18 December 2017
Words and pictures by SSI Peter Russell/Deputy PR Officer/Somerset Army Cadets.
Whether they admit it or not everyone, cadets and Adult Instructors alike, need a target to aim for - a pinnacle that perhaps only a few achieve nonetheless.
Without that target to strive for nothing, and nobody, would improve.
And so this is the case with a platoon in Somerset Army Cadets. Little more than 18 months ago Bishops Hull Platoon in Taunton had only 13 cadets on strength with a mere eight regularly parading. Nothing unusual there some might say, in light of the overall drop in numbers nationally. Perhaps you’d be right and accept that this was the new standard, but a new kid on the block parachuted into this platoon, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say sailed in on the tide. Andrew Cload, all nineteen feet of him - so it seemed - took over the platoon and set to work with such single-minded fervour that lesser mortals worried that he would set a new, and possibly unmatchable standard that they too would be required to attain. He bullied, cajoled, pleaded and fought for the cadets at Bishops Hull, setting new and higher standards for himself, his staff and the cadets who were still fortunate enough to be in a platoon that was in the first stages of ascendancy. In the closing stages of a successful career in the Royal Navy SSI Cload had found a new mission and woe betide anyone who tried to curtail his zeal.
Fast forward eighteen months to the platoon’s second Christmas Dinner and Awards Ceremony under the wing on SSI Cload, to a ceremony that should really be subtitled, “Phoenix - arisen from the Ashes”. The Colin Atkinson Pavilion in the hallowed grounds of Somerset County Cricket Club hosted a night to remember as almost all the 55 cadets currently on the books, along with a host of guests, took over the Long Room for an evening of dinner, conversation, awards, promotions and celebration.
The main topic of conversation was progress and amongst the words that were most often heard were ‘awesome’, ‘successful’, ‘honour’, ‘commitment’ and ‘integrity’. Frequently these are words that are merely bandied about, without much thought as to their actual meaning, but on this occasion that was far from the truth. SSI Cload and the whole platoon embody the true ethos of Army Cadets and it was clear from the high regard that both cadets and Adult Instructors had for each other that this seems to be an outstanding platoon.
Just let the facts speak for themselves. This year cadets achieved 269 more individual subject star passes than last year. This adds up to a staggering 636 APC individual subject passes achieved in 2017. That breaks down to 73 First Aid passes, 75 Physical Achievement passes, 52 Drill and Turnout passes, 51 Military Knowledge passes, 61 Skill at Arms passes, 60 Shooting passes, 66 Navigation passes, 61 Expedition passes, 46 Fieldcraft passes and 36 Cadet in the Community passes. Bishops Hull are officially the most improved platoon in Somerset, winning the Lucas Tooth Award at Annual Camp. They won the award for the most APC passes and are officially the best platoon in Somerset. They also won the Engineers Shield for shooting, making them the best shooting platoon in Somerset. In fact the only award they didn’t win was the Duke of Edinburgh’s Cup, only finishing third. This time last year the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was in its infancy, however under the guidance of SI Lee Owen they could not now be further from where they were just one year ago with 13 Bronze completes. They have another 23 enrolled onto Bronze, 11 enrolled onto Silver, and two enrolled onto Gold, with another 15 who are just too young to participate at present. This makes a total of 36 enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The platoon had their first Cadets on JCIC, but in true Bishops Hull fashion they didn’t do things by halves. Ten cadets attended the JCIC weekends which they all passed, whilst three more are booked on the next JCIC where hopefully they will gain immensely from it. Additionally SSI Cload is now part of the JCIC instructor teams, something that he is immensely proud of.
Cadets achieved 73 passes in First Aid this year because of the top class training delivered by SI Clare Emery who has worked in Accident and Emergency at Musgrove Park Hospital for the last 20 years and knows her job inside out, typifying the very meaning of the word professional.
