This report will cover activities, locations, accommodation, safeguarding and logistics, it will be broken down into phases, to highlight, the experience had by all members of Warwickshire and West Midlands (SS) ACF
Pre –Tour Preparation
The preparation in the UK was extensive. Warwickshire and West Midlands (SS) ACF staff ran four pre weekends, which involved, selection, expedition, teamwork and a sponsored walk up Mount Snowden. Two parents evenings and in conjunction with African Wild Tours (AWT) Leader, Angus Wingfield; a parents’ briefing day was also delivered. AWT also delivered two in-depth briefing sessions to cadets and CFAVs on separate occasions.
Phase 1: Arrival in South Africa
The group were met at O.R Tambo International airport, Johannesburg, after long 12 hour flight. The entire group checked in with no problems and the hurdle of getting 30 under 18s into the country was finally overcome. The South African anti-child trafficking regulations brought in for the for under 18s 4 years ago caused a lot of concern but all the hard work put in along with travelling to the South African embassy the week prior to departure was very worthwhile.
During the previous 4 years over 300 under 18s had been refused entry to South Africa from the UK due to incorrect paperwork.
Day 1 19th
The journey to the Weenan valley area was taken by motorways, on arrival at the Weenan valley area the cadets and CFAVs changed vehicles at a pre-arranged location in the bush and all transferred to 4x4s from the coach provided.
Day 2 20th
Animal tracking and identification
Safely walking and hiking in the bush of the Zingela Game Reserve with the guides was something that quickly became part of everyday life. Animal species such as Impala, Nyyalla, Kudu, Zebra, Giraffe and warthogs were regularly identified. The cadets were split into two groups at various times in order to best accomplish the tasks but also to move around relatively silently so as to get the best animal sightings.
Medicinal and edible plants
During the cadet walks in the bush there were plenty of opportunity to learn and taste a few of the edible and medicinal shrubs and trees. Some cadets were braver than others and tasted the famously revolting Aloe, which is highly medicinal but very sour in taste.
Cadets and CFAVs were given lessons on river flow as day 3 would see them crossing the river to reach the school, under a river guide they were all shown how the control a kayak, they practised moving in pairs following the flow of the river.
Day 3 21st
School visit to Ntokozo
The day began by crossing the river and a testing hike of 14km up and over the hills in the heat of the day, this was very challenging, both physically and mentally for most of the cadets and CFAVs. They were welcomed by songs and dance from the pupils of the school, the cadets then sang back in response. The cadets and pupils of the school then took part in a football and net ball match, then some of the cadets taught some songs like duck, duck, goose and the hokey cokey. Before they left there was time for group photos and for us to present the gifts that had been collected before our trip to South Africa.
The day was filled with emotion and joy, everyone engaged and a lovely time was had by all, on return to base camp the cadets and CFAVs had the chance to reflect around an open fire, with the padre taking the lead, ending with the some of the cadets and CFAVs going into the bush to look for Scorpions.
Day 4 22nd
As part of the conservation piece the cadets and CFAVs planted 42 different types of tree, 42; as this was the amount of cadets and CFAVs that were on the trip. It was done to offset their carbon footprint in getting to South Africa, the 42 planted trees will have lots of benefits to the local area.
The groups were split in two and rotated through a morning and afternoon session, one of these sessions was Giraffe conservation, the cadets and CFAVs got the chance to track and take photos, some of them got really close and managed to get some perfect photos.
Phase 2 Battlefield Tour
Departing Zingela camp they made their way to the heart of KwaZulu Natal to start their battlefield tour, they were very lucky to secure to the one of most knowledgeable tour guides in South Africa, Peter Garner, is an expert on the Anglo Zulu war, its history, language, ground and politics.
Transfer to Second camp – Elandsheim
Battlefield tour Isandhlwana, battlefield tour to Rorke’s Drift, walk (Fugitives trail), memorial
Day 5 23rd
The journey to the Elandsheim was taken by motorways, and bush gravel roads, on arrival they were met by the venue managers and helpers. They were greeted with song and dance and were made to feel really welcome. The cadets and CFAVs were shown to their accommodation and then transported to head to the Buffalo River, where Paul Garner was waiting to deliver the first part or the battlefield tour. On return the cadets and CFAVs were treated to a traditional Durban Indian dish, curried meat in a hollowed half loaf of bread.
Day 6 24th
The cadets and CFAVs were taken to the mountain where the main battle took place, they were given first class explanations and lectures from the vantage point of the mountain. From there they could view Nyoni Ridge, Magogo Mountain, and Durnford’s Donga, along with a view of the route Lord Chelmsford took. 2 of the most breath taking views were the main Zulu Impi positions prior to the battle and also the British Cairn positions. The county padre delivered a church service at the British memorial to remember the fallen at Isandhlwana.
