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Army Cadet Force
ACF Logo.png
Army Cadet Force Crest
Active 1860 - Present [1]
Role Volunteer Youth Organisation
Size Officers and Adult Instructors: 9,100 (1st April 2020) [2]
Cadets: 37,410 (1st April 2020) Detachments: 1,600 (2021)[3]
Motto(s) Inspire to achieve
General Secretary Major General David Eastman MBE
Patron Queen Elizabeth II [1]
Colonel in Chief Vacant [4]
National Honorary Colonel Honorary Colonel Lorraine Kelly CBE[5]

The Army Cadet Force (ACF) is a British youth organisation that offers progressive training (known as the Army Proficiency Certificate (APC) but more commonly known as star levels due to the shape of the badge administered)[6]. As well as the cadets progressive training, they are encouraged to engage in other activities such as Vocational Qualifications offered by CVQO[7],The Duke of Edinburgh Award [8], Cadet Centre for Adventurous Training (CCAT) Courses[9] and competitions all around the UK and abroad. Cadets is open to boys and girls aged 12 to 20 years old.[2] Its sister organisation, the Combined Cadet Force provides similar training within various schools. It has connections with the training of the British Army.

Although sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and being very similar in structure and activity, the ACF is not a branch of the British Armed Forces, and as such cadets are not subject to military 'call up'. A proportion of cadets do, however, go on to enlist in the armed forces in later life, and many of the organisation's leaders - formally termed 'Cadet Force Adult Volunteers', or informally 'Adult Instructors' - can come from a previous cadet service or military background. However, these days most ACF organisations welcome any person wishing to volunteer, especially those people with skills such as adventure training, outdoor pursuits, teachers, people with medical skills and persons showing an interest in enthusing young people to become more active. The Army Cadet Force Association (ACFA), which today is responsible for the guidance of the Army Cadet Force, and through many committees acts in an advisory role to the Ministry of Defence and other Government bodies on matters connected with the ACF.[10] The ACF is also a registered charity.[11] The Army Cadet Force is also a member of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS),[12] 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 A.C.F to be formed was the robin hood rifles formed by Lady Octavia Hill on Castle Green in Nottingham 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.

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.[13]

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 in 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). The ACF celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 1960

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


Ranks in the ACF model that of the British Army.

Cadet Ranks

| Cadet Staff/Colour Sergeant (3 stripes with a crown) | |- | Cadet Sergeant (three stripes) | |- | Cadet Corporal (two stripes) | |- | Cadet Lance Corporal (one stripe) | |- | Cadet (an empty rank slide) | |- |} As well as learning new skills by working through the APC syllabus, experienced cadets can be awarded a rank. As the Army allows its soldiers to take on responsibility and leadership as NCOs, so too does the ACF give a greater role to some cadets, including Sergeant Major, and RSM.

Once a cadet has reached their three star training, they must attend a JCIC (Junior Cadet Instructors Cadre), as part of their Army Proficiency Certificate (A.P.C.) Three Star award. To achieve the APC Four Star award they do not have to pass an SCIC (Senior Cadet Instructors Cadre), as although it is an option there are other paths available, although it is a requirement if they wish to attend the Master Cadet Course at CTC Frimley Park.

The titles of some ranks may vary as cadet detachments are badged to regiments of the Regular Army, and as such adopt their titles.

In many counties there is the opportunity for promotion to Under Officer. Although this is an appointment not a rank, it is a chance for senior cadets to gain experience as an officer.[14]

The ACF Manual 2005 states that all Cadet NCO's should wear the small Combat Patch rank insignia on their brassard. No other form of rank insignia is currently authorised for wear by cadets, including CS95 Rank Slides although many ACF counties allow their cadets to wear this in addition to their brassard.

CFAV's should wear CS 95 rank sliders appropriate to their rank, these must contain the title ACF in addition to any additional markings specific to their regimental or county affiliation (i.e.; Yorkshire Regiment ACF).

Stable belts are coloured belts (colours varied according to regiment), the ACF have their own stable belt, which can be used by any regiment in any detachment. In some counties, stable belts are issued to NCOs (providing they have achieved 3 star or above) and in others it is down to the cadet to buy them and wear them in combat dress. But ultimately it is at the CO's discretion.

If a cadet is seen as a good leader and excellent in all aspects of the cadet syllabus, promotion to Cadet RSM can be awarded.

