Biggest Squadrons in the Corps

Would the answer be that the members of the Corps were in a recruiting organisation for the RAF during the war years. I don’t know if being a member ofthe ATC was a way of being given priority access to the RAF rather than the other services orthe mines.

I knew that but by the 1950s and 60s it wasn’t as much of a recruitment organisation, definitely not as much by the year 2000 but you can see a steady decline.

My old boss was an ex cadet and he said the reason he joined was that the it was during national service and if you were a service cadet then they might of allowed you to join the service you were a cadet with, so that would explain high numbers up to about 1962/3… but what then happened afterwards?

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the world changed as it always does. In the 1060s the ‘swinging sixites’ started and younger people saw the world differently.

It would be interesting to look at the cycle of spawn, sustain and decline in these squadrons and see what factors contribute to each stage.
Given that people in the organisation get far too excited about squadron size, surely it would be of benefit of the Corps to understand the mechanics and dynamics.
One squadron I was on saw a dramatic rise in numbers which we sustained for about 3 years, but we felt eventually the size of the building was a huge deciding factor, as even though we maintained a hectic programme, numbers slid. A couple of Wing Staff got excited as I recall about the decline, but not so the growth.

Yes. That major Battle at Hastings was very swinging!!

Wait. It’s a typo isn’t it?


Not going to disagree that people view the world differently but the corps has changed too, so why is it not attracting as many people??

More competition / better advertised competition. It’s easier to find the thing that really suits you, as opposed to the one that 60% suits you.


Could say the same for CFAVs whether ex-service or not.

My Sqn in a medium sized town runs in the 60s and parades 45-50 consistently.
A good programme, good PR and a little dash of social activities in the programme alongside the wide programme of official cadet activities keeps them engaged.

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Being a cadet at the time the rationale for girls joining the Air Cadets when there was the GVC was never made clear. We had a GVC unit at the squadron, but the girls didn’t join the male organisation. But as said, the allowing of girls to join, didn’t see the rise in numbers you may have thought logical.
it is interesting that when we go to any of general sporting events, a large number of female cadet events are straight finals, so even now 30 or so years ago after girls were allowed to join after the trial period, girls are still less than a third of the total and seem rather niche. You might have thought it would be nearer 50/50.

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Could a reason for the decline be the reduced link to the armed forces?

I’m not talking about with the organisation but in the home?
At the organisation’s peak in numbers what % of the British population either served, were serving or had done national service compared to today?

Speak to those who have served national service or otherwise they’ll all say it was the best time of their lives. Would this passion and interest be pushed towards kids or grandkids?

Nowadays we don’t see cadets with strong military family backgrounds they are the exceptions but I’m sure 40, 50 or more years ago this wasn’t the case.

My grandfather’s both served (in the RAF) and their sons joined the ATC.
Neither my parents or aunts/uncle’s have served but of the 8 grandkids for those two grandfather’s only I joined the air cadets…

I only found out my Dad was an air cadet when I joined up
He’d never mentioned or suggested it before.

With fewer connections to the forces in society/in the home there is less family ties to follow in the family footsteps.
The decline in the ATC population is bound to be closely matching that of the RAF and or the % of serving members (past or present) in the UK population


Not only the loss of family history but also the change in society overall.

I don’t think this has much to do with attitudes of schools with anti-military leanings of some staff, but more to do with the lack of opportunity the Forces’ actually present now. A lot of my mates who joined in the 70s and 80s, left in the early 90s and at various points since, thoroughly disillusioned. This will pass to their kids and potential knock on effect for cadet forces. Although the cadet forces have their own issues.

One of my uncles joined the Army “to see the world”, but due to an age difference his brother booked a plane flight and off he went. A mate of mine likewise joined the RN, but his older brother has been to as many places as he has, if not more and with none of the hassle of being a serviceman. I don’t think the cost bothers him, as travel is his hobby.

While these points may highlight an overall decline in interest. There are still the oddities in the ATC which have larger numbers say 70+, than maybe squadrons closer to them, and, as I said apart from the CFAV running around like lunatics and working bloody hard, what initiates the growth and then the eventual decline.

I must say that I am very surprised that there are not more big squadrons out there. I remember when there used to be loads of 80+ squadrons…well at least more than there are now

It’s almost like we’ve got an undiagnosed recruitment and retention problem possibly due to a complete failure to provide Flying and gliding in some areas.


Apologies for resurrecting such an old thread but it seemed the sensible place to post.

With our next intake in early 2023, our Sqn is likely to be 80+ cadets, which is the biggest Sqn I’ve ever been on, let alone been OC of. We also have a waiting list for Sep 2023 of 15+ already. I wanted to learn from other large Sqns, or any that have grown rapidly, and how they manage this number of cadets.

We also have a relatively small building, so may need to rent additional space locally (we’re not on a school). How have people managed when the Sqn exceeds the building capacity? At the moment, I don’t want to turn new cadets away and we’re lucky to have the staff and senior cadet team who deliver an excellent programme.

  1. Dont exceed the fire risk asessment figure. HQAC will take action.

  2. Civ com can rent space. But is it realistically worth it.

  3. Why grow beyond your building capacity?
    Have you got staff to always support this number. Bare in mind you need 1 to 10 ratio on sqn. Staff cadets can help with this. But with rented space that becomes more difficult if its not next door.

  4. Again, why grow beyond your accom?

  5. What happens when you cant recruit and you have to take an enforced gap… you will bake in issues for later on… e.g. promotions etc.

  6. Remember you only get Sqn ldr after having 100 cadets on book for 2 reporting periods, promotion in the 3rd… so its 18montha of over 100 cadets. If thats your reason…

  7. HQAC investigate all large sqns… looking for fake cadets or ones who havent attended for more than 2 months.

  8. Ive seen 2 or 3 units get to your stage. Push for 100, then pancake, like a house of cards.

But good luck to you. Let us know how it goes.

Any likelihood, need or desire for a DF?

Because there are young people who want to be cadets and if we can realistically offer the opportunity, then I want to say yes to them. If 85-90 is too painful, we’ll have a smaller intake in Sept and let the numbers reduce.


There was a DF 8-10 years ago, but it never grew sufficiently. Relaunching a DF feels more painful than growing the main Sqn by 15-20 cadets.

Do they actually still check this out :man_shrugging:t2:

They never seem to action those squadrons that fall below the magically 30 figure, forcing a squadron to become a DF :roll_eyes: