With Warminster School’s CCF currently enjoying the support of Sergeant Emma Walsh, from the Cadet Training Team in Bovington, it was the perfect way to start the New Year with a visit to the home of the Armoured Corps. It has been their home since the First World War. Exploring tanks of the past, present and future – the contingent visited The Tank Museum, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry and the Armoured Trials and Development Unit (ATDU), developing their understanding of armoured warfare. Old Verlucians were an integral part of the visit as we met up with Tom Whitchurch (OV11) and Luke Lomas (OV14) who joined CCF staff for the weekend to provide support.

The Tank Museum in Bovington is regarded as having the best collection of tanks in the world and includes the world’s first ever tank – "Little Willie", the feared German Tiger tank and the modern Challenger 2. Cadets explored the story of armoured warfare from World War One to the present day. Thanks to Tom Whitchurch, who has been working as Operations Manager at the Museum since September, cadets were in for a treat. They got to climb inside the rare British Mark IV tank, which was used in the latter stages of World War One, and discover what life was like for the crew that had to live in this vehicle. They also got to take a closer look over the Vehicle Conservation Centre, revealing vehicles not seen for many years and not usually on view to the public. I certainly enjoyed the cadets’ humour and fresh perspective. As we stood on the balcony overlooking more than 100 tanks, I overheard a couple of cadets discussing which tank they would hide inside to get the most protection in an apocalypse. One cadet pointed to the floor sweeper next to the collection of tanks and asked our guide, with a mischievious glint in her eye, “Which tank is that?”

A visit to The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, the British Army’s only Reserve Challenger 2 regiment, provided an insight into how tanks are used today. With over 60 years’ experience serving in the regular and reserve army, our guides had a wealth of stories to share, including about their service with tanks on operations. At the Armoured Trials and Development Unit, there was an informative and well-pitched briefing about how equipment is developed to meet the needs of the future army, including tank tracks, armour and clothing systems, as well as the opportunity to clamber over and inside a few armoured vehicles. Cadets were obviously engaged, responding to questions with intelligent and inciteful answers.

As well as developing an understanding of armour through the ages, many cadets caught a glimpse of life inside a military barracks. There were meals in the cookhouse, much to the delight of serving soldiers whose Sunday morning brunch was a bit noisier and busier than usual. Everyone slept in barrack-block accommodation with issued bedding packs. Cadets had to return their bedding packs in the morning and put a clean replacement set on the end of their green mattresses. “I never thought bedding could be so heavy”, puffed James as he lugged a bedding pack back to his room. In the evening, the contingent used the Camp’s Social Club to play pool, watch a film and enjoy snacks from the tuck box.

It was fantastic to see mixed year groups coming together for the weekend; our intermediate cadets played a greater role organising and developing younger subordinates, and basic cadets showed many of the skills and attributes we expect of our more senior members. All round, it was a memorable weekend for everyone, both staff and cadets alike.

Ange Garner, CCF Contingent Commander