Adult Instructor Ranks

Rank Insignia
Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor (RSMI)
Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI)
Staff Sergeant Instructor (SSI)
Sergeant Instructor (SI)

Commissioned Officer Ranks

All ACF Officers hold a hold a TA Group B Commission (the same group as UOTC officer cadets) which holds no liability for mobilisation. Newly commissioned officers are initially Second Lieutenants (on probation) before having their commission confirmed in the rank of Second Lieutenant. The highest substantive rank that can be achieved is Lieutenant. Promotion beyond Lieutenant is attained by appointment to an 'Acting' rank although it is not unusual for a 'Honorary' rank to be awarded upon retirement from the ACF.

File:UK-Army-OF5.gif File:UK-Army-OF4.gif File:UK-Army-OF3.gif File:UK-Army-OF2.gif File:UK-Army-OF1a.gif File:UK-Army-OF1b.gif
Honorary Colonel Acting Lieutenant Colonel Acting Major Acting Captain Lieutenant Second Lieutenant
Col. Lt. Col. Maj. Capt. Lt. 2Lt.

Cadet Force Adult Volunteers

Adults may join the ACF to instruct through two different routes - as an Adult Instructor (AI) or as a Commissioned Officer.

Adult Instructors

Prospective Adult Instructors begin as a Civilian Assistant (CA) before passing a medical and an enhanced disclosure. After completing the Adult Induction Course, which takes place over 4 weekends at county level, they then become a Potential Instructor (PI). As a PI, adults then go on to complete the Initial Training Course (ITC) held at County Level and run by a Cadet Training Team (CTT). On successful completion of this course they will be appointed to the rank of Sergeant Instructor (SI). Progressive training takes place for Adult Instructors, as with cadets, an Adult Instructor may take part in a variety of different courses. A further mandatory course at Frimley Park is the Instructors' Course which must be completed within three years of joining. After which the AI is qualified for promotion to the rank of Staff Sergeant Instructor (SSI). The King George VI Memorial Leadership (KGVI) Course is the final course for AI's and the further ranks of Sergeant Major Instructor (SMI) and Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor (RSMI) are possible. Adult Instructors will be expected to work in a team with their superiors and senior cadets they are responsible for, to deliver effective training to the cadets..


The other route an instructor in the ACF may take is that of becoming a commissioned officer. The instructor will apply and partake in the same selection process as above, however once a Potential Instructor, the individual may apply or be nominated to become a commissioned officer. To do so, as of 2006, the individual must then attend a Cadet Forces Commissioning Board (CFCB), similar to an Army Officer Selection Board though less physically demanding. The applicant will be assessed on their literacy, problem solving, and leadership ability. Successful applicants will then be appointed a Type B Commission in Her Majesty's Land Forces, making them a non-deployable Territorial Army Officer. During the selection/training process the applicant will hold the appointment of Under Officer, before receiving the initial rank of Second Lieutenant upon successful commissioning. Commissioned Officers in the ACF will hold senior leadership roles with more responsibility and commitment attached than roles occupied by Adult Instructors. The commissioned officers will also have an obligation to uphold the prestige of a commission in their personal discipline and authority - both on and off duty as they are subject to Military Law when in uniform. To qualify for further promotion the officer must attend respective courses at Frimley Park.


Most British counties have centralised cadet forces that make up the ACF as a national whole. The counties are generally split into companies, each of which includes several detachments, the name given to a unit of cadets that parade in a particular town or village. Battalions are usually affiliated with a certain Regiment or Corps within the British Army, and wear their insignia including cap badge, colour of beret and stable belt subject to individual County/Area regulations. Detachments can be given special names, after famous battles fought by the British army, e.g. Rhine, Gibraltar and Waterloo. But some detachments are simply called by the name of the town they reside in.



Army Proficiency Certificate

The Army Proficiency Certificate (APC) is the training syllabus of the ACF and is divided into five levels each covering the core subjects but in more detail as they progress.

  • Basic/Recruit (introductory training)[15]
  • 1 Star (cadets learn the rudiments of each subject)[16]
  • 2 Star (cadets learn each subject in more depth)[17]
  • 3 Star (cadets master each subject)[18]
  • 4 Star (completion of the SCIC or achieving the required standard in two or more progressive subjects)
  • Master Cadet (cadets must successfully complete the Master Cadet Course held at CTC Frimley following a recommendation from their Cadet Commandant)

Core Subjects


  • Drill and Turnout
  • Military Knowledge
  • Fieldcraft
  • Skill at Arms
  • Shooting
  • Map and Compass
  • Expedition Training
  • First Aid
  • Physical Training
  • Cadet in the Community

Drill & Turnout

A time-honoured tradition of the military parade, cadets are taught drill. Having learnt the positions of attention, saluting and turns at the halt, recruits progress onto marching in quicktime.[20] Many drill movements can be executed while standing still and while marching, and also while holding a rifle.

