenbce by the National Cadet Corps Act (1948). A separate Girls Division was added (1949). The NCC is headquartered at New Delhi. There are both school and college level programs students, It is a voluntary program. The NCC has three service programs (Air, Army, and Navy wing ). It provides training in preparing youth for military service. And it has provided assistance in national emergencie such as the wars with Pakistan. Cadets receive basic military training, primarily with small arms and drill. They frecquently appear in natioanl celebratiins as a parade group. Cadets have no liability for actual active military service once they complete the cadet program. They do receive preferential treatment in the military based on their NCC accomplishments.


We have no detailed information about cadet programs in Singapore. The country was a British colony and we note cadet programs at Singapore schools before World War II. We do not know how common this was, but we do know that the cadet programs were mnot just at the schools for British children.




A Dutch reader reports, "Generally speaking there has been little or no military training for boys under the age of 17 in both Belgium and Holland, especially since World War I. Over the past hundred years or so there has been a strong undercurrent of pacifism in Dutch society and, to a lesser extent, in Belgium." The question of pacifism is an interesting subject in itself. Belgium chose neutrality as a means of national defense and in the two World wars was invaded and occupied by the Germans. In World War I the valiant resistance of the Belgian Army was a key factor in the French Army's desperate effort to stop the German Army before they reached Paris in 1914. In both World Wars it was the sacrifices of soldiers from other countries which made possible the liberation of the country. Belgium is now a member of NATO.


Let us not assume that military training for boys is peculiar to the old Soviet Bloc countries. The idea of preparing school children for war may in fact be the British cadet program, although HBC does not have avery complete understanding of the program yet. It does appear to have been functioning in England during World War I (1914-18), just when the prigram began I do not yet know. One British contributor reports, "I was trained at school from the age of 13 in military skills, including combat training, firing automatic weapons etc. although not compulsory, pressure was applied by the school to conform and few demurred. This was in Britain in the mid 1970s and is still going on."


No information available on France.


Given Germnany's history it is likely that there is now no school cadet program. HBC does not know, however, if there was such a program earlier. A German reader writes, "HBC is right in principle, we no longer have any school cadet program. For youngsters, however, 18+ years of age, who want to become a German naval officer, there is a cadet training on special ships (sailing ships) for some months in a long sea sailing trip around the worlds. They are still called 'Kadetten'."


No information available on Italy.

(The) Netherlands

A Dutch reader reports, "Generally speaking there has been little or no military training for boys under the age of 17 in both Belgium and Holland, especially since World War I. Over the past hundred years or so there has been a strong undercurrent of pacifism in Dutch society and, to a lesser extent, in Belgium." The question of pacifism is an interesting subject in itself. The Dutch chose neutrality as a means of national defense. The Germans honored Dutch neutrality in World War I, but invaded and occupied the Netherlands in World War II. In World War II it was the sacrifices of soldiers from other countries which made possible the liberation of the country. The Netherlands is now a member of NATO. Pacifism given the European tragedy of two gastly world wars is understandable in Europe and springs from laudiable moral beliefs and values. Modern European pacifism, from an American perspective, however, is only possible today because America and Britain underwrote in lives and national trasure the liberation of Western Europe and its defense from Soviet domination for half a century during the Cold War (1945-89). The young people who disparage cadet programs and military service in general are only able to do so because others have been willing to make the sacrifices that have permitted the maintenance of an open democratic society. The Army Historical Society write that there was a cadet school in Alkmaar (1893-1921). It prepared boys for the Royal Military Academy. There was no separate military training for boys in the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch Navy reports that there is an active Sea Cadets Corps. In 2002 there were about ten active units. Some have their own websites. The Sea Cadet Corps seems more like a scout-like organization than an organization for military training.


The Soviet Union had a military program for school children. Unlike the cadet programs in England and America, it was not optional. The Soviet program did not have mandatory uniforms. It was discontinued upon the disolution of the Soviet Union, but Acting-President Putin's Governent in 2000 is reinstituting it.


Scotland like England has an active cadet program where secondary school clildren receive some basic military instruction. The program began before World War I, but I have few details on the history of the program. The dress uniform at most groups is the kilt, but for training, pants are generally worn.



The Australian Cadet uniform vary slightly between each regiment. Usually all cadets wear Australian Army DPCU (Camo clothes) and each regiment have their individual headware, except for officers who have the Australian Army Slouch hat. Boots are black and leather. The previous uniform used to be just plain tannish green. The boys ages usually vary from 12-18. Activities include: archery, abseiling (repeling), rifles shooting, rock climbing, horse riding. You get lessons in 1st Aid, survival, living in the bush, campcraft, self-defense etc. There is usally a camp of training called Bivouac and a normal camp to use the skill and learn to patrol. Cadets are not as popular as Boy Scouts, but there is stil an average of 100 boys per regiment and there are about 40 regiments.

New Zealand

New Zealand like other former British colonies has had an active cadet program, preparing secondary-age boys for military service. So far I have few details about the cadet program in New Zealand. The uniforms involved have generally followed the uniforms of the New Zealand military.


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Created: September 4, 1998
Last updated: 5:27 PM 6/17/2013