SI Mark Rhodes put on two Radio Users courses in 2017 so there are over 20 radio users in the platoon, with another course booked for cadets in February 2018.
This year cadets trialled for The Rifles National Cadet Competition team. Cadets have undertaken Navigation training on top of the Quantocks three times. The platoon has had cadets on the water doing kayaking, scrambling up climbing walls and abseiling off of Hound Tor on Dartmoor. The platoon had nearly as many cadets at Annual Camp as the whole of Normandy Company. They had the most personnel at every Company weekend. Bishops Hull have had cadets parade on Remembrance Day, as well as helping at the annual Race for Life, fundraising for the Royal British Legion in Bridgwater and helping at the Armed Forces Covenant signing in Taunton. Cadets have been sub-aqua diving and whilst on Annual Camp the platoon had the most cadets on the gliding activity day at Upavon. The highlight of the year was the trip to HMS Heron at RNAS Yeovilton where they flew in a Merlin helicopter, soaked everything, including the author, with the fire engines and shot with the new L85A3 SA80A3 rifles in the Dismounted Close Combat Trainer.
As SSI Cload says, “This is, put simply, quite amazing and the reason I believe why youngsters come to us.”
“I find myself marvelling about how far we have come. I find myself in awe of the amazing cadets and the adults that I am privileged to work with and I can’t wait for the challenges and opportunities in 2018,” he added. “So you can see that the lessons, routines and processes that we have put in place have worked very effectively. In fact they have worked so well that we have been paid what is in my opinion the greatest compliment. Other platoons are copying what we do. We come up with an idea, instigate it and very soon it seems to spread to other platoons. That is the ultimate honour. In fact our platoon has been so successful in growing that some platoons actually think we have a secret recruiting policy. As you know we haven’t, we are just making it fun, rewarding and exciting for you guys, who are without doubt the best advertising we have.”
“So how do we move forward?” he asked. “We keep thinking of new activities, processes and awards. It’s been called flexible and in any organisation you need to be going forward, otherwise you are going backwards. I make a promise to you now,” he said, “that we will continue getting bigger, more efficient, more effective and we will have more fun.”
Army Cadets is not just about cadets. The Adult Instructors played a vital role in the platoon’s successes and are essential to the cadet’s achievements. Said SSI Cload, “We are extremely lucky at Bishops Hull to have staff who are absolutely dedicated to taking this platoon to new levels, making sure that cadets make the most of every opportunity that they get. As such we put in an inordinate amount of time when we are not in uniform to provide cadets with these opportunities. In addition to what we achieved last year when SI Owen and SI Masters all completed FAM, BIC, IIC, IIC Fieldcraft and AIC, this year SI Emery and PIs Sylwia Bleach and Andrew Bleach both completed the FAM and BIC with SI Emery becoming a fully fledged SI. In addition to these fantastic achievements SI Masters, SI Emery, SI Owen, PI S Bleach, PI A Bleach and I have all completed the DofE Introduction Course and the DofE Leaders Course and already have booked a DofE Assessors Course for early 2018. This means that in future we will be able to plan and run our own DofE expeditions.”
However, the evening was also time for farewells, with SSI Roy McKay leaving Bishops Hull after being an integral part of its regeneration. He has moved to Bishop Fox’s Platoon to help them expand and pass on what he has learned at Bishops Hull. Well respected and trusted he is considered a true friend by many people from all over Somerset, so fittingly Cadet LCpl Kornelia Kujwaska presented him with a gift, a framed platoon photograph, from everyone at Bishops Hull.
After a superb meal the evening continued on a formal note with a multitude of awards and promotions, starting with Recruits Emma David and Owen Knight taking the Cadet Promise from the OC, Maj Tim Tatler.
The first award of the evening was for Cadet of the Month. Cadet Lizzie Pye, despite only being with the platoon only since September, impressed at every level. Already complete in Drill and Turn Out, Map and Compass, First Aid, Expedition, Physical Training and Military Knowledge, she has an attendance rate of 100%. SMI Elaine Hunt presented her with the November Cadet of the Month Rank Slide, a voucher for £10, a certificate and a black beret badge.