Each year, drill is used for Remembrance Day parades, and at annual camps large parades take place, with a colour party, in which cadets with rifles march with and guard the standard-bearer.

Closely linked with a cadet's drill is his or her turnout - each cadet is issued with a uniform by the Ministry of Defence and shown how to care for it and appear smart at all times, with ironed-in creases and polished boots.

The aim of drill is to produce a cadet who is alert and obedient and to provide the basis of teamwork. The purpose of drill is to move an individual or body of cadets from A to B in a smart, uniform and military-like manner.[20]

Drill has evolved over a long period of time and is now accepted as the foundation of military discipline. It has particular value for cadets; teaching them proper posture, to develop their lungs and muscles and improve their confidence.

The expression "Drill Voice" is the tone volume and pitch of voice used by an individual taking command during drill. Cadets must make sure they are loud enough for the whole squad to be able to hear the word of command, clear enough so that the squad can understand, and aggressive enough that the words of command are heard as a command - not a request.



Cadet Fieldcraft

In fieldcraft lessons, cadets learn infantry skills such as patrolling, section battle drills, ambush drills, harbour drills, and how to survive in the field.[21] Field exercises take place once every few months, and at annual camp.

Out on exercise, cadets wear Disruptive Pattern Material camouflage clothing, dulled boots, camouflage cream to eliminate the face's natural shine, a bush hat and foliage to break up the shape of the head and shoulders, webbing to carry rifle magazines, water bottles and emergency rations, commonly one of either the 58 pattern webbing or the newer PLCE system and a bergen to carry a sleeping bag and basha (improvised shelter) building materials. Cadets are issued with 24-hour ration packs and hexamine cookers (known as Rat-Packs and Hexi cookers to cadets) as used by the infantry.

As part of a platoon, cadets set up harbour areas (operations bases), post sentries, and send out patrols to carry out reconnaissance, lay ambushes, and assault enemy positions. Cadets become familiar with a vast range of hand signals for silent communication, and various patrol formations for crossing different types of terrain, such as the arrowhead formation for crossing open country.

Skill at Arms

A cadet with the L98A1 rifle

New recruits are taught how to safely handle, clean, operate and fire the Number 8 .22 Rifle and the L98 Cadet Rifle (General Purpose) 5.56 mm Rifle.[22] The L98A2 Cadet GP is a version of the British Army's L85A2 adapted to fire only on a semi-automatic setting. In order to become proficient on the weapon and pass the one-star Skill at Arms (SAA) test, cadets must show they can handle the weapon safely, perform stoppage drills, and field strip the weapon for daily cleaning.[23] Once this has been done, cadets can fire the weapon using blank rounds in field exercises, taking part in ambushes and assaults on enemy forces. They can also fire live rounds on a range, usually at annual camps, possibly gaining marksman qualification badges based on their accuracy.

Senior Cadets who have passed two-star Skill at Arms are introduced to the L86A2 Light Support Weapon which, unlike the GP, can fire in semi- and fully automatic modes. With its longer barrel and bipod, the L86A2 has a greater range and muzzle velocity, and with its SUSAT (Sight Unit Small Arms Trilux - the optical sight on top of the weapon), it allows for greater accuracy. The LSW is also used by the infantry, and having mastered this more difficult weapon, cadets can mimic the tasks performed by regular army LSW gunners, using its higher rate of fire to provide fire support during section attacks. However, the LSW is slowly being phased out of service due to increase in military demand[citation needed].

There is also a deactivated version, the L103A1 DP (Drill Purpose), which is currently being replaced by the A2 version. The DP rifle is generally used for teaching cadets the basics of the weapon they are handling. It is also used for 'Rifle Drill' which is general drill but integrating motions carried out with the rifle; this can also be done effectively whilst marching.


