The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is a British youth organisation that offers training and experience around a military training theme including adventurous training, at the same time as promoting achievement, discipline, and good citizenship, to boys and girls aged 12 to 18.9 years. It is a separate organisation from the Combined Cadet Force which provides similar training within principally independent schools.
Although sponsored by the Ministry of Defence the ACF is not a branch of the British Armed Forces, and as such cadets are not subject to military 'call up'. Some cadets do, however, go on to enlist in the armed forces in later life, and many of the organisation's leaders have been cadets or have a military background.
The Army Cadet Force Association (ACFA) is a registered charity that acts in an advisory role to the Ministry of Defence and other Government bodies on matters connected with the ACF. The Army Cadet Force is also a member of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), as an organisation with a voluntary and community youth focus.
In 1859 local Militia units (Predecessors of the Territorial Army), were organised into a nationwide Volunteer Reserve Force. The first unit of the ACF to be formed was the Robin Hood Rifles formed by Octavia Hill on Frimley Park in 1859. These new Volunteer units formed Cadet Companies and eight public schools formed independent cadet units (fore-runners of the Combined Cadet Force). The late Victorian period was when the time of social change began to take hold in Britain and a Mr Adam Gray who was considered to be a pioneer in Social Work founded Independent Cadet Corps units. The ACF was formed because of the threat of the French invasion.
In 1908 when the Territorial Army was formed both the Volunteer and Independent Cadet Companies came under the control of the Territorial Forces Association, whilst the Public School units were part of the Officer Training Corps. In 1914 all independent Cadet units were taken under control by the War Office and the name Army Cadet Force was born.
During the war, the War Office extended the earning of Certificate A, which with Certificate B, had been used by the OTCs (Officer Training Corps), to the Cadets. This became the goal for most cadets until the APC tests were introduced. The tests covered many aspects of infantry training, including drill, map reading, weapon training & shooting, fieldcraft (also known as Battle-drill), fitness, and command instruction.
The award of the certificate permitted the holder to have a four-pointed star on the lower sleeve The star was red with khaki edgings. A technical certificate (Certificate T) was also developed, in 1943, covering engineering knowledge. The award of this gave another four-pointed star, but with the centre in blue. The holder of a Certificate T was assured the entry into one of the technical corps (RE, RAOC, or REME) on being called-up. The Certificate A holder was given a shorter training period.
In 1923 as a result of Defence cutbacks all Governmental and Military support for the ACF was withdrawn. This led to the forming of the British National Cadet Association (BNCA) by notable figures such as Lord Allenby who were keen to maintain the ACF and lobby for Government funding, this was partially successful during the 1930s. From 1939 the Cadet Forces supported the Home Guard at a time when the threat of Invasion was very real, because of this in 1942 the ACF was re-formed. Following a Government review of the Armed Forces in 1957 the ACF assumed its role of a national youth organisation sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Prior to the 1982 females were unable to join the ACF, although they were able to join an attached unit (if there was one at that location) of the Girls Venture Corps which had been formed in the early years of the Second World War.
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