Having sprung up in the mid-nineteenth century, the unregulated cadet forces were formalised in 1863 when new regulations came into force providing for Cadet Corps formed of boys of at least twelve years of age (initially) to be attached to Volunteer Corps or Administrative Battalions.
The majority of early Cadet Corps were formed in public schools. In Hertfordshire the three contingents of the Combined Cadet Force that have given the longest continuous service are Haileybury (formed in 1886), Berkhamsted Collegiate School (1891) and St Albans School (1903).
In 1908, in an attempt to improve the supply of officers for the Army and Auxiliary Forces, the existing School Cadet Corps and University Volunteer Battalions were reorganised into two divisions of a new Officers Training Corps. Cadets would attain a standard, by the time they left school, that included proficiency in shooting, care of arms, drill, tactical handling of at least 25 men and semaphore signalling, and would lead to a commission in the Reserve Forces.
Both the school contingents and the ‘Cadet Force’, which eventually became the Army Cadet Force, came into their own during the two World Wars, when they provided valuable pre-enlistment training.
In peacetime, however, there were constant pressures upon cadet contingents with regard to funding and facilities; their very raison d’être was often called into question. The Cadet Corps’ determination to overcome the many obstacles that have beset them throughout their history makes for a most engaging account.