Bullying and worse - is it to be expected as a way of 'toughening' cadets up?

Hi, I’m new on here and I’m looking some information and / or advice. My son joined cadets in late October 2017 as one of his schoolmates made it sound like it was also something he would enjoy. He enjoys it in the main but we have had two reasons for upset. The first week he was criticised for aspects of his appearance and for the subsequent inspection all points were rectified and nothing further said. The following week my son, then still 12, came home in tears as he had been torn off a strip in front of everyone else as he apparently had numerous reasons issues for criticism from the young leader in charge of inspection. (my son looked fine to me) I went down the next meeting and had a face to face meet up with the adult in permanent charge there (I won’t mention his rank as I don’t know enough about the organisation and I don’t want to give any clues to where he is based). I received an apology that it would never happen again as he went on to explain that some of the young leaders had just come back off a course and they were subsequently a little bit ‘over eager’. Some three weeks later, however, the first meeting back after Christmas and again my son comes home very unhappy as he was picked on for the colour of his socks (he wore grey, as he had kept them on from school). The boy next to him, his friend, had grey stripey socks and he was not picked on. In front of all the other cadets my son was made to tuck his socks into his trousers and was then called ‘a mug’ for doing so. My wife later spoke with the adult in charge and he was defensive almost to the point that we suspect that he possibly knows this bullying is going on, (maybe as part of a ‘toughening up’ procedure?). But I am fairly disgusted that a cadet who has only being going there for a matter of a few weeks should be subjected to such treatment so early in his time there. The young leaders are something that the new ones wish to aspire to but they are obviously abusing their seniority. I have also since heard that on the same evening, but not necessarily by the same young leader, two boys who happen to have ginger coloured hair, were called something very derogatory in front of others. Is this prejudice and bullying, for want of another expression, widespread? Interestingly all the cadets mentioned here are some of the smaller ones in height. Any advice please would be most welcome

This certainly isn’t something that happens across that board. Now, if there is something wrong with your son’s uniform, he should expect that it will be commented on and he will be picked up on it, and it is going to be in front of everyone as that is how parades work (unless he is in the rear rank!). What is not expected is that he should be made to do something like tuck his trousers into his socks.

It doesn’t sound like there is anything “targeted” going on here, it is just that some of these NCOs need to learn what is acceptable and what is not.


The best action for you to take as a parent, having already spoken with the Adult in Charge and the issue continuing is to get in touch with the Wing HQ and speak with the Wing Executive Officer who is a Full Time member of staff who will have advanced training in dealing with bullying complaints and child safeguarding.

It sounds like the young leaders you refer to are cadets themselves and have been promoted to be an NCO and are therefore conducting inspections etc. while all cadets should have black socks, normally you’d only check this on 1/2 cadets or mention it if seen whilst walking - which would be why your son’s friend didn’t get picked up on it.

That said the actions you describe are not acceptable and I would consider this to be bullying, in which case given the zero tolerance policy the RAFAC has there would be an investigation and the Regional Commandant would if deemed appropriate discharge the cadet from the ATC

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Shocking this type of behaviour is not acceptable at all full stop no matter the young cadet is or who is carrying it out. First we have a young cadet who has just joined and there should be a period of time to allow this young person to bed down into the Sqn learning about dress code etc secondly he should of been given a mentor to guide him through things while he under went first stages of training, thirdly given that mum or dad raised the issue I question why a adult member of staff was not there after that to ensure cadet NCOs and cadets were not over stepping the mark. Cadet code of conduct applies to them. Yes ensure cadets new and old know about dress codes etc but you need to ensure they have time to know what level etc to expect and work them.up.to it. If it’s not up to standard there is a way of informing and encouragement that can be given to support the cadet without what has taken part above. I would follow the advice above if you have spoken to the OC of the unit and it’s your right to do so at any time and nothing has changed go to the wing ex officer you find details on the web or contact one of us by private message. I would not like to see a young cadet leave what benefits and has been proven to benefit young ppl because someone one is not acting on this .

