Saluting army cadets pioneer

A day dedicated to a Wisbech-born pioneer who helped to inspire the generation that answered the call to arms in the First World War is set to be marked with a string of celebratory events.

At the 26th annual Octavia Hill Society commemoration day, which is being staged in Wisbech on Sunday, December 2, the focus will be on one of the social reformer’s many achievements, the founding of the modern army cadet movement.

Although there had been army cadets before, Octavia Hill helped to form the first battalion that was solely recruited from the working class, and the youngsters met at Red Cross Hall, near London Bridge.

Among the highlights of the day are the annual Octavia Hill memorial lecture, by Colour Sergeant Tim Scargill, of the Surrey Army Cadet Force, on ‘My life in the army cadets’, which is being given at Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House at 7 South Brink at 11am.

Members of the cadets will feature prominently in the memorial service at 3pm at St Peter and St Paul’s parish church, which will highlight the part that Octavia Hill played in the founding of the modern army cadets movement as well as paying tribute to the selfless thousands of young men, many of them former army cadets, who served their country and lost their lives in the Great War.

Conducted by the vicar, the Rev Canon Matthew Bradbury, and Keith Aplin, the service will include readings and contributions by Colonel Mark Knight MBE, Commandant of the Cambridgeshire Army Cadet Force, and Colour Sergeant Scargill.

The address is by the Rev Carol Monk, Chaplain of the Surrey Army Cadet Force, and members of the Cambridgeshire Army Cadets are acting as stewards.

Events kick off with tea and biscuits at the Birthplace House from 9.30am and there is a welcome by Wisbech mayor Cllr Peter Human at 11am.   Tickets for a lunch at Mendi’s at 22-23 Old Market, costing £15, need to be pre-booked.

Mr Peter Clayton, chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, said:  “Once again the annual commemoration service is celebrating a particular aspect of Octavia Hill’s achievements, in this case the army cadets.

“The army cadets have not in the past been routinely included in her portfolio of achievements, but they were a key element in her vision of social inclusion where opportunities were available forever for everyone.”