The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is a national youth organisation sponsored and supported jointly by a partnership of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Bedford School and Bedford Girls’ School. Its aim is to "provide a disciplined organisation in a school so that pupils may develop powers of leadership by means of training to promote the qualities of responsibility, self reliance, resourcefulness, endurance and perseverance".
It is not a pre-service organisation, although it acknowledges that one of its objectives is "to encourage those who have an interest in the services to become Officers of the Regular or Reserve Forces", and a significant number of officers from our CCF do join up after university. Recent statistics have indicated that about 30% of the present armed services have had experience of the Cadet Force.
Through mainly military style activities it seeks to develop the individual in a number of positive ways, which include:
- Leadership skills
- Team working
- Challenging physical and intellectual activities
- Developing a sense of responsibility for others.
While accepting that the CCF is not for every student, it does give the pupils who join unique experiences, develops them positively as leaders, enables them to live and work in a co-educational environment and teaches them the value of team work. It also enables them to have fun and mix with students from not only the Bedford Schools, but nationally and internationally when they attend courses and camps, and it is for these reasons the school whole heartedly supports the CCF.
To give you a flavour of the CCF experience, here is a recount of recent CCF summer activities.
On board HMS Northumberland
The CCF Structure and Programme
The programme at Bedford is overseen by Commander David Jackson RNR Contingent Commander Bedford School CCF. The CCF has three service sections, Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, which have their own traditions and skills base that reflect their parent services. When cadets join at the beginning of Year 10 they are recruits and as such follow a recruit’s programme irrespective of their service section. It is only when they pass out in the January of the Spring Term that they begin specialist training in their service section.
After completing the recruit year they become a senior cadet in Year 11 and pursue a more advanced programme that includes activities such as sub aqua diving, first aid, target shooting and flying experience in gliders and powered aircraft.
Before entering the Sixth Form, cadets who aspire to be Junior NCOs must attend a Cadet Cadre course, which the Contingent run at Chicksands camp during the summer holiday; this gives them the teaching and leadership skills to teach high quality lessons to junior cadets. Senior NCOs appointments are made by competitive interview as the cadets enter Upper Sixth, and are highly regarded by their peers and officers as rewards for diligent service, proven leadership and future potential. During the year the NCOs attend a number of formal events arranged by the CCF, which introduce them to military traditions.
While term time Wednesdays are spent at Bedford School, many of our most rewarding and challenging activities happen in locations far removed from Bedford. In the last 10 years cadets from our CCF have participated in activities, camps, expeditions and courses in diverse locations ranging from Arctic Norway, Iceland, Cyprus, the Red Sea and the North of Scotland.
The Commitment and Cost
We meet every term time Wednesday after school (4.30pm to 6.00pm) on the Bedford School site and cadets from Bedford Girls' School are provided with coach transport, leaving Cardington Road at 4.10pm. Throughout the year a number of field weekends, camps and courses are organised for the cadets and the expectation is that all cadets will, as a minimum, attend at least two weekends and a week’s course during the year, although there are many more opportunities during the year. Some cadets will choose to spend much more time away than this minimum expectation, either with the Bedford School unit or with the regular forces. As a minimum commitment we expect that when cadets join as recruits they will undertake to participate fully for two years, firstly as a recruit and then as a senior cadet.
A question regularly asked is: What is the cost of being a cadet? The honest answer is that the cost is very modest because, apart from a pair of boots, all the clothing is provided and any trips, expeditions and courses are charged at cost. Typical costs are £20 for a field weekend, £150 for a one week Adventure Training expedition or £60 for a week’s Annual Camp; these amounts are modest because the majority of the cost is met by the MOD. A very significant opportunity is provided for cadets by attendance on MOD directly run courses usually of an Adventure Training nature. A wide ranging programme of courses is offered ranging from international cadet exchanges, sub aqua diving, sailing, overseas travel, flying training, expeditions to various parts of the world and more mundane activities such as lifeguarding and first aid.