Seven of Oswestry School’s senior cadets were selected to attend the Cadet Infantry Battle Camp which is hosted by the Cadet Training Team (full time soldiers responsible for the training of cadets) and is open nationally to any senior cadet considered to have the suitable experience and physical and mental capacity to attend.
There are only 44 places available per annual one week course so competition to attend is high. Cadets have to pass criteria including leadership skills, personal organisation and teamwork as major factors as well as the military skills and knowledge in order to access the course. From the 5 courses that have been held so far with some 220 cadets participating only 100 cadets have passed. This is testament to the quality of Oswestry School’s senior cadets who all passed the testing week. Luckily it only rained twice for them, once for 3 days and once for another 3!
The course is based at Sennybridge Training Area in the Brecon Beacons and is a barren open piece of hillside which has a reputation of looking like ‘Mordor’ with dark brooding clouds and sideways rain being the norm. Due to the hostile conditions found there, the hilly terrain and some of the best training facilities (such as mock villages) it is normally one of the chosen training grounds for the Royal Marines, Parachute Regiment and the SAS. Luckily it does have some shelter in the form of ‘farms’; which are as you would imagine with a house and various outlying buildings and barns. Farm 5 was the home of this course and it gave shelter from the incessant wind and rain although the barn in which the cadets slept was described as stepping into a fridge.
The first day saw the arrival of Storm Brian and training was adapted to involve revision of the principles that would be employed as the week progressed. Each day saw an early start with food served as container meals that were brought up from Sennybridge Camp; lunch was often a ‘horror bag’ of a roll of dubious ingredients or a defrosting sausage roll and lots of sugar. The first day set the scene well and also ensured all the cadets were at the same starting point.
The following few days then put the principles revised into practice with various sorts of patrols ranging from reconnaissance patrols to gather information to fighting patrols which were high octane assaults onto enemy positions, all designed to test communication, teamwork and command and leadership in varying contexts, some slow and deliberate others requiring fast decision making to a quickly evolving situation.
The cadets spent a couple of nights under the stars which involved the rigours of mounting both sentry positions and late night patrols. The various activities all led up to the final two days when the intensity suddenly increased. The highlight was an attack on Cilieni Village - a purpose built German style village of some 20 buildings including individual houses, terraces and a church. This was enjoyed by all the cadets as a real test of command and control as it was very easy to lose sight of, or know the location of the various units the commanders are trying to co-ordinate. This intensity combined with the sleep deprivation and physical and mental fatigue at this point in the course meant digging deep was essential to take the various moving parts of the plan to attack and control the village very challenging indeed. The sideways rain and howling wind made a real test of mental resilience.
During the course cadets were given various command appointments from Section Commanders (8 Cadets) to Platoon Commander or Sergeant (4 Sections) or signallers responsible for the passage of information using radios - a key role. All 7 of our seniors agreed that it was demanding and on reflection were very glad to have completed the course with a real sense of achievement and pride of having passed it.
The last stage of the course was the final parade which was taken by Col Kemp OBE, who is heavily involved with the development of cadets and whose background is the Parachute Regiment and thus knows the concepts of soldiering on Sennybridge very well. Each successful candidate was awarded a badge to be worn on their uniform which is unique to passing the course and a daily reminder of the achievement each one of them has made.