The Best Junior Cadet of 2017 Award was created to recognise the best of the cadets who have joined the platoon since January 2017 and, it was emphasised, is not to be confused with the Cadet of the Year Award. SMI Glyn Lancey presented the Junior Cadet of the Year Shield, a trophy to keep, a voucher for £10 and a certificate to Cadet Jay Grant.
The Most Improved Cadet of the Year Award was introduced because the platoon wanted to reward the efforts of cadets who recognise their failings and manage to turn them around. In 2017 the staff wanted to mark the amazing turnaround of attitude and performance of LCpl Kornelia Kujawaska to whom Capt Kat Dee presented the Most Improved Cadet Certificate, a trophy, and a voucher for £20.
Finally, the Cadet of the Year Trophy, a shield which has to stay in the platoon, a voucher for £50, and a certificate was presented to LCpl Ceadmon Emery by Maj Tim Tatler.
LCpl Cameron McNaught received his Bronze DofE certificate from SMI Glyn Lancey, followed by Cadet LCpls Henry Anderson, Max Carp, Ceadmon Emery, Foster, Robbie Fryer, Jamie Fudge, Max Gauntlett, Haydon Gunn, Kornelia Kujawska, Cameron McNaught, Jack Norris, Chase Owen and Samuel Trott, and Cadets Harrison Vowles and Ethan Waldock-O’Grady receiving their First Aid Badges and Certificates from SMI Elaine Hunt.
Capt Kat Dee presented 1 Star Certificates to Cadets Oliver Barrett, Lauren Cross, Finley Edwards, Jay Grant, Joshua Hadley-Harding, Holly John, Abbey Robertson, Oliver Rutter, Oscar Selwood, Harrison Vowles, Haydon Gunn, Drew Foster and LCpl Max Gauntlett.
Capt Craig Angus presented 2 Star Certificates to LCpls Henry Anderson, Max Carp, Ceadmon Emery, Robbie Fryer, Jamie Fudge, Jack Norris, Chase Owen and Samuel Trott.
Said SSI Cload, “As you are aware promotions are no longer a given - you need to earn them. The parameters I go by to recommend promotions to Coy HQ are a strong knowledge of all the core values, suitable knowledge commensurate with where you are in your APC training. The staff expect good attendance, impeccable dress standards, good drill and a willingness to lead. We expect you to act as leaders and set a good example. As you get promoted so the pressure increases and we will expect more from you.” He continued, “However promotion is an honour and good for everybody, whether in the cadets or the regular forces. It increases morale and recognises good performances.”
The following received their promotions to Lance Corporal from SMI (RSM) Andy Godfrey: Cadets Lauren Cross, Jay Grant, Abbey Robertson, Oliver Rutter, Oscar Selwood and Harrison Vowles.
Maj Tim Tatler promoted the following to Corporal: LCpls Henry Anderson, Max Carp, Ceadmon Emery, Robbie Fryer, Jamie Fudge, Jack Norris, Chase Owen and Samuel Trott.
“Put simply you are all fantastic, amazing, spectacular and inspirational young people,” concluded SSI Cload after an outstanding evening spent in the company of so many keen, enthusiastic young cadets.
Maj & Mrs Tim Tatler, Capt Craig Angus, Capt Kat Dee, SMI (RSM) Andy Godfrey, SMI Glyn Lancey, SMI Elaine Hunt, SSI Andrew Cload, SSI Roy McKay, SI Caroline Lancey, SI Andrew Bleach, SI Sylwia Bleach, SI Nathan Masters, SI Clare Emery and SI Lee Owen are to be thanked for their tremendous support for the Bishops Hull phenomenon - a target for all other cadets and adults to set their sights on.