CADETS - DUKE OF EDINBURGH AWARD - EXPEDITIONS
These are my recollections of Liverpool City Police Cadets and the expeditions they undertook a half century ago.
The D of E Award is given for completing a programme of activities for persons 14 to 24 years of age. There are three programmes - Bronze, Silver and Gold. Participants select and set objectives in Volunteering (service to the community), Physical (improving in sport, dance or fitness), Skills (social skills and personal interest) and Expeditions. The Gold Award can be accomplished in 12 to 18 months.
Cadets of the Liverpool City Police were introduced to the Award scheme in 1958 and expeditions were undertaken in every year in May and soon after the Cadets Annual Inspection in September. Cadets received instruction in classes at the Training School, Mather Avenue, Liverpool, in reading a map and advanced compass work and at map reading exercises in wild countryside. The ideal and favoured area were the Esclusham and Ruabon Mountains, moorland, between Minera and Llangollen. They also received training in first aid, procedure for summoning help and were conversant with the countryside code.
The expedition required at least 4 days walking and three nights camping and a distance of at least 50 miles to be walked. Expeditions were initially in the Peak District and Berwyn Mountain area of North Wales but later locations were the Yorkshire Moors, Lake District, Mid Wales, Brecon Beacons and the Pennine Way as far as Town Yetholm in Scotland.
Participants formed themselves into a group of 4 to 7 members and a Group Leader was nominated.
In the spirit of the Award scheme, they were required to provide at their own cost suitable clothing, including a waterproof garment, mountain boots, rucksack, sleeping bag, tent, map(s), compass and food. They paid the camping fees and transport to and from the expedition area. Crosville coaches were always used and they were most reasonable with their charges.
Instructors accompanied the cadets on foot for supervision and assessment purposes. Later expeditions, owing to a cadet of another Force becoming a casualty on an expedition, a small van for the instructors was provided for subsequent expeditions. They took it in turns to drive one day and walk the next. In the early expeditions the instructors were Inspector “Taffy” Pugh, Constable “Duggie” MacKay and me. Subsequent instructors included Sgt John Callaghan, Sgt Bruce Reid, Sgt Reg Moss and Sgt Rod Walker. Sgt Ruth Phillips, Sgt Lorraine Reid, Constables Sue Anderson and Carol Evans supervised the female cadets on their expeditions.
On the last day of one expedition in the Berwyn Mountains, Inspector Pugh and Constable MacKay saw a huge swarm of bees heading towards them. They ran for their lives and managed to reach a stream. There they put their capes over their head and hastily scooped water at the angry bees. Nevertheless they received numerous stings. The incident could have resulted in death.
An instructional sheet was issued to each cadet which gave details of the dropping zone, routes, campsites and conditions of the Award scheme, including personal hygiene, latrine plan and refuse disposal. Cadets were advised to make out a Menu for each day’s meals and to take packets of foods, rather than tinned foods by reason of their weight. For instance, instead of taking a full bag of sugar for 12 meals we advised cadets to take 24 teaspoonful of sugar in a plastic bag. One cadet had a caring mother, she made him a sleeping bag out of a large eiderdown and provided him with numerous tins of food.. At the dropping zone, three cadets of his group helped him to place his heavy rucksack on his back and having done so he immediately fell on his back due to the weight. After depositing twenty tins of food behind a wall, he was able to carry his rucksack without undue difficulty and to proceed on his way.
One expedition was particularly memorable as it was the only one when a cadet was injured and other difficulties were encountered. The dropping zone was near Trawsfynydd. Groups were dropped off at intervals in a 3 mile stretch of the A470 to prevent bunching. It was a dry day and the route was along the Rhinogs, a mountainous area rising to 2470ft- rocky, isolated and giving wilder walking experience. I was on foot this day and on reaching the campsite, which was situated in the hills north of Dolgellau, I was informed that the farmer was demanding 2/6d from each cadet when the going rate was sixpence. There were no ablutions, except for a cold water tap outside the farmhouse. Usually, the local constable was requested to find a campsite before the expedition route was fixed as in this instance. I went to see the farmer and he was adamant about the fee. It was only when I threatened to take all cadets from his field and seek another farmer’s field did he agree to 6d per head.
