14 January 2013
Last summer a group of 23 cadets and adult volunteers from across the UK set off from Portsmouth to Santander for a fifteen day tour encompassing the battles of Salamanca, Cuidad Rodrigo, La Albuhera, Badajoz, Talavera and Vitoria including a fascinating short trip across the straits of Gibraltar to Tangier.
In line with the Army Cadet Force Association’s goal of encouraging challenging expeditions the idea was conceived towards the end of 2011 to undertake a “mega” Battlefield Tour to Spain to cover a number of the battle sites of the Peninsula War against the French in the Iberian peninsular between 1808 and 1814.
The trip was structured around the cadets researching the battles themselves and doing all of the presenting. A preparation weekend last April allowed the members of the teams to work together on their research under the watchful eye of Major Simon Hopkin, an experienced Battlefield Tour guide and former Cadet Executive Officer.
The party stayed at local campsites throughout and, with temperatures reaching the low 40’s centigrade, the campsites with swimming pools proved most welcome.
The majority of the cadets had prepared their resentations extremely well and, with the benefit of a short pre-presentation recce, they were able to make the battles come alive to their fellow cadets.
All will have abiding memories of the intense heat of southern and central Spain and several remarked on the contrast between their shorts and ‘T’ shirts and the stiff tunics and heavy packs worn by the soldiers engaged in the battles. The Tangier souks also provided an interesting diversion and there were several converts to local cuisine - paella and tagine dishes making quite a change from burger and chips!
In all, the trip was great success. It provided the cadets with an opportunity to see real history at first hand and to gain and in-depth understanding of the Pensinsula war and geo-political climate of the time, especially in relation to their own in-depth research.
Photo: “Cadets enjoying the “obligatory” camel ride in Tangier.”
The group photo: “Cadets Tyne Davis and Matthew Garrod (both Arnold School) and Cadet Sean Benstead (Northumbria ACF) (all standing) with the group in front of the memorial at Badajoz following their battle presentation.”