Receiving a phone call from County HQ when you recognise the telephone area code sends a person into one of two mindsets – what have I done wrong, or what have I done right?
Imagine my surprise when I picked up a phone call from the Commandant and the first words out of his mouth after salutations was ‘congratulations!’. My mind was then racing.
Colonel Steve Emerson confirmed that my nomination by ex-Officer Commanding for D Company Major Shaun Flanagan (now at C Company) had been successful, and I was being presented with a Lord Lieutenant’s Award, in October at Endcliffe Hall.
To put this in context, Endcliffe Detachment is on the same complex as Endcliffe Hall, Sheffield. It is where this event has been held for the past few years, certainly since I have been Detachment Commander, and is the event that cadets support with car parking and as feet on the ground serving canapes. It gives them an opportunity to engage with the VIPs and guests, helps build their confidence when speaking to people they do not always know and is an opportunity for them to talk about their cadet experience.
I have had to keep this news to myself since the beginning of the year although I did share it with my nearest and dearest, and County and Company HQ were all aware.
The journey to the event began .... followed by requests for uniform, appointments for alterations and finally the evening arrived to wear No2s. Driving through the complex gates was an interesting experience, staff from 212 who were hosting seemed more excited than I was, because they knew me. The detachment was closed for the night and the handful of cadets who helped out on the night were not quite sure why I was not wearing normal MTP uniform.
My other half had to keep reminding me that I was there as a guest and not as the Detachment Commander. It was an experience seeing how the other half were treated on the night. On a normal year when we helped out, it would mean running between gates, car park and ensuring everyone was where they should be at the right time, followed by waiting, and then action time with canapes. This year I didn’t see any of that, but it is good to know that previous years preparation was paying off.
The award recipients were escorted to meet His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for South Yorkshire, Professor Dame Hilary Chapman DBE, who was presiding the event. We all introduced ourselves and she was just lovely and patient. It was then time to start the presentations.
As each citation was read out, the recipient had to stand up, march out to the front, salute Dame Hilary and move to the x on the floor for greet and grin photos. The citations grew to be more impressive than the previous, and I had an awful feeling of imposter syndrome – feeling like I didn’t deserve to be there. It was my turn – I stood up. It was weird listening to someone read out in public why you are being recognised for an award. With tissues in pocket, I made my way to the front of the hall – it was all a bit overwhelming. The photographer saw me afterwards and had to retake my presentation photo with Dame Hilary because my glasses had steamed up.
It was then the turn of the new Lord Lieutenant Cadets to give their presentations to the audience. They all described their cadet experience so far, what they had and wanted to achieve with future plans, and what it would mean to them being a Lord Lieutenant Cadet. The Sea Cadet (Able Cadet Keilan Blades, Doncaster) was very down to earth, the Air Cadet (Cadet Flight Sergeant Kian Watkins, Bawtry) was very clinical, and the Army Cadet (Cadet Sergeant Piper Noble, HSY ACF) came across as the most human.
Following video presentations, closing remarks and thanks, the event turned to canapes, refreshments and socialising. I found this surreal because the VIPs and officials wanted to speak to you, and find out more about you. It is night I will not forget, one night where the spotlight was firmly fixed.
Big thank you and shout out to Captain Burton and the team at County for arranging uniform; to CSM Horsfield for supporting from Company HQ, to my detachment staff SI Danny Burdett and PSI Nicola Mitchell-Caley for supervising the cadets on the night in my absence, and to the cadets themselves who carried themselves very well and did an excellent job. So very proud of you all! Thanks also to RFCA especially Tammy Mitchell and the team who are fixing my detachment, and 212 for organising and hosting the event.
A final thank you to the Lord Lieutenant Dame Hilary Chapman. Not only did she understand about the event being overwhelming to normal people, she also made everyone feel comfortable. A former nurse in her professional life, Dame Hilary was once told she could not show her emotions to patients, to which she replied “in that case, I cannot do this job”. She was incredibly understanding and supporting, and said that by allowing your emotions to show, it demonstrates that you care, and more importantly, shows you are human.
I cannot wait for next years event!