The CCF (Combined Cadet Force) was an organisation for military cadets in "sections", including at various times Navy, Air Force, Army, Royal Artillery, Royal Signals and Police.
Immediately after the Air Ministry announced the launching of the Air Training Corps, Boston Grammar School formed its own flight, with Herbert Matthew Dickson in command. The first parade was held on the 25th February 1941, when forty five cadets were enrolled and training began. The flight was upgraded to squadron in 1943.
The Air Training Corps
Boston Grammar School's ATC Squadron was no. 715. There was some rivalry with 141 Squadron, which served other Boston boys, who were keen to join the RAF. We were certain that we were the better squadron but we did envy them their bugle and drum band. We learned Aircraft Recognition (friend and foe), Morse Code, discipline and drill and the rudiments of air navigation - which involved being able to recognise the main stars, planets and constellations.
We enjoyed some interesting and exciting times. When we went to camp at RAF and USAAF stations, we learned a lot about the aircraft there and were taken up for flights. My greatest thrill of this kind was being allowed to take over the controls of a Lancaster bomber in the air. Another less exciting but very interesting treat was to be able to use the flight simulator called a Link Trainer.
The best treat of all was to attend the weekend courses in learning to fly a glider. We could go to RAF Outstation, where we slept in a Nissen Hut, heated by a single stove in the centre - in the winter it was freezing cold at the ends of the hut. We had to put together a Dagling. This consisted of a light metal frame with a central skid; basic controls of rudder bar and joystick, a large wing fixed to the frame and control wires to operate the rudder, elevators and ailerons.
The learning process started with the pilot strapped into the seat and two cadets holding the wing tips with the glider facing into the wind. The pilot first learned to maintain the glider in balance on the skid against the wind by controlling the ailerons with the joystick. When he was proficient at that, the glider would be connected to a motor winch some distance away and pulled along - all the time maintaining the aircraft balanced on the skid and the wing tip boys preventing it tipping right over.
Over the weekends the speed was gradually increased, until the glider was pulled fast enough to take off for a short distance and provide practise landing on the skid and not on the wing tip. So the learning progressed, until you were higher up in the air and doing more and more manoeuvres. We were taught to sense what was happening to the glider by 'the seat of your pants'.
Can you imagine any greater pleasure for 14 to 18 year old boys? On a personal note the pilot had to be of a minimum weight to balance the aircraft fore and aft. I was two stone too light and so had to take a sandbag with me to sit on when it was my turn.
The most difficult task I had in the ATC was to teach Morse Code to a posse of 14-16 year old girls in the Girls' Training Corps. I don't know who was the most embarrassed but I persevered. In spit of the giggling. I doubt whether they retained much of the Morse Code they learned but I will never forget the lesson that girls were much easier to deal with singly than en masse.
The 1968 issue of the Bostonian magazine expresses:
Thanks to the Headmaster and Governors [for] land... being purchased for the site of a new hut to be erected shortly by the TA and VR Association for the East Midlands, which will serve as the base for the [Royal Navy] and RAF Sections, and a store for the [Royal Artillery] and [Royal Signals] Sections.
The CCF ceased to exist in 1980. The following excerpts from reports in the 1980 issue of the Bostonian explain further.
From a report by A Laver (6A2)
This year sadly bore witness to the decline and subsequent disbanding of the Army Section; this is the first time the school has been without one section since 1941. When, two years ago, the cry went out for a new officer, Captain Hall - a parent of a boy at the school - very kindly stepped in to take charge of a very demoralised section, and despite all his efforts which should be praised, Mr Van-Tam, new to the CCF, and in charge of two sections, was beginning to feel the pressures.
Since then, the section has been slowly but surely finding its feet again, building new contacts and new enthusiasm...
Returning to school, at the beginning of term, we became aware that the fight to save the CCF was on. Despite continual pleas for a resident officer from Mr Van-Tam, a negative response ensured that the CCF was doomed to failure, and very sadly did we part company.
After such a long-standing tradition an institution almost, it seems a pity that boys will no longer be given the chance to experience the benefits and enjoyment which can be had from the CCF.
However, all is not lost, as they say, and with a little less apathy and a bit more thought from the boys, the CCF could again be the pride of Boston Grammar School. It's up to you!
But for the moment, the loss of a very worthwhile activity, a sad loss to what should be of those concerned - parents, teachers as well as boys - will have to be accepted.
From a report by Flt Sgt Kevin Desforges
...The general day-to-day running of the Section took a turn for the better when Pilot Officer Fluck joined the ranks as CO, linking in an organisational capacity to form a formidable team with Sgt Hinson. On behalf of the Section, I would like to express my sincere thanks to both PO Fluck and Sgt Hinson for all their time and effort they have devoted to the Section, and also to Warrant Officer Neil.
I regret however that the fruits of their labour cannot be reaped by successive potential cadets. This is due to the unpopular order from high authority to disband the Section, owing to the rarity of that scarce breed - the CCF officer recruited from the ranks of the staff room.
This marks the end of an era which has played an important part in the lives of numerous BGS pupils, past and present. The days of the BGS CCF are over; the "Last Post" has sounded - is there any hope of a "Reveille"?
From a report by L/S R Boreham
Just before the Armistice parade, the CCF suffered a heavy blow by losing the Army Section - the reason being that it did not have an officer in charge on the school staff. Soon afterwards, the combination of education cuts and a new post for Mr Van-Tam as head of the Maths Department at a Lincoln Comprehensive, meant that a growing and enthusiastic Naval Section lost its officer in charge, as did the CCF as a whole, and so the Naval Section (and apparently the CCF despite the efforts of Miss Fluck of the RAF Section) closed down.
This is a great pity, as the hard work and determination of Mr Van-Tam concerning something that he genuinely believed to be a good thing for the boys, does not deserve to come to nothing. It seems a shame that of all the clubs and societies, the CCF "club" should be allowed to die, considering the benefits and useful experiences in leadership and discipline that can be gained from it, just because there is no-one on the school staff willing to take in the work-load that Messrs Hall and Van-Tam have had to relinquish.
I feel the school has lost a very great asset to its extra-curricula (sic) activities, and in view of the Defence cuts, I see no hope of it regaining the CCF.
- Andrew Richard Arthur Pennell Wood
- Anthony John Dilley
- Anthony Richard Sharp
- Bill Dunham
- Dennis McConnon
- Floreat Bostona (book)
- HMS Raleigh 1978
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- John Tinkler
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- Norman Haworth
- Old Bostonian Association Annual Dinner 2008
- Philip Johnston
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- Second and Third Year Prize Winners c1965
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