Category Archives: OTC and Cadets

Plastic Air Training Corps Lapel Badge

A few years back we looked at plastic cap badges, made during the Second World War as an economy measure. However these were not the only badges remade in plastic; metal was a strategic resource and if a badge could be moulded out of plastic then it saved brass or steel for more important duties. As well as military cap badges many civilian and Civil Defence badges were produced in plastic as well as badges for various youth organisations such as the cadets. It is a lapel badge for the Air Cadet Corps we are looking at tonight:imageThis badge was worn on the lapel of a suit when the owner was out of uniform, allowing a discrete way of showing his role within the service and allowing other members of the cadet force to easily identify him as a member. It might seem strange today, but in the Second World War normal attire for teenagers was the same as for adults; shirt tie and jacket. As such they all had a lapel with a suitable button hole to attach the badge to. The rear of the badge has a straight post and a round top to it to allow it to fasten securely through a lapel:imageSmall lettering on the back of the badge indicates it was made by Stanley’s of Walsall:imageThis firm were a large manufacturer of badges and produced massive quantities for the armed forces. The badge itself is not made from Bakelite, but rather a form of cellulose. A larger circular cap badge was also produced in plastic for the Air Training Corps.

John Phillip Haseldine was a member of the ATC and recalls some of its activity:

From early 1940 I was going to the A.T.C. every evening and at weekends. We were shown how to recognise aircraft from all angles by black silhouettes – plus we did the normal square-bashing, of course. We used to be taught how to set a course allowing for wind speed and variation etc. and I was pretty good at all this sort of thing. Of course, nights in the winter especially were pitch dark and I remember two occasions in the black out. The first happened as I was riding my bicycle home when suddenly I flew through the air. For some reason a manhole cover in the road had been left off and my front wheel had gone into it. Luckily, being young, I was not badly hurt but my bicycle was a complete wreck. We used to have very bad smogs caused by all the coal fires, virtually the only kind of heating in houses. Added to the black out these smogs made it impossible to see even a yard ahead of you. On this one evening a group of us were going to A.T.C. training at a different venue than our usual place. We got completely lost, when a man bumped into us with his bicycle and said he lived in the road where we were going. He said if one of us held onto his bicycle and the rest joined in a line behind, he would walk there with us. We did this for a little way but then came to a dead stop as he had walked off the street into an air raid shelter. After this we groped about most of the evening and to this day I cannot remember whether we arrived.

Early in 1944 I went with other of the A.T.C. to a test centre in London. I cannot recall where it was but we were given medicals and things I remember we had to do was to blow into a tube that raised mercury to a certain level and hold it there for one minute; also a Japanese book which had numbers in it made up of all different colours. We were asked what numbers we saw when the pages were turned over. Then we were interviewed separately and asked questions, most of which I thought were crazy, by three R.A.F. officers. The only one I can remember was how a combustion engine works, which I knew.

I would have been coming up to 18 at this time. Some months later we were taken in R.A.F. trucks to airfields; we were not told where. I remember one we were taken to. There was a very large building with a ballroom-type floor, at one end of which was a dais with a seat and an aircraft joystick, in front of which was a flat board which you could lie on, with a bomber’s teat by the side. A map of Germany was projected on the whole of the floor which moved as if you were flying over it, both pilot and bomb-aimer were about 20’ above. Whoever was pilot was given a target on the map and as the map moved and you approached the target to get into the right position the bomb-aimer would give directions left or right of it until he thought you were in the right position. Then he would press the bomb teat and release the bombs. This was not as easy as it seems as you had to allow a time lag for bombs to drop. A bright spotlight would then show where your bombs had landed and the map would stop.Air_cadets_learn_the_basics_of_flight_at_RNAS_St_Merryn_in_Cornwall,_February_1944__A22064

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1970s Cadets Photograph

This week’s photograph is a little bit different to the usual ones we look at, being both post war and in colour! This photograph depicts cadets at a summer camp at an army barracks, practicing first aid on a ‘ressusci-annie’:Having spoken to some who served in the cadets, our best guess is this photograph was taken in the early 1970s. The wooden buildings in the background are barrack accommodation and again although I have no way of being certain, it looks very much like the old Deverall Barracks at Ripon (of which I have had some personal experience many years later). The barrack blocks are large wooden huts, each holding approximately thirty men:In the foreground we can see the training dummy, used to practice mouth to mouth resuscitation:An adult instructor is leaning over demonstrating to the cadets how to use it:The cadets wear olive green uniform, with a number of styles and varieties worn, most wear beret:One though wears a jungle boonie hat:Interestingly he also wears a woolly pully over a shirt, with a 37 pattern belt round his waist. Other cadets seem to be wearing a version of a 1960 combat smock:Or shirt and lightweight trousers:This cadet seems to have some sort of mustard scarf around his neck as well! Then as now, cadet forces had very limited funds and items had to be ‘scrounged’ or purchased from a variety of sources with a somewhat hodge-podge result in many cases. Nigel Dickinson was a cadet and recalls:

That’s the kit I was given in 1975 or so, only to have it taken away almost instantly and replaced with DPM trousers – cadet pattern – and proper woolly pullies… If you wanted a smock, hard luck. There was a horrible pullover anorak thing, or of you were lucky, you got a Jacket, Overalls, OG.