The following day the route was via the Cader Idris, a 2930ft mountain with paths to the top and paths down the other side to the next campsite. Some parts of the paths are considered dangerous and persons have been killed falling from them. Rain fell later in the morning and the mountain became wreathed in mist. I was in the van on this day and I proceeded to the next campsite, a farmer’s field, on .he A487, north of Minffordd. The rain continued throughout the day and I estimated the first fastest group would reach the campsite at about 4pm. My anxiety grew as no group had arrived by 7pm. The first group to arrive was at 7.30pm followed by John Callaghan, who related that conditions on Cader Idris were hazardous. The field for camping was becoming water logged and the farmer gave permission for the cadets to sleep in his barn. Other groups arrived but two groups had not arrived by 11pm. At 11.30pm one of the groups arrived to inform me that a group was still on Cader Idris as one of the group had fallen and injured his leg. There is a low standing shelter with a roof at the top of the mountain and the group had decided to stay in it overnight. They had camping kit so it was the sensible thing to do. As rain was still falling and visibility was very poor due to mist and darkness, I decided I would go to the group at first light. A group approached me and they said they wished to accompany me.
At 4.30am we started off. It was not raining but mist abounded. The group comprised of very fast walkers. One of them - H.G.“Irish” McCann - was a phenomenally fast walker. In a race he beat Dick Crawford MP for Toxteth, the champion long distance walker. McCann later joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland. On reaching the hut, I saw the cadet casualty was lying on the ground in his sleeping bag. He was unable to stand. I told all the cadets to continue with the expedition and I would stay with the casualty. I told a group leader that on reaching the A487 to telephone the police and ask for a Mountain Rescue Team to attend the injured cadet. We had no mobile phones in those days but, fortunately, there was a public telephone box at Minffordd I do not wish to divulge the name of the casualty or his group members as there is a Welsh saying “Anyone who sleeps on Cader Idris will awaken either as a madman or a "poet".
I waited and waited in the cold and damp hut but it was not until nearly 8 hours had passed before a Mountain Rescue Team arrived. The team consisted of an army officer, sergeant and a party of young soldiers. The casualty was placed on a heavy steel stretcher, which required six to carry, and we proceeded down the mountain side. The officer and sergeant walked 100 yards ahead and gave no supervision to their subordinates, who started to quarrel about whose turn it was to carry the stretcher. I felt sorry for these young lads and I took to carrying a corner of the stretcher. Thus, five soldiers carried and five rested. I was far from happy with the whole team, especially the officer and sergeant who remained aloof. To my mind, they were not the typical mountain rescue team. Apparently, the soldiers were not volunteers but had been detailed. They were without enthusiasm and expertise towards the rescue.
The casualty was taken to Dolgellau Hospital, where I waited and then was told by a nurse that he had a fracture of the leg and would be transferred to Wrexham Hospital. I was about to leave when a doctor shouted at me “I want a word with you“. My mind raced - had I been neglectful in some way towards the injured cadet? No, to my surprise he incredulously bellowed “Why did you call the Army and not the local Mountain Rescue Team?”. I told him that as far as I knew it was the local police who had given the task to the Army and not myself. He was a very angry man and apparently he did not have a good opinion of the Army team for rescue work.
I rejoined the expedition. The trekking and camping was now in wild country south-east of Machynlleth and across Plinlimon, a massif in very remote country and the highest point on the Cambrian Mountains reaching a height of 2467ft. The longest river in Britain, the Severn, has its source on Plinlimon as do the rivers Wye and Rheidol. The weather was cloudy but dry and the final rendezvous was reached by all groups in good time without any untoward incident.
The finish was on the A44 (Aberystwyth road) near to the George Borrows Hotel at Ponterwyd. Burrows, a Norfolk clergyman, embarked on a walking tour in Wales from north to south which became a classic travel book ‘Wild Wales’ in 1862. The expedition had followed, in part, the route he had walked.
I regret that I cannot recall the names of the cadets, except McCann. who volunteered to go with me up Cader Idris. They were professional and certainly did not lack courage It would have been a most arduous day for them in climbing the mountain and then to continue on the expedition. There were many instances of cadets being very supportive and agile. I found cadets carrying their mates pack, who had become weary, as well as their own and one cadet carrying on his back another cadet, who had a sprained foot. As regard agility, when reaching the final rendezvous, most cadets were footsore and suffering from blisters but I saw one cadet, to my amazement, jump from a 6ft wall, with his pack on his back, on to hard ground and he never shouted “Ouch” .
I estimate over a thousand cadets went on the expeditions from 1958 until the disbandment of the Cadet Corps in 1984. . I have only mentioned the names of instructors that accompanied me on expeditions but there were other instructors who followed me after I left Police Training School. Perhaps, they and the cadets who went on the expeditions will have their own stories to tell.
John Edwards July 2012