About the ATC

The “Air Cadets” provides the opportunity for members to take part in a huge and diverse range of exciting and challenging activities. Many are organized at National and Regional level, many others take place locally at Wing and Squadron levels.


If your interest is in Flying, Sports, Adventure Training, Camping, Engineering, Shooting, Drill, Music, Watersports, Abseiling, Overseas Travel… (the list is a VERY long one!) you will find out about some of these by looking around this site – they are all activities provided by the ATC.

Many of the competitive elements could see you competing at International level. There is also a very important social aspect too – you will get to meet and make a lot of new friends.

The ATC develops personal qualities and a sense of community and citizenship valued by employers, both military and civil.

As a Cadet you will discover this is great FUN!!

A very large percentage of serving members of the Royal Air Force were air cadets. Although the ACO (Air Cadets Organisation) is not a recruiting organization, 41% of Officer and 51% of all Aircrew (including pilots, navigators, air electronics operators, air engineers and air loadmasters) recruits into the Royal Air Force are ex-air cadets. If you are looking for a Service career, membership will help give you a head start. Research has shown that ex-cadets do better in basic training and stay in the Service longer than their colleagues without the benefit of cadet membership.

The first cadets

In 1859 several schools around the country began forming armed, uniformed units of adults and older boys with the purpose of protecting Britain in the event of an attack from overseas. By the turn of the century there were units in more than 100 schools and, in 1908, the units were re-titled the Officer Training Corps (OTC). Many ex-cadets and officers served with distinction during the First World War.

By the 1930s the beginnings of today’s CCF (RAF) appeared in the form of OTC Air Sections. In Army uniform, but with an RAF armband, they trained very much like today.

Air Commodore Chamier and the ADCC

It was a simple enough idea. The Second World War was on the horizon and if aircraft were to be used as a major combat strength, then the RAF would need a serious amount of combat-ready pilots and competent support crew to keep them in the air.

That idea came from Air Commodore J A Chamier, now known as the father of the Air Cadet Organisation. He served in the army, the Royal Flying Corps and the RAF in 1919 (not long after it formed). With his love for aviation, he was determined to get British people aware of the RAF and its vital role in any future war. He wanted to establish an air cadet corps, encouraging young people to consider a career in aviation – pretty exciting at a time when very few people ever got the chance to fly. His experience in World War I, where training time was very limited, convinced him that the sooner training began the better prepared and experienced a person would be in combat.

So, in 1938 the Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC) was founded. Demand for places was high and squadrons were set up in as many towns around the UK as possible. Local people ran them and each squadron aimed to prepare cadets for joining the RAF or the Fleet Air Arm (the Royal Navy’s aircraft division). They also helped form the diverse programme of activities that our cadets enjoy today.

>During World War II, with many instructors being drafted into the RAF and squadron buildings being used by the military, cadets were sent to work on RAF stations. They carried messages, handled aircraft and moved equipment. They filled thousands of sandbags and loaded miles of belts of ammunition. They were invaluable.

By the end of the war, in just 7 years since the formation of the ADCC, almost 100,000 cadets had joined the RAF.

The ATC and CCF

Towards the end of 1940, the government realised the value of the cadet force and took control of the ADCC. It reorganised and renamed it, and on the 5th February 1941 the Air Training Corps was officially established with King George VI as the Air Commodore-in-Chief.

During World War ll, the school-based OTC Air Sections were absorbed into the ATC. In 1948, the OTC was renamed the Combined Cadet Force and most of the original OTC Air Sections became CCF (RAF) units. This is the structure that exists today with some CCF (RAF) sections boasting a history of nearly 150 years of service!

The organisation has gone from strength to strength over the last few decades. Girls were able to join from the early 1980s, helping to bring more people together to enjoy everything that Air Cadet life has to offer.

Famous Cadets

It goes without saying that many successful RAF personnel started as Air Cadets – including some of our most senior officers. But after years of fun, travel and flying with us, many people have gone on to be the top of their game in very different walks of life. From actors to astronauts, athletes to pop stars, writers to scientists, here are just a few. Who knows, in the future maybe you could be joining them!

– Richard Burton – Actor, famous for his performances in almost 100 film and theatre productions
– Geoff Capes – Olympic Shot-putter, weightlifter and two-time winner of ‘The World’s Strongest Man’
– Linford Christie OBE – World champion runner and the most decorated British male athlete ever
– John Conteh – World light-heavyweight champion boxer and Commonwealth Games gold medallist
– Timothy Dalton – Actor, best known for playing James Bond 007
– Len Deighton – Military historian and author of many bestselling spy novels, including The IPCRESS File
– Dr Michael Foale – NASA Astronaut, who holds the cumulative-time-in-space record for a UK citizen
– Neil ‘Foxy’ Fox – Capital FM radio DJ and former Pop Idol judge
– Robson Green – Actor (Casualty, Wire in the Blood) & TV presenter (Robson Green Extreme Fishing)
– Brian Jones – Record breaking balloonist who made the first successful uninterrupted circumnavigation of the world
– Sir Patrick Moore – Astronomer and author, known for his long-running TV series The Sky at Night
– Michael Nicholson OBE – Senior foreign news reporter for ITN
– Gary Numan – Musician and aviator, best known for his often-sampled number one hit single Cars
– Sir Paul Nurse – Winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research into the life cycle of cells
– Alan Sillitoe – Author of over 40 books, including classics such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
– Laura Trevelyan – BBC journalist, reporting on the activity of the United Nations in New York
– Rory Underwood MBE – RAF pilot and record-breaking England rugby union player