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Thank you very much for all your replies and the time you have taken to do so. It is most appreciated. We are currently giving the ‘adult in charge’ until this Friday to make his own enquiries and respond accordingly, so any further action we may have available to us will not happen until then. In the meantime we are keeping our son away until this Friday and will review whether he wants to continue with cadets in due course. I have contacted the parent of one of the other children and and she was not even aware that the prejudicial comments had happened. She will now hopefully be making her own enquiries. The most worrying aspect of all the so called bullying and prejudice, no matter insignificant it may seem to some, is that this is what sows in the mind the seeds of insecurity, thoughts of self harm, and worse, of suicide. This needs to be nipped in the bud, but why should it suddenly start with my son and other new starters? My guess is it has been going on for a while and a blind eye has been turned…UPDATE:- we have a name for the one bullying and it’s a newly promoted 18 year old Cadet Warrant Officer

I concur with the thoughts above and would be horrified if this was happening in our squadron and hadn’t been stopped. Another suggestion, dependent on the outcome of the investigation, would be consider transferring to another squadron, assuming this is a viable option. It would be a shame, as solo 12002 has said above, if this experience puts your son off what could be, and should be, a beneficial and enriching experience.


You’ve got two issues here. Firstly, any wrong must be ‘righted’. Secondly, there will always be a lingering sour taste. If I were you, I would be most concerned about the adult staff member’s inability to sort the problem after the first event. He either runs a squadron that turns a blind eye to (accepts?) such behaviour or, more likely, he doesn’t know what is happening on his squadron.

We’re called the Air Training Corps for a reason; we are meant to train. Cadets should not be humiliated, ever. To get heavy-handed, in any form, with such a young and new cadet is wrong. We just don’t tolerate such behaviour.


I have personally been completely underwhelmed with the guy in charge since my first (and subsequent) conversation(s) with him …time will tell who’s correct!

Thanks again to those who have replied, it’s good to think that it’s just not us being overprotective :slight_smile:

Find another squadron.

The behaviour you describe is not acceptable in any shape or form.Yes there are dress regulations but your son has only just joined the corps and to be treat in this fashion is frankly appalling.If the main protaganist is a Cadet Warrant Officer id have had him in my office straight away.
As to the socks words fail me.Yes black socks are the standard but ive lost track of the amount of times when I was a Sqn Warrant Officer and seen cadets wearing white or grey,A word of advice always sorts that out and no one should ever be made an exhibition of.
As to the response from the person in charge that is woefully short of what should have happened.I can only hope this whole situation doesnt put your son off.That would mean everyone loses. It seems to me that the Cadet Warrant Officer has forgotten that he not so long ago was where your son is now and should bare that in mind.If he doesnt he isnt in my view fit to hold the rank or for that matter any rank.
Ultimately you could go to another sqn but that wouldnt solve the issue that exists on your sons current unit.Its needs to be rooted out and fast. As to the title you ve put on this thread as an ex serviceman myself bullying is never acceptable in HM Forces even in recruit training. As to cadets they dont need to be" toughened up"the idea of the corps is for them to enjoy it.Good luck with whatever path you choose to pursue and I fervently hope this doesnt put your son off.

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A squadron has several layers of adult staff and I cannot believe for one moment that this behaviour has not been picked up before by the adult SNCOs or CIs or even the OC, either by witnessing it or previous complaints. It might be worth speaking to other parents to see if their sons/daughters have experienced this or mentioned it. If so go and see him en masse, or, as you are entitled attend a committee meeting and raise your concerns there, the OC will (or should) be there and won’t appreciate the comments, as the chairman will then be aware and who knows some parents of cadets maybe committee members.

