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New Zealand Cadet Forces History

1864-1902

The first unit raised was at Otago Boys High School in 1864, making it one of the oldest youth service organisations in New Zealand. By 1870 there were several secondary school units in existence, among the first being Nelson College, Christ's College, Wellington College and Auckland Grammar School.

From 1864 until 1902 the training followed that used in the British public schools. The emphasis was on rigid discipline and shooting marksmanship and it was entirely controlled by the Headmaster; the Army was not involved. The Education Act of 1902 was responsible for most secondary schools forming cadet units and the Army became directly involved in the Cadets training following their Boer War participation.

1903-1940

In 1911, Lord Kitchener stated, during his visit to New Zealand, that the Cadet movement had an important role to play in the Defence of the Empire. Subsequently, the Army began to provide uniforms, rifles and other equipment to the units. This Army support continued through World War I, with many school cadets making up the officers and non-commissioned officers of the First Expeditionary Force.

In 1919 Compulsory Military Training was for all males from 14 – 21 years, thus Cadet units were structured into Cadet Battalions. Territorial regiments were raised and on completion of Secondary school schoolboys were posted to these Regiments.

In 1932 CMT was abolished, but most Cadet Units continued at the schools on a voluntary basis, supported by teachers who had experienced World War I. During World War II the Army could not support the cadet movement but Officers ineligible for war service continued to manage the organisation.

In 1929 the first open Sea Cadet Corps was formed in Christchurch, by the Canterbury Navy League. Units formed in the four main centres and were controlled nationally by the Canterbury branch of the League. The Navy League continued to manage these open community Sea Cadet units even when they came under the control of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

1941-1970

The Air Training Corps was formed in September 1941, Its purpose was to train potential airmen, basic knowledge and provide an insight into Air Force work to prepare young men for the Air Force when they were old enough.

In the 1950s specialist training appropriate to their parent service was introduced for the cadet forces. The rate of increase in the cadet movement from 1948 – 1960 eventually proved counter productive in the 1960s as the Army could not effectively support the numbers while meeting their own commitments.

By 1964 the NZCF reached peak strength, mainly in school units of 198 units, with 1000 officers and about 54,000 cadets.

Reorganisation saw many schools cease cadet support and by 1965 there were about 20,000 cadets; further changes to support by the Army and the communities reduced school cadet numbers to 34 units and 10,300 cadets by 1970. Open community Sea Cadet Corps and Air Training Corps units had, meanwhile, slowly decreased to 55 units with 3,200 cadets.

1971-1984

The 1971 Defence Act, established the NZCF, as a volunteer organisation, for which the Minister of Defence was responsible. The open units were required to be initiated and funded by the community and the Chief of Defence Forces was authorised to “direct and supervise” the NZCF and provide military support which was initially confirmed as uniforms, training and some equipment at a cost of no greater than $400,000.

Centralised supervision was established by the Chief of Defence Force of all three Corps and a Commandant appointed with Regular Force Defence personnel, under the control of the Commandant, provided at 5 locations around New Zealand to support units. Cadet Force officers were appointed by the Minister of Defence with Cadet Force commissions, on a voluntary unpaid basis with authority to wear military uniform and rank.

The role of the NZCF ceased being primarily of military training and the preparation of young men for the Armed Forces and became predominantly adventure and development motivated with a military flavour and about 50% military subjects associated with providing knowledge of the roles and functions of the NZDF. The new thrust was to provide “good citizenship skills” to young men under the training methods used by the Military Forces. Female cadets were accepted from approximately 1978 and although the service flavour and well tried and tested services training methods and character was retained, additional training was introduced by units, which were desired by them and the community supporters.

1985 to the present day

The loss of Government financial support and turbulent social change in the 1970’s caused school units to be abandoned such that by 1985 there were only 9 remaining units, including the two earliest formed at Christ's and Nelson Colleges. Meanwhile the Sea Cadet Corps had increased to 17 units and the ATC to 50 in the open community units. A significant development saw the introduction of Cadet Corps Units into the open community to satisfy the demand which the schools had abandoned, the first open Cadet Unit being City of Porirua unit in October 1985.


 

 


 

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