Army Cadet Force receives Queen’s Award while cadets find ways to cope with lockdown

2nd June

Sussex Army Cadet Force (ACF) has today been given the distinction of being awarded with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS).  

The QAVS is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities by their volunteers.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of The Queen’s coronation and is viewed akin to an MBE for Voluntary Groups. The award is earned by continuously undertaking outstanding voluntary work that provides social, economic and environmental services for local communities while also recognising the organisations standing within those communities.  

Sussex ACF has 820 cadets and 194 adult volunteers at 25 locations across Sussex including Heathfield. Commandant Colonel David Steele said: “This is a wonderful acknowledgement of the hard work, commitment, professionalism and dedication of the adult volunteers of Sussex ACF who provide unique life-skills training and challenging activities for young people throughout Sussex.” The award will be presented to Sussex ACF by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs Susan Pyper on behalf of Her Majesty later in the Autumn this year.

Meanwhile, for many youth organisations around the UK right now the end to lockdown seems too far away. For the Army Cadet Force, the UK’s biggest and oldest of the youth groups, with its main aim of getting young people between 12 and 18 out of doors doing positive activities such as adventure training, shooting and fieldcraft, lockdown has presented a huge challenge.

However the ACF has tried to meet the challenge by launching a virtual training programme which involves cadets doing most of the classroom and static based training online. Competitions are still taking place alongside the opportunity to do as much BTEC and DofE work as the cadets can manage.

Heathfield Detachment Commander Sgt Chris McGinnis explains: “It was a shock for many of the cadets and, as we approached the lockdown, I don’t think it hit them that hard until the second week but the current regime of virtual training has been a success. With the added mission of dealing with homework from their schools, the cadets have shown great resilience but that’s what we train them to be like.”

Heathfield cadets have also had the support online from from celebrities such as bands like The Specials and stars from Coronation Street who have sent them personalised messages of support and a famous chef from C4 is currently judging a cake competition.

The officer commanding A Company, of which Heathfield is part, Maj Dave Watson said: “It has been a huge wonder to see so many of our cadets and adult instructors getting to grips with all forms of technology and more so the adults because, as we all know, we learn a lot from our children. The cadets have been brilliant at a time when we need to hear more positive news rather than doom and gloom. They have been and shown to be a great asset not only to us but the local community. The greater need for us right now is more adult instructors and hopefully we can through that give the cadets more in benefits when we return.”

About The ACF
For action and adventure, fun and friendship, the Army Cadet Force is hard to beat. With nearly 39,000 cadets Nationally (aged 12-18) and 9,000 adults in over 1,600 locations in every corner of the United Kingdom, the ACF is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organisations. It is also one of the oldest, tracing its history back to 1859.  Many young people are missing out on the challenges and adventures that could transform their lives but joining the Army Cadets can change that. They welcome boys and girls (aged over 12 and in at least year eight at school) of all abilities and backgrounds. When they join they are encouraged to learn more, do more and try more while being inspired to aim high and pursue their goals, no matter what they aim to do in life.  Some activities have a military theme, others have more of a community focus but they all inspire young people to challenge their limits, become more independent, confident and able to step up to any challenge.  The Army Cadet Force is one of four cadet organisations sponsored and supported by the Ministry of Defence, the others being the Combined Cadet Force, the Sea Cadet Corps, and the Air Training Corps. Although they are sponsored by the Ministry of Defence there is no obligation on cadets to join the Armed Forces.

Sussex ACF, with its motto ‘To Inspire to Achieve’, is always seeking new adult volunteers to continue its success. If you are keen to know more look Sussex ACF up at or e-mail on