Cadet photographs are pretty rare, so this informal personal snap is a very nice find, especially as it illustrates the variety of the uniform worn in this period.

CS95 Air Cadet’s Shirt

We have looked at various examples of the CS95 DPM shirt on the blog over the last couple of years and I must confess I am only picking up new examples for my collection if they have interesting patches and markings on them. Tonight we have a nicely badged example that saw service with a member of the Air Cadets:The ‘Air Cadets’ is an umbrella term for young people who are members of either Combined Cadet Forces (RAF) which are run in over 200 schools across the UK and those who are members of Air Training Corps groups which are small local detachments of cadets dotted across the country. Both organisations are volunteer services that give teenagers the chance to learn more about the RAF, volunteer and take part in various aviation related activities. The Air Cadets are of course closely aligned with the RAF and wear very similar uniforms- indeed much of their equipment and uniform is either military surplus or produced under the same contracts but in smaller sizes to the regular uniform. This shirt for instance has the same NATO sizing and details as any shirt issued to the military, it is often just the smaller sizes that are indicative of cadet use:Above the breast pocket of the shirt is a large ‘Air Cadets’ patch sewn on to clearly identify the organisation:A large and detailed tactical recognition flash is sewn onto one shoulder:The Air Cadets are given the following guidance on wearing the DPM uniform as combat clothing:The DPM uniform is now being superseded by more modern MTP uniforms within the cadet force- permission being given to wear them in 2014. This guidance on insignia placement from the Cadet’s website therefore applies to the newer uniform, but is indicative of what has been sewn onto the CS95 shirt above:

Victoria College Combined Cadet Force Beret

Tonight we have a beret from one of the more far flung combined cadet forces in the British Isles, that of Victoria College on Jersey:image1My thanks go to Ian H of the British Badge Forum for identifying the unit. This beret has a sewn on badge, with the college coat of arms consisting of the heraldic shield of the island, surmounted by a King’s Crown:imageThe Victoria College Cadet Force has a long and illustrious history, and its activities are described on the college website from which this extract comes:

The Victoria College Contingent was formed as an Officer Training Corps in 1903 and in 1948 became the Victoria College CCF Contingent. In 1951 the Royal Air Force section was formed and in 1976 the Royal Navy section. The Contingent parades on a Friday afternoon at 1400hrs for Senior Cadets and 1530hr for Year 10 and 11 Cadets. Wing Commander D J Rotherham the Contingent Commander leads a Contingent of 150 cadets and 15 officers and staff. Cadets regularly attend camps at military establishments across the UK including adventure training, cadet skills competitions and courses. On Island training includes sailing, rock climbing, archery and live firing at the Crabbe Range Facility. The Contingent performs several ceremonial duties including the mounting of the Halberdier Guard. The Contingent Headquarters (Sir Michael Alcock Centre) is situated behind the Pavilion on College Field it includes the CCF office, classroom, meeting room, 25 yard indoor range, purpose built armoury, clothing, training and equipment stores.

The site gives further information on the unit’s history:

The Victoria College Contingent has a long and proud history dating back to 1883 with the formation of the Cadet Militia Corps. The Contingent’s history is one of service, opportunity and sacrifice. Since 1883 Old Victorians have served and died in the conflicts of the late 19th and 20th centuries earning a total of five Victoria Crosses. These sacrifices have not been forgotten in fact quite the opposite is true. It is almost impossible to find a corner of the College where there is not a memorial plaque, trophy or indeed building to remember these Old Victorians.

Cadets no longer train for war but continue to serve the community through ceremonial duties and services to charities and the community. The wearing of the College Cap Badge and the various uniforms is a living tribute to both those Old Victorians and all those serving in the British Armed Forces. For this reason alone it is important that Cadets understand the history of the Contingent and in particular the service and sacrifice of Old Victorians over the past 131 years.