I would say that the defensive stance taken, potentially indicates others parents have spoken to them on related issues. So now they are faced with a situation and course of action that has the potential destabilise the squadron and or leaving them with questions to be answered if they take the necessary action.

You could insist that whoever has made these remarks is made to apologise to your son in person in front of the OC and in writing, or you will take it higher. It’s what they refer to as restorative justice. I witnessed this in a previous job with young people and it was embarrassing for them and these were on the fringe of criminal records.


I’m sorry but the rules are striaghtforward. You need to stop making comments on here, in case it put any investigation at jeopardy, and report the incident(s) officially to OC Squadron; they are duty bound to investigate and report up the chain of command. If they don’t do anything, report to Wing HQ.

The individual is in contravention of several ACPs and PIs and should be dealt with through the correct procedures.

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A.little heavy handed. He’s the father of a cadet and is not subject to any rules etc therefore he can speak his mind. To date noone knows the wing, Sqn or location of this and I rather he ask for advice here than going to the papers. In respect of myself I’m not subject to mil law and I can walk out the door anytime I want. So threats of behave don’t bother me at all

Indeed, and it’s worth remembering that also applies to the cadet NCOs.

Things like this may well happen occasionally - if it’s recurring, then it sounds very much like a failure on the part of the adult staff.

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The use of the word investigation and suggestion of more complex processes and procedures, is why we have had the CFC forced on us, as the people doing these fanny around and don’t get at the nuts and bolts and seek a resolution.
This is simple, ask a couple of cadets who are present if what is alleged to have happened, happened. If it has and there seems little doubt, pull the NCO(s) involved into the office, advise them accordingly and if there is a recurrence they are out. Them get them to apologise to the cadet(s) and if this is regarded as OK by the parent and cadet, end of. In my experience this satisfies parents. Parents are not, in the main unreasonable people and are mostly sensible.
You can apply the same process to staff.

This is a local issue that any experienced OC can sort out locally. Writing anymore a local report, is where it starts going massively wrong as the recipients of the reports get bogged down in minutae and it takes ages and loses relevance. It’s the equivalent of being told “wait til you dad gets home”, when the mum could do it.

I had something similar to this happen to me recently. An angry parent stormed in gave me an earful and demanded action.

I took some details, questioned the NCO accused who admitted what he’d done, but then also admitted that he’d apologised instantly afterwards and also offered to rectify the problem (he ripped a loose badge from said cadet’s epaulette). We had a chat, he knew he was wrong and won’t do it again. I spoke to the cadet and apologised as it’s not what I expect of my NCOs and explained that it wouldn’t happen again. Problem had gone away.


It sounds like the issue is that he/she isn’t sorting it though.

This is going to be a rather lengthy message so please get yourself a cup of tea.
I am a cadet myself and I do understand what it is like being the probie aka the newbie (although a while ago). Cadets is indeed a lot of fun and I am sure your son will enjoy the rest of his career within our organisation.
First of all his appearance, as a cadet that has been bullied several times in the past (i should point out that not within cadets but in the school environment), I should say that it is very tough to embrace yourself, its a new generation and physical appearance is a huge issue but what got me through it was learning to love myself (very cringey I know) and that (this is the part where you come in) as a parent you will love your child no matter what, and just by having your support by his side will increase his confident.

Torn strip- just the other day I tore a strip of a cadets uniform (yes, I am aware that you may not like this but I’m being fully honest so you can have a reasonable understanding of why it might have happened to your son). Firstly, it has happened to me before. Oh yeah big time, I cried - not only it was embarrassing, I felt like I let myself down from being this perfect cadet.
Secondly, I felt ashamed that although I knew I could do better and the act of ripping off my badge kinda hurt (emotionally).
However, I am so glad it got ripped off me, not a single cadet night goes past where I don’t check my badges and if they are properly sewed on - I am now thankful that it did happen because I have made sure that it would never happen again. This also taught me a life lesson, when I started working or going to job interviews (obviously your son won’t go through that now because he is 12 but the day will come, just you wait) I also made sure that what I was wearing was in place (ironed, shoes polished etc). It may be hard for it now, but cadets shape you into the best possible version of yourself. My best friend who is a CWO (cadet warrant officer) and I spend hours on our uniform, and even then there are still things that get pointed out to me, such a small fluff on my skirt or a hair out of place. I take that into consideration and always attempt to better myself. I do understand that it may be harsh to rip someone’s badge off but I personally only do it if I know the cadet has the potential to better himself.