After basic lessons on weapon handling and particularly safety, cadets are first taught to fire a .22 calibre rifle on a 25 m rifle range. Cadets are taught the principles of marksmanship - natural pointing, position and hold, sight alignment and shot release and follow through. These also apply to the GP Rifle, which is fired typically on 100 m, 200 m and 300 m ranges during annual camps or weekends away. Senior Cadets are also allowed to fire the Light Support Weapon at the same ranges.

Cadets who perform exceptionally in rifle shooting can achieve a range of proficiency badges and go on to earn county colours for representing the county at CADSAM, the Cadet Annual Skill At Arms Meeting shooting competition. The country is split into divisions, each being numbered. Though each division conducts the competition differently, the competition revolves around the same practices. Involved is zeroing shoot at 30m, snap shoot at 100m, gallery run which starts at 300m where the cadets fire 2 sighting shots and then 10 shots against the clock and run to 200m where they shoot another 10 shots and then run to 100m where they shoot a further 10 shots, again against the clock. Some competitions are held at barracks, such as 4 Division at Pirbright, hold a DCCT (Dismounted Close Combat Trainer) range which consists of cadets using SA80s which use a laser system onto a screen. Scenarios and different ranges can be used on this system. Some divisions have a shotgun shoot. There is a pool bull competition where cadets put in money and try to get as close to the bull as possible. The cadet who wins receives all of the money. There is the ETR (Electronic Target Range) where cadets fire at a fixed position onto targets at 100m, 200m and 300m. Their targets are controlled electronically and the scores are also calculated electronically. All of these competitions are conducted on Saturday. On the Sunday all the teams (some counties have more than one) compete in the falling plate competition which involves the cadets running from 300m to 200m and trying to get 10 plates down as fast as possible. The divisions conduct the competition slightly differently. In 4 Division, each team competes against one other team but in the fist two rounds there are two competitions happening at the same time (four teams total). The results ceremony is conducted after the falling plate competition.

Cadets also have the opportunity to fire the L81 A2 Cadet Target Rifle in competition at Brigade (CTRM), National (Interservices Cadet Rifle Meeting) and International (Dominion of Canada Rifle Association Matches) level. Many cadets go on to become part of the national team representing the UK in international competitions.

Map and Compass

Cadets learn how to navigate using a map and compass. Cadets gain the same skills taught to soldiers so that they can plan operations and navigate any terrain. First, cadets learn to care for and use Ordnance Survey maps (and the MOD's maps produced by DGIA (Defence Geographic and Imagery Intelligence Agency) of United Kingdom Training Areas), plot and find six-figure grid references, calculate distances between points, and to recognise various conventional signs.

The two-star map and compass course then introduces cadets to the Silva (4/6400) and Suunto (M-5N) lightweight protractor compass. Cadets learn to use and plot grid and magnetic bearings in degrees only, as that is what they learn as part of their school syllabus. The regular army uses mils instead of degrees, but the use of mils no longer forms part of the A.P.C. training, to understand the three different types of north, to account for deviation of the grid-magnetic angle, and to understand contour lines and more advanced conventional signs. With this knowledge, cadets can draw up route cards to undertake night navigation exercises or orienteering competitions.

First Aid

As part of the training syllabus Cadets are taught First Aid to recognised standards and are awarded relevant certificates.[19]

The syllabus is broadly based around the St John Ambulance Activity First Aid syllabus, working at the following levels.

• Basic & One Star cadets carry out syllabus based training covering incident management, making an emergency call etc.

• Two Star Cadets are required to complete the St John Ambulance Youth Activity First Aid certificate Course

• Three Star Cadets have to complete the first day of the St John Ambulance Activity First Aid Certificate Course

• Four Star Cadets may choose to complete the full Activity First Aid Course as one of their progressive subjects.

In addition to this many of the counties within the ACF are delivering the British Heart Foundations "Heartstart" course [24] to their cadets, offering them quick access to Emergency Life Support. This is often offered at the Basic level, exposing almost all of the cadets to First Aid.

Cadet and the Community

These community projects enrich local knowledge and encourage good citizenship, usually a cadet can contribute to his/her community by charity collection, public parades, assisting local services and helping at public events. This involvement within the community is important for improving confidence and social skills.

Duke of Edinburgh's Award

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical, cultural and adventurous activities for young people aged 14–25. The Award programme consists of three levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each have differing criteria for entry and the level of achievement necessary to complete each award[25].. Cadets who meet the age criteria can join the award scheme.

Each award is broken down into 4 areas (5 for gold) which participants must complete successfully to receive their award. These are:[25]-

  • Service

Helping others in the local community.

