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A corps for boys between fourteen and eighteen to bring them into personal contact with aviation


AIR DEFENCE CADET UNIFORM is an essentially practical one and is in Royal Air Force blue. The cap is of the forage type and carries the badge illustrated below. Uniforms are to be issued free to the cadets, who will have to pay only a few pence a week towards the upkeep of their kit.

THE Air League of the British Empire was established in 1909 to further the cause of aviation. By bringing together those interested in every aspect of aviation the Air League has achieved much. Among its achievements calculated to increase the air-mindedness of people normally unconcerned with aviation is Empire Air Day.

The large numbers of boys and young men among the visitors to Royal Air Force establishments on Empire Air Day showed a keenness among the youth of the nation to get into touch with aviation. It was a keenness which the Air League of the British Empire realized could be of great national value in a time of emergency as well as of assistance to the cause of aviation in general. The junior section of the League helped to foster this enthusiasm. In 1938 the League gave still more support by inaugurating the Air Defence Cadet Corps.

The greatest need in a national emergency would be for reserves of partly-trained young men with some knowledge of aviation. That is what the organization of the Air Defence Cadets aims to provide. Should, however, the Cadets’ services not eventually be required, the training and organization would in no way be wasted. It would prove invaluable in other directions.

The British Empire has been built up on the strength of its sea power. It will be maintained by its air-power. Thus a knowledge of aviation will increase the value of Great Britain’s youthful citizens in two ways. It will encourage many to seek a future in what will become the most important method of Empire communications; it will help those who take no active part in aviation to understand its importance in relation to the security of the Empire.

The Air League of the British Empire has undertaken to raise a minimum of 20,000 Air Defence Cadets throughout the country, and its plans have the full approval of the Air Ministry. The Air Defence Cadets movement will in no way be competitive with such organizations as the Boy Scouts. The object is to deal with a specialized subject with which general organizations cannot hope to cope. The movement will be concerned with that period of a boy’s life between the usual age for leaving school and the time when he is old enough to take a more active interest in aviation such as by joining the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve or the Civil Air Guard.

Decentralization is the keynote of the proposed organization. Cadets will be chosen by local committees. The age-limits will be between 14 and 18, although the normal lower limit will be the school-leaving age of 15. It is hoped that every town of about 50,000 inhabitants will organize a unit of Air Defence Cadets. A unit is to consist of a squadron of 100 cadets. A squadron will be divided into four flights of twenty-five cadets. In some instances colleges or other organizations may be able to make themselves responsible for a squadron or flight of its own. There is no limit to the number of squadrons that may be raised in any one area. It is intended that every cadet unit shall be affiliated to one R.A.F. squadron or establishment.

Ex-officers of the Royal Air Force have been appointed as area organizers and will keep the local committees and the Air League in touch with one another. Officers of each squadron will be selected by the local committees and recommended to the Air League. Their services will normally be voluntary, but payment for exceptional expenses will be made. It is hoped that the assistance of local bodies and others will enable each unit to be self-supporting but, when necessary, assistance will be given by the Air League from a central fund.

In most instances it is hoped that quarters will be available at local aerodromes. But town quarters will also be required, because the training and attendance will normally have to be in the evenings and at week-ends, to avoid interference with the occupations of youths. Summer camps at aerodromes will provide aerodrome experience for those units which are able to provide town quarters only.

Units, when trained, will be inspected annually by an officer of the Royal Air Force and, when passed as efficient, will receive a capitation grant of 3s. 6d. for each cadet. The cost of uniforms, which will be issued free to cadets, will be partly or wholly borne by the units. The only charge on cadets will be a small weekly sum that they will be expected to pay for the maintenance of their kit. The amount will be left to the discretion of the local committees, but it is considered that threepence will be adequate.

The Chairman of the Air Defence Cadet Corps is Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Salmond, G.C.B., C.M.G., C.V.O., D.S.O. Among the council are to be found such names, well-known in connexion with aviation, as Sir Malcolm Campbell, M.B.E., W. Lindsay Everard, M.P., and Lt.-Col. J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon, M.C., M.P. Among those on the committee are J. R. Ashwell-Cooke and Lord Sempill.

Badge of the Air Defence Cadets

THE BADGE shown to the right is entirely silver coloured except for the albatross symbol in the centre. This symbol is the badge of the Air League of the British Empire and is enamelled blue.

