The Cadets came from every part of Norfolk and aren’t prevented from attending due to home financial circumstances, thanks to the generosity of local charitable organisations, private companies, the ACCT and East Anglia RFCA who contributed £1,500 from regionally generated income.
On Monday 29th May, the Norfolk ACF Normandy group left East Anglia at sunrise on a journey to retrace the steps of the 2nd Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment during significant battles along the frontline, led by Anglia Tours guide Steve Roberts.
At the Escaut canal, Norfolk ACF learned the story of Guardsman Harry Nicholls which earned him a VC. At the Esquelmes British cemetery, they heard a presentation on the ethos of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. At the Cheroq defence line, the cadets learned that the line was held by A coy 2nd Norfolks, and the actions of Sgt Major Gristock were recounted. Cadets were asked to identify suitable defensive fire positions and they were challenged to identify the position of a wartime bridge by finding archeological evidence.
The RSMI had a relative listed on the tablets listing those with no known grave the Arras memorial. The tour guide described the Arras counter attack phase as they continued to Vimy Ridge and the Canadian Memorial Park. The cadets learned about the 97 Royal Norfolk Regiment prisoners of war who were killed at Le Paradis. They held a short remembrance service and laid wreaths on behalf of NACF and Norfolk RBL.
From Mont Cassel, the cadets followed the retreat route all the way back to Dunkirk passing the blockhouse outside of Cassel, the Furnese canal line, ending with the Dunkirk memorial site. The trip even included a visit of Dover Castle with a tour of the Dynamo operations room.
Bob Gibbs, the Cadet Executive Officer of Norfolk ACF said: “I have always been proud of cadets abroad and the way they conduct themselves. They are excellent ambassadors for their country and the cadet force. In fact, we were complimented by a retired Belgium Army Colonel, who was impressed with their conduct and the fact they had travelled so far to honour their countrymen.”
For a number of cadets, this was their first visit abroad. Norfolk ACF leaders have organised plenty of brilliant trips for the cadets in recent years, including to Singapore, Malaysia and the Thai Railway. There are 550 cadets in Norfolk ACF and 120 adults who train them. The RFCA team of permanent support staff provide administration of the membership of cadets and the adults who train them, provide logistics of equipment and fleet and clerical support to enable the Cadet Force Adult Volunteers (CFAV) to deliver cadet training.