  • Skills

Demonstrate ability in almost any hobby, skill or interest

  • Physical Recreation

Sport and fitness.

  • Expeditions

Training for, and planning of a journey.

  • Residential Project (Gold Award only)

A purposeful enterprise with young people not previously known to the participant.

Cadets are often encouraged to achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards as they progress through their cadet careers. Some cadets aged 16 or over used to be able to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh's Millennium Volunteers Award, this has now been overtaken by another authority and it is currently being reviewed on whether or not cadets will be able to undertake it as it has a new structure.

The Award is widely recognised by employers as it helps demonstrate that award holders are keen to take on new challenges, have a higher level of self-confidence than their counterparts, have leadership qualities with the added experience of teamwork.

BTEC First Diplomas

Through the Cadet Vocational Qualifications Organisation (CVQO) the Army Cadet Force offers cadets (aged 16–19) and above the opportunity to gain internationally-recognised BTEC First Diploma qualifications in Public Services and Music. Each BTEC First Diploma is the equivalent of 4 GCSEs, grade C - A*.

Leadership Training

Leadership training is an important part of the ACF training programme, with training available at higher levels too. Most areas run NCO courses, designed to help newly promoted NCOs to perform their duties well, or to train those eligible for promotion. There are also a number of courses run centrally by the ACF. This includes the Junior Cadet Instructors Cadre (run locally at a county level) and the Senior Cadet Instructors Course which is run at a Brigade level by Cadet Training Teams.

Master Cadet Course

The Course's aim is to assess the qualities required for Master Cadet Status by developing a cadet's leadership, instructional and administrative skills needed to gain credibility as one of the top cadets of a County and to determine suitability for appointment as a Master Cadet This is only one of 5 criteria these young men and women from across the UK must meet to be awarded the prestigious status of Master Cadet.

Cadet Leadership Courses

The Aim of the Cadet Leadership Courses (CLC) is:

'To develop cadets' initiative and self-reliance and to exercise them in the problems of practical leadership.'[26]

The course is open to members of all the Cadet Forces (SCC, ACF, ATC and CCF) providing they are over 16 and have passed their APC 3 star or equivalent.

Each Course has 120 places and is focused on leadership training and assessment, which is developed through a variety of activities including:

  • Minor Tactics
  • Watermanship Training
  • Command Tasks
  • Sport
  • Skill-at-Arms
  • Endurance Training

The Courses take place at both the Cadet Training Center, Frimley Park, or at Nesscliffe Training Barracks, Shropshire, England.

Junior Leaders

File:JLs DZ flash.JPG

Junior leaders flash

Cadets over the age of 17 and of the rank of at least Cadet Sergeant can complete a leadership course called Junior Leaders, run centrally by the Air Training Corps.[27] Upon completion, the cadet is awarded a green and wedgwood blue flash for wearing on the DPM uniform and also the Certificate in Team Leading which is a professional qualification validated by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM)[28]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Army Cadet Force yearly review 2009". Retrieved 2009-05-24. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "MOD statistics from 1st April 2020". Ministry Of Defence. Retrieved 2020-06-11. 
  3. "ACF History". 
  4. "Royal Family announcing the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh". 
  5. "Lorraine Kelly as Honorary Colonel of the ACF". 
  6. Cadet Ranks and Star Level information
  7. Who is CVQO?
  8. What is Duke of Ed?
  9. CCAT website
  10. "Powys Army Cadet Force History". 
  12. Full list of NCVYS members
  13. MoD(A) website. "MoD History of the Army Cadet Force (ACF)". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  14. AC 14233 The Army Cadet Force Manual (2005 Edition), Paragraph 6.014
  15. "ACF Basic Training Syllabus and Tests". Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  16. "ACF One Star Training Syllabus and Tests". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  17. "ACF Two Star Training Syllabus and Tests". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  18. "ACF Three Star Training Syllabus and Tests)". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 MoD(A) website. "ACF Activities". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Foot Drill in the Army Cadets". Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  21. "Fieldcraft in the Army Cadets". Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  22. "Skill-at-Arms in the Army Cadets". Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  23. "L98A2 Weapon Handling Test". Retrieved 2010-06-22. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 DoE website. "The Duke of Edinburgh's Award". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  27. MoD(A) website. "Junior Leaders". Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  28. "The Junior Leaders Association - What is Junior Leaders".'s. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 

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