Detachment Profile: Ely

Detachment Profile: Ely

19 April 2023

  • Cambridgeshire ACF

Ely Detachment has overcome dwindling numbers due to the Pandemic and is now one of the largest and most successful Detachments in the County.

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Ely Detachment.

The Detachment, part of No 3 (Ironside) Company, is located on Heaton Drive on a small estate formally used by the RAF and USAF. The building underwent a substantial refurbishment and modernisation last year, helping to contribute to high morale and providing more training space.


Lt Darryl Garner

Its Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Darryl Garner, started as a 12 year old cadet at Chatteris, in 2005. He attended every Annual Camp with great enthusiasm, and took part in Signals, First Aid, and Fieldcraft competitions. As an adult Instructor he was quickly promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant Instructor and Adult Under Officer before obtaining his Commission and becoming an officer in 2019. By this point, he was already Detachment Commander of Ely, a role he loves and hopes to stay in for years to come. He said; ’We are training the next batch of young leaders, giving them fun experiences and making memories that will last all their lives. You can never be bored in the cadets, there is always something new to learn, or a new qualification you can get.’

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Cadets share a joke during a lesson.

During the pandemic, cadets aged-out and left until there were only six remaining. Undaunted, Lt Garner set about rebuilding the Detachment numbers. He said; ‘I told everyone I could about it. I went to shops in Ely and surrounding villages and asked them to put up posters, I told everybody I could on social media, and I got the cadets and my colleagues to tell all their friends about us too.’ On a typical parade night, he now has 40 cadets on parade.

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LCpl Sawadro instructs cadets in Patrolling.

On 18th April the Detachment was busy with multiple lessons. These included Weapons Handling Tests with the Air Rifle, taught by SMI Rudderham, fieldcraft lessons in which Cdt LCpl Sawadro taught new cadets techniques for patrolling, and PI Rudderham taught camping skills including putting up a basha (a simple army tent). The Detachment’s Senior Cadets, Cdt Sgt Georgia McConnell, and Cdt Company Sgt Major (CSM) Abigail Lowrie, assisted with the fieldcraft lessons.

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Cdt Sgt McConnell, (L) & Cdt CSM Lowrie.

The two Seniors have their own office in the newly refurbished building, and have key responsibilities for teaching and maintaining the high standards of behaviour expected of the cadets. Both are highly experienced, with McConnell having joined the ACF 5 years ago and Lowrie, 6 years ago. CSM Lowrie said; ‘I have loved it, its been the best decision I ever made. I have had opportunities I never would have had otherwise, and made the best friends I have ever had. I have developed leadership skills I never knew I was capable of, and it has boosted my confidence.’ CSM Lowrie plans to go to University and join the Officer training Corps, and then hopes to obtain a commission in either the Royal Corps of Signals or the Intelligence Corps. It is clear her confidence, leadership ability and cadet skills will be a huge advantage to her.

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Cadets in their basha.

Cdt Sgt McConnell has also benefitted greatly from the ACF. She said; ‘I was very shy, and the ACF has made me much more confident. I have made a lot of new friends, even in other Counties. I really like this detachment, and our cadets are awesome.’ She hopes to pursue a career as a Police Officer, and is considering staying on with the ACF as an adult volunteer.

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Weapons handling test.

Lt Garner said; ‘We cant do anything without our adult and cadet instructors. They work really hard planning and teaching lessons. As our cadet numbers are going up, we need new adult volunteers to join us!’

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Cdt Pierson is awarded his first aid badge.

Ely Detachment is a fun place to be, with a strong sense of discipline but plenty of opportunity for jokes, laughter and great friendships. The atmosphere is happy, and its staff are confident for the future. Lt Garner said: ‘We want to keep building up the Detachment, until we can’t fit anyone else in the building!’

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Fun, friendships & laughter.

Major John Kell MBE, Officer Commanding No3 (Ironside) Company, stated that ‘without the unbridled enthusiasm and dedication shown by Lt Garner, Ely Detachment wouldn’t have bounced back so effectively post Covid. If things progress as they are, we will need to look at securing larger premises to house them all!’

Text and photos by SI Doug Stuart