Cambs Cadets on official visit to India

Cambs Cadets on official visit to India

15 April 2023

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

The Army Cadet Force offers all its members a variety of impressive opportunities, as well as memories and friends that will last forever. For some, it can also offer truly remarkable once-in-a lifetime experiences. In January of this year, Staff Cadet Sgt (now Colour Sgt) Kate Bilclough from St Neots Detachment, and Staff Cdt Sgt Major Ollie Wade from Longstanton, were selected to attend a trip to India fully funded by the Indian Government. This visit formed part of India’s celebrations of 75 years of Independence and involved meeting Indian Army cadets, seeing the sights and taking part in a great military parade in front of the Indian Prime Minister.

IMG 1793

The UK Army Cadets in India.

In order to be selected, the cadets (who had to be at least 18 years old) were required to apply and make a ‘pitch’ as to why they should be chosen; citing their many responsibilities within the ACF, qualifications gained, and awards won. They were also expected to have learnt about India, as well as expressing enthusiasm for the opportunity to visit the country. Of the 100 applicants, only ten were chosen, highlighting the exceptional achievements of Staff Cadets Bilclough and Wade, and our county in general.

Untitled 1

Cdt Sgt Major Wade & Cdt Sgt Bilclough

The trip began at National ACF HQ Frimley Park, Surrey, where our two cadets met up with the other Army cadets from across the country, organised their kit and were issued service dress uniforms. The short stay at Frimley Park also included a visit to the Indian Embassy in London where the cadets collected their visas and enjoyed a high tea in the company of Indian diplomats. On 15th of January they flew to India, where they would spend the next two weeks. The flight took nine hours, and the cadets didn’t get much sleep due to the excitement of the adventure to come.

IMG 1794

UK delegation at the Indian Embassy.

In India they met up with cadet delegations from many other countries including the USA, New Zealand, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Our UK cadets were the only Army Cadets representing Europe. The visit was organised by the Indian National Cadet Corps (NCC), and a key objective was to exchange cultures, learn more about each other and make new friends. They visited the NCC Headquarters in New Delhi where they gave a presentation on the United Kingdom and performed ‘Weaving the Willow’, a traditional Scottish dance. Ollie Wade said, ‘This was really fun, we had had a chance to rehearse it and we put our heart and soul into the performance.’ The other nations in attendance gave similar presentations and dances, including the Indians.

IMG 1795

Uk delegation at Agra Fort.

Most days were taken up with a busy schedule of visits, sight-seeing and parades. Ollie said, ‘I was really impressed with the architecture, the beauty of the landscapes and the temples on hillsides. We visited Agra, Jaipur, New Delhi, which is also known as the Golden Triangle. The Taj Mahal in Agra was absolutely brilliant, absolutely beautiful - I will never forget it.’ At Agra, they also visited the incredible 16th Century fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in Jaipur they were treated to a special cultural display with dancing and wonderful food.

IMG 1797

The Taj Mahal.

They formed great relationships with the Indian Cadets, admiring their friendliness and their drill and turnout. Ollie said, ‘Their drill was exceptional - energetic and quite extreme by our standards.’ The Indian cadets were keen to pose for pictures with their British counterparts and ask them about life in the UK.

3952 F1 B3 0 F3 D 4356 B5 F3 6005 FACB673 D

Ollie & Indian Cadets

As well as getting on well with the Indian Cadets, Ollie formed a particular friendship with an American cadet, Company Sergeant Major Julian Silva of the Californian Cadet Corps, who presented him with a selection of military patches and in return Ollie presented him with one of our own Commandant’s Coins. They are keeping in touch and have become good friends.

IMG 1799

Sgt Maj Wade with US cadet Julian Silva, middle.

On 26th January they attended a huge military parade - known as Republic Day Parade - to mark the anniversary of independence. This involved a demonstration of India’s military might, including displays of the country’s armoured vehicles and jets, as well as the infantry. A couple of days later, the cadets took part in the PM’s Rally, marching past the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, alongside members of the Indian Armed Forces. Ollie Wade described the experience as ‘a huge thrill. We marched past a huge stage and did ‘eyes right’ as we passed the Prime Minister, and I really enjoyed it. After the parade we listened to his speech, he was a very strong and intense speaker.’

IMG 1798

UK and NZ delegations at PM’s dinner

Cdt Colour Sgt Bilclough said, ‘The part I enjoyed the most is travelling around India and exploring all the tourist areas. The most interesting part was watching each country perform their own cultural performances. I learnt a lot about the history of India and a lot about the other countries.’

88 C757 A5 1393 4 D0 B A11 F 7368 B20216 B1

Birla Mandir temple, Jaipur

Cdt Sgt Major Wade said, ‘Joining the ACF is a great thing to do, because it trains you to be stronger and more resilient and gets you lots of new opportunities. However, I didn’t think it would take me to India. The trip was eye-opening and truly mesmerising. This has been a game-changer for me and given me life-long memories.’

Article by SI Doug Stuart, with thanks to Rebecca Wade, SI Emily White, Cdt Sgt Major Wade and Cdt Colour Sgt Bilclough.