Some of the material necessary for instructional purposes will be obtained from the Air Ministry through the Air League. Local firms with aviation interests may also be able to help. Some equipment will undoubtedly have to be bought. It is anticipated that between £150 and £200 will be required by each unit annually, and an extra £130 for uniforms during the first year.

Flying training is not intended to be included in the instruction normally received by cadets. It is hoped, however, that some of the older cadets who prove more efficient will be able to receive at least elementary instruction in the air at local flying clubs. No flying experience will be given in any instance without the permission of the cadet’s parents or guardian.

Cadets will have in most instances two or three years in which to be trained. This is sufficient time for a wide variety of subjects to be taught. The standard of instruction reached should be high enough to prove of considerable value to those who later learn to fly. It should also prove an asset to those seeking situations connected with aviation.

Air Defence Cadets uniform button

The uniform buttons, one of which is illustrated left, are also silver coloured and have the albatross and letters “A.D.C.C.” embossed on them.

The Royal Air Force has promised to give every assistance it can in connexion with instruction, but most of the instruction will be by local voluntary effort. Retired officers, Comrades of the Royal Air Force Association, members of the British Legion, A.R.P. officers and local aero clubs will often be glad to help.

Drill will be carried out without arms and will include simple movements such as are used in the R.A.F. up to and including squadron drill. Physical training will also be based on that taught in the R.A.F. It will include free gymnastics, recreational games and boxing.

A complete explanation of the composition and administration of the Royal Air Force will be given. This will be of value to those considering entering the R.A.F. because methods of entry, terms of service, the various trades and chances of promotion and advancement will be explained. A knowledge of the R.A.F. ranks and badges will also be obtained by the cadets.

Airmanship and the theory of flight will be two of the most interesting subjects taught. Airmanship will include the responsibilities of a pilot and the precautions he has to take. Rules of the air, the care of aeroplanes and engine starting will also be covered. Instruction on the theory of flight will enable the cadet to learn how the controls of an aeroplane work and why they produce their various effects on the attitude of an aeroplane in flight. Items such as angle of incidence, stability and the action of slots will be explained.

Comprehensive Instruction

Similarly, the elementary principles of aero engines, and their maintenance will be included in the instruction. The theory of the modern aero engine, and advanced subjects such as high-altitude effects on engines and variablepitch propellers will be explained. The completeness of the instruction is illustrated by the inclusion of a wireless operator’s course. This will deal with the Morse code, transmission and reception apparatus, accumulators, dynamos and the like.

Air navigation will include mapmaking and map-reading, the operation and use of the compass, and associated practices. It will prove of considerable value to those cadets who later learn to make cross-country flights. Meteorology will also be taught and will be of great assistance to future pilots.

Lectures will not be confined to these more technical aspects of aviation. Talks of general aviation interest will be included and model making and flying will be encouraged.

The Air Defence Cadet Corps is too large an undertaking to be in full operation before 1939, but the first branches have already been formed and these branches will provide valuable experience on which to base the other centres as they are rapidly formed in other parts of the country. The headquarters of the Air League are at Maxwell House, Arundel Street, London, W.C.2.

The first squadron to be formed was centred in Leicester, and has the honour of being No. 1 Squadron. At Watford (Hertfordshire) support was particularly strong for the Air Defence Cadet Corps, and it proved possible to begin in this centre with two squadrons at once. They are Nos. 2 and 3 Squadrons. Their headquarters were officially opened on October 15, 1938, by Sir John Salmond.

The Mayors of various towns have been most helpful. The fourth squadron to be formed was at Ilford, London, and was formed by the Mayor of Ilford. It is No. 4 Squadron. Another squadron is being formed by the Mayor of Wood Green, London, and the Mayor of Wimbledon has already made preliminary arrangements.

Flying clubs and those closely associated with practical aviation have not been slow to show their approval of the Air Defence Cadets. A squadron is to be formed at Brooklands Aerodrome, and the Romford Flying Club are completing plans for a squadron at Romford. These two squadrons are fortunate in being so closely associated with active aerodromes.

By the beginning of October 1938 four squadrons were formed and about thirty others were in the process of being formed. These included squadrons at Croydon, Sutton (Surrey), Harrow (Middlesex) and Uxbridge (Middlesex), as well as those mentioned above. A promising start was thus made to a movement which deserves every support.

You can read more on “Learning to Fly” and “The Royal Air Force Reserve” and “Training Boys in the RAF” on this website.

Air Defence Cadets