Let me put this into perspective. When I started my first night with my uniform on, I never felt such pride. My guardian told me I looked “perfect”. During an inspection that night, I knew that my uniform wasn’t to the standard of other people. The Sargent doing the inspection, said and I quote “you didn’t polish your shoes”, “your beret is not molded” “you didn’t iron your brassard” WOOOOW hold up, nah, I tried the night before to look as presentable as possible but that wasn’t good enough. Now looking back, it was tragic. But i needed that kick and most of all i wanted to prove them wrong - that I could do better. So, i went on youtube and learnt how to polish my shoes, I asked my guardian how to iron and from there the pieces started to come together. (this was a bit of an emotional paragraph :joy: )

No to grey.
As a girl that only wears skirts, I haven’t had this problem, although I have seen it happen to younger cadets and NCOS too. Yes, we do persuade them to tuck their trousers into their socks. When in the moment it is hilarious. Although it is wrong I have to admit. This started at my squadron way before I even joined or any of my friends joined so it is seen almost as a tradition. It is awful and the red blemished cheeks appear every time. I have wondered before so, i asked. The majority of my answers were: Character building (although personally, I don’t think this is good enough of an excuse), embarrass them (once again, can’t you just tell him off rather than tuck his trousers in?) and finally to set an example. No cadet likes to be pointed out in a badly imagine - who does? Not too long ago this happened at my squadron, it rarely happens (once or twice a year due to new intake) when it does, there is a big fuss. Although it is not right to pick out one single cadet out in front of their whole squadron, it is a way to set an example from that - we no longer allowed to do it as we have had comments from parents such as yourself, I think the cadets still worry when they bring the wrong socks and now its most of the new cadets that point it out whilst you just get the very odd disappointing look from an NCO.
In no shape or form I am trying to defend the actions of those involved, however, I have seen these scenarios happen throughout and I just would like to express MY opinion and the opinion of many cadets.
I, that got pointed out so many things wrong about my uniform and was taken a little out of my pride, I am still there and so like many others.

The ginger thing… there’s really no comment to that, apart from that it does happen, however, what I want to express is that its not only in any cadet environment, it happens SOOOOO frequently in schools. Yes, I know, its unacceptable and they are just children making comments - but what you have to realise is that no one is perfect and comments are made all the time - I have had my fair bit of them. Point it out to them. Express how you don’t find it acceptable and what if they were gingers? would you like it to be done to you?

I hope this is somewhat helpful, at the end of the day I just hope that he enjoys cadets as much as I have and so many others.


Revlis, really good reply. My only comment is that some teenagers can suck-it-up relatively easily whilst others, who do not have the strength of character (ie very low self-esteem or the inability to love themselves), can be scarred for a very long time.

You are right, far worse things happen at school but we are not school. The lessons that need to be learnt aren’t only for the cadet wearing the wrong colour socks, the cadet NCOs dishing-out the discipline need to be taught how to do it, properly. When I was a cadet (early 1980s) we behaved in such a dominant and humiliating manner. The world has moved on (for the better) and we should be far more understanding of how to get the best out of our people. If cadet NCOs are still doing it the way we did some 40 years ago, then there is a serious issue as far as adult staff capabilities and guidance are concerned.

I know this post sounds pink-and-fluffy and, to a degree, it is. There is so much good in our organisation which should not be tarnished by ill thought-out and legacy behaviour.