This particular beret dates from before 2000 as on that date the Army contingent adopted the khaki beret of its associated unit The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment and the blue beret used up until that point was dropped.War%20Graves%20(3)%20311015

RAF Cloud Atlas

If rough seas hold danger for mariners, cloud can be equally hazardous to airmen. The development of meteorology and aircraft sophistication seem to have progressed in tandem, with airmen increasingly spending large portions of their training understanding the weather and the effects it could have on their aircraft. Tonight we are looking at a cloud atlas produced for the RAF in 1950, albeit a reprint of a wartime publication:imageThis book was property of West Leeds High School Combined Cadet Force, as evidenced by the stamp on the cover:imageInside the book different cloud types are illustrated, with notes for aviators set out alongside them:imageThe page on the left shows there are ten types of cloud and rates them as to their use or danger to the airmen. The book illustrates cloud types from both above and below in the views most likely to be seen by pilots:imageThese individual articles give much greater detail as to the effects of the cloud on different aircraft types. The back of the book includes a number of diagrams indicating how different weather fronts interact to produce different sorts of cloud:imageBrian Soper flew on Lancasters during the war and explained the problems of flying through cloud:

I remember several trips where we thought we would never get out of cloud, climbing up sometimes over ten to twelve thousand feet, occasionally breaking through to find another layer above. It was like flying through dense fog knowing a hundred others were somewhere very close. On one such trip we also had an intercom failure which could not be traced. Without intercom on the Lanc, the noise of the engines made it impossible to communicate. For a time the navigator had to pass courses to the pilot on paper. The problem was eventually solved; we did at last come out above the cloud and climbed to our normal height, 20 — 20,000 feet. On a good night we could make 23,000ft.

Clouds were normally a good place to hide form enemy aircraft, but not always as Goronwy Edwards relates:

I wish to lay claim to a unique experience – that of an air combat fought in the middle of a cloud, and at ranges varying from ten to twenty-five yards.

On 22nd June 1940, as the pilot of a Hudson aircraft of Coastal Command, I was escorting one of our naval cruisers off the coast of Norway when I intercepted a German flying boat which was shadowing the ship. I engaged it immediately, but it escaped into the cloud layer a few hundred feet above.

The Dornier was an unusual design of aircraft, its two engines being mounted in tandem, one pulling, the other pushing. And the two gunners’ cockpits were open, so that the gunners wore helmets and black leather protective clothing against the cold.

I followed into the cloud in the hope that it would break cover on top, where I could have another go at it, and for the first few seconds was busy checking the blind-flying and engine instruments, to trim the aircraft before engaging the automatic pilot to maintain a steady rate of climb. Satisfied that all was in order, I was reaching out to engage the autopilot when something made me look ahead through the windscreen.

I had the shock of my life to see the Dornier about 30 yards ahead of me, and slightly off to one side. In a one in a billion chance, I’d followed directly in his track!

The white fog of the cloud softened everything, so the aircraft seemed twice its size, and incredibly sinister. And the midships gunner saw me at the same time as I saw him. Clad in his black leathers and goggles, he looked like an executioner as he went for his gun and swung the muzzle towards my head.

RAF Apprentice’s Badge

In October 1919 the Royal Air Force began its apprentice scheme, teaching recruits an apprenticeship in carpentry, sheet metal working, fitting or as an electrician. These boys were selected by examination between the ages of 15 and 17 ½ and once they turned 18 they signed on for twelve years in the RAF. As a very technical service the RAF had quickly recognised that it would need a pool of talent to maintain and service its aircraft. The RAF apprentice scheme aimed To produce advanced tradesmen of good education and to develop in them such qualities of character- sense of responsibility, leadership, pride in the service- as will fit them for a progressive career within the Royal Air Force.

To help develop good character it was felt necessary to distinguish the boys on an apprenticeship from older airmen, and so from the very start they had their own unique trade badge, a four bladed propeller in a wheel that was sewn onto the sleeves of their jackets:imageOnce the apprentice was promoted, the badge was worn above his stripes. Above one stripe indicated a Leading Apprentice, above two a Corporal Apprentice and above three for a Sergeant Apprentice. For flight sergeants the badge was worn above the stripes and below a crown. The badge was supposed to be worn so the propeller was in an ‘X’ alignment. These badges can be clearly seen on the sleeves of these apprentices from RAF Cosford Apprentice Wing on parade in Wolverhampton in 1967:untitledIn close up this becomes clearer:untitledThe RAF Apprentice scheme finally closed in 1993 after over 71 years and 40,000 apprentices had successfully completed it.

OTC Summer Camp Postcard

Tuesday’s market was very quiet, but did throw up a rather nice inter-war postcard depicting boys of an Officer Training Corps on their summer camp:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001I particularly like the informality of this photo, with some in uniform and some in civilian clothing, two of the boys have service dress trousers, worn with shorts:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (3)The second carries a service dress cap:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - CopyA third boy, leaning on his friends, wears a SD cap:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (2)In the background can be seen the tops of bell tents, presumably where they are sleeping whilst on their camp:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (4)A galvanised oval bucket sits upturned in the foreground:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (5)The boys seem to age from about thirteen up to maybe sixteen or seventeen, the seated boy at the front looks particularly young:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (6)The back of the postcard bears the handwritten message ‘Audrey . Some of the boys in camp’:SKMBT_C36415080407530_0001An interesting account from Oakham OTC about their summer camp in 1935 gives a flavour of the organisation of one of these camps:pt1