Fugitives Trail route
The cadets and CFAVs then took part in walking the (Fugitives trail), a 16km route back towards Rorke’s Drift, they followed the route Melville and Coghill took to Buffalo River, to save the colours of the 24th (2nd Warwickshire Regt). The route consisted of going over 2 mountains, following the contours and walking down stone paths to reach the river.
Day 7 25th
This was a special day for cadets and CFAVs, as they had brought a plaque to leave at the museum from Warwickshire and West Midlands (SS) ACF it was special because of the connection of the County name. Whilst at Rorke’s Drift the cadets and CFAVs were given in-depth lectures on what happened at the missionary station overlooking the Buffalo River. The cadets had a chance to view the hospital location, visit the museum and get a real feel of the British defensive arrangements.
Phase 3 Safari
Amakhosi game reserve is located 2 hours from Newcastle, it is a privately owned game reserve, the reserve holds all the big game, Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalo, Leopards, along with many more species of wild life.
Day 8 26th
The journey to the Amakhosi game reserve was taken by motorways, on arrival at the Amakhosi game reserve the cadets and CFAVs changed vehicles at a pre-arranged location, they all transferred to 4x4s from the coach provided. The journey to the main base location was about 40mins, via bush roads, but this drive highlighted what was to come.
Under the guidance of armed rangers, cadets and CFAVs were taken into the bush to track big game, they completed a 10km circuit which started and ended at base camp.
Safari Drive – day
Cadets and CFAVs travelled in 4 x 4s deep into the bush, the aim was to locate and photograph big game, the first trip out saw cadets and CFAVs see Lions close up and Elephants roaming.
Safari Drive – Night
The same as the day drive, cadets and CFAVs travelled in 4 x 4s deep into the bush, the aim was to find a follow all types of game on the reserve, the cadets were again lucky they managed to locate more lions.
Day 9 27th
Three group rotation
Under the guidance of armed rangers cadets and CFAVs were taken into the bush to track big game, they completed a 10km circuit which started and ended at base camp.
Safari Drive – day
Cadets and CFAVs travelled in 4 x 4s deep into the bush the aim was to locate and photograph big game, this group of cadets and CFAVs also managed to see Lions close up and Elephants roaming, they also got to see a Rhino close up, one cadet also handled a funnel web spider.
Safari Drive – Night
The same as the day drive cadets and CFAVs travelled in 4 x 4s deep into the bush, the aim was to find a follow all types of game on the reserve, the cadets were again lucky they managed to locate more lions.
Before the cadets and CFAVs went on their night drives, they were introduced to bush craft, learned how to make and cook bread on an open fire they learned how to navigate by the stars, they also got the chance to light a fire from using a block of wood and whittling stick.
Phase 4 Orphanage engagement
Meah children’s orphanage in situated in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal area of South Africa, it a home for abandoned children aged between, 1 month to 6 years old, it is run solely from national and international donations.
Day 10 28th
Saw the last group complete their safari drive before moving on to Phase four, this group got to see 2 male lions greet each other, which was a lovely sighting. The journey to Newcastle was taken by motorways, after a 40 min bush drive to meet the coach, on arrival at the Grey Goose lodge Newcastle the cadets and CFAVs took time to settle in, and orientate themselves to the surrounding area.
6 cadet artists and 4 CFAVs took time to visit the orphanage, in order to confirm the format of work needed to complete the task. Cadets checked out the walls that required sketching and painting. Whilst this was happening 3 CFAVs met with the home manager, and donated the gifts that were collected in the UK, a total of 8 suit cases of gifts ranging from soft toys to nappies, the 3 CFAVs were also able to meet the little children during their quite time.
The cadets that remained at the Grey Goose Lodge were tasked to write a reflection piece on how their journey to South Africa had been so far, this was a reflection piece that would be matched against their initial reasons for wanting to attending 18 months prior.
Day 11 29th
The orphanage vest
Day Eleven was full of emotion for all the group, the visit to the orphanage was one of the main reasons for our visit- community engagement. The day was divided into two parts, a morning session would see half the group and the cadet artists go to the orphanage and draw the murals on the outside walls, the remaining took advantage of the local walks surrounding the Grey Goose Lodge. Then the afternoon session would see a change over with one group filling in the mural’s that had been drawn in the morning session, with the remaining also taking advantage of the beautiful walks surrounding the lodge.
The cadets and CFAVs also got the chance to meet the children and staff of Meah orphanage, this very emotional on both sides, the children also sang and presented the group with 2 cards full of the children’s hand prints with their names on them as a thank you. The cadets and CFAVs had transposed their hand prints to the main wall outside, also with their names, so it was lovely to see the children presenting back in kind.
