Although it is hard to believe today, up until relatively recently boxing was seen a an excellent sport for youths to take part in. It was seen as promoting moral fibre, fitness and as a safe way of siphoning off youthful aggression and high spirits. With this attitude, and boxing’s obvious martial overtones, it is no surprise that the Army Cadet Forces encouraged boxing amongst their members and between different units. Tonight’s programme comes from one of those amateur bouts, with the event beng organised by the 3rd Cadet Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment:As can be seen this programme dates from just after the Second World War and the matches took place at Todmorden Town Hall on 23rd March. The inside of the leaflet gives a brief introduction and the list of bouts:As can be seen the boxers are drawn from various local army, navy and air cadet units as well as Rishworth School. The sheer number of different units shows how popular the cadets were at this time. The back page of the programme wraps it up with the usual thanks for those who supported the event, and advertisements for upcoming events:Christopher Spikins boxed with the ACF the year before this programme was sold:
One evening, the regular army physical education instructor “collared” me and said, “We need a Middleweight boxer for the team and you are it”, “No, no, no!”, I replied, but after my pal, Jim Fuller encouraged me, I said I would “give it a go.”
So, yet another evening to fill my spare time. I was a busy lad!
Jogging through the darkened streets, strenuous exercises, lots of sparring (with bigger and faster boxers), kept us working hard. So it was Tuesday, Thursday drill and weapon training, Wednesdays and weekends band practise, then boxing whenever.
I did enjoy it, though, and a big bonus was when we went to other cadet units, or service camps in military vehicles and had good food at the various cookhouses, food that we could not get at home because of the rationing.
The National ACF Boxing Championships were to be held sometimes and we trained hard to enter the various county heats, so that we could be at the finals. Some of us were successful in reaching the finals, to be held later at the Royal Albert Hall. I was placed in the middleweight class.
In, I think, 1945, there was a big cadet weekend in London, with a parade of units, including many bands and the salute to be taken by HRH The Princess Margaret.
Our band did not take part, but we marched in the parade. By this time, I was a Warrant Officer and the split pin holding my brass badge scratched my right arm and I still have the scar today.
The Championships? Oh, yes.
In the heat for the finals, a full programme of boxing was staged at the Drill Hall, with a paying audience and I was dressed in boxing gear. Passing a group of Yorkshire cadets, they called out “Hey, you won’t feel a thing when he hits you” and they laughed.
He was a big lad and during the first two rounds he smacked me often and both rounds were judged even. My father was in the audience, so I did not want to lose, so in the third round, and after a big “rocket” from my PE instructor, I went in hard and knocked him out, much to my relief.
Royal Albert Hall, here we come!!! Yippee!!! – But no!
Although I had qualified for the finals by beating the Yorkshire cadet, we received a letter stating that on the actual date of the championships, I would be one month over the age limit, so was eliminated. Yes, I cried with disappointment.
The irony is, that the cadet I knocked out in the semi final, won the championship!! Of course I congratulated him, although with mixed feelings.
Sales of the programme (3d) and entrance fees to the event would have helped support the cadet unit in its day to day running, as central funding was always very limited. Even today cadet forces are charities and rely heavily on volunteers, donations and fundraising events.