Day 12 30th
Day twelve was the last day in South Africa but before the group left, they went for one last visit to Meah orphanage in order to present a lasting token, in the form of a pendant; which had the Army Cadet Force and Warwickshire and West Midlands (SS) ACF insignia. The group planned a thank you to the group leader Major Delroy Tucker, they had hired a helicopter for him to fly over Meah orphanage to see the completed work done by all the cadets and CFAVs. They then planned for his return to the landing site, by formatting the letter J and the number 42, made up of themselves, by lying on the ground in formation. From there the group made their way back to the start point O.R Tambo International airport, Johannesburg for the long journey home.
“The orphanage was definitely one of the most emotional parts of the tour and after spending a few hours painting, it was heart-warming seeing the faces of the children when we were done. It felt really good to give something to the people who have so little and it was a great way to end the tour as it put things into perspective and made me realise how lucky we all are. All cadets who are given the opportunity to come to South Africa should jump at the chance as it’s an experience of a life time.”
Cadet SGT White
“I can truthfully say that I have developed as a person more in this two weeks than I can remember over such a small period at any time in my life.”
Cadet CPL Rigg
“Throughout my entire experience I have learnt a lot of information and to not take things for granted in life. It exceeded my expectations by a mile and has given me many new experiences and helped me appreciate things more.”
Cadet CPL Jeens
“Overall, the experience has been amazing and a privilege to be a part of.”
Cadet L/CPL Sirman
“Seeing the children in the school change shoes so they could dance because they had holes and rips in their own; made me realise how selfish I was in year 10/11 of my school years asking for a new pair of trainers so I could look good.”
Cadet Sgt Smith
“In conclusion, what an experience, I never imagined a year ago we would go and do all this. It’s made my outlook on life a lot more grateful and privileged. For me it’s a memory for ever.” Cadet RSM Jesson
County Regimental Sergeant Major
“Whilst I am reflecting on this experience I am also reflecting on myself. what I want to work on is the idea of giving up on the past and focusing on the future, I think this a beneficial act to be taken by someone who is very bitter about her past and finds it hard to let go, because at the end of the day I realised I am so lucky to wake up in my bed with a warm meal 3 x a day and things that we sometimes take for granted, such as our education or family. Thank you SA I will be definitely returning here soon, appreciating the plants we planted or even the hand prints on the orphanage walls.”
Cadet CSM Kerber
Warwickshire Lord Lieutenants Cadet
Cadet Force Adult Volunteers
“Thank you for the amazing experience and adventure you have given us all truly life changing.”
Sergeant Instructor J. Solomon
“What an amazing effort? You have started something that will persist + help people on two continents.”
Staff Sergeant Instructor F. McGoldrick
“What an experience you have gave everyone certainly something we will not forget. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.”
2nd Lieutenant R. Tolley
“This has been a trip of a lifetime and I feel very honoured to be part of it. I know the cadets will look back on this experience for the rest of their lives and remember how fantastic it was, I know I certainly will. Thank you.”
Lt H. Roberts
“For me it was life changing on personal and mental level, personally because it put things into perspective, although my life to date a been a roll a coaster, disappointment and triumph, seeing communities with nothing, being so happy and loving towards each other, offering what little they had to ensure you were comfortable was so humbling. On a mental level it’s made me more open to acceptance, acceptance of my own and other people’s failures, the acceptance of being happy with what you have and to support those that don’t have. It has strengthened my outlook on the cadet movement, and what it can offer to all who are involved, the last day of the tour cemented this. The cadets and CFAVs planned my fly by, I was and still am emotional at the sight laid before me, of Cadets and CFAVs forming the sign J42, by lying on the ground to say thank you. Truly Humbled, Emotional and Grateful, Thank you to all who supported and made this happen.”
Major D, Tucker – Officer Commanding Jo-burgh 42
For me part one of my aim have been achieved, that was to complete a community engagement tour to South Africa, with challenging walks scattered throughout the tour, an example of this was walking to a local school to highlight the distance some of those young children walk just to get an education. It’s important to highlight that our engagement with the community really tugged at the heart strings and in some cases became very emotional. Part two of my aim is to ensure this is a legacy and hopefully many other cadets and CFAVs will get opportunity to experience a tour of a lifetime.
What worked really well?
a. Selection weekend for cadets
b. Mixing the groups
c. Separate adult briefing – evenings
d. Walk up Mount Snowdon
e. One point of contact via email – to update and keep Parents and Guardians informed
f. Appointing 2 CFAV’s per group
g. Appointing an admin team
h. Having our own solicitor
i. Group leader having the time to go to meetings and organise the admin
j. Travelling to South African embassy to confirm all the paperwork was in order
k. Facebook page, allowed all to follow the journey in South Africa
What did not work so well – needs improving?
a. Cost to cadets, in hindsight £1000 to £1200 would have been reasonable to charge, struggled to get the total cost of the tour collected.
b. Staff selection, due to a negative response at the start, not many CFAVs put themselves forward which reduced the selection pool of CFAVs
c. Fundraising, advertising fund raisers and events needs a lot of work, missed out on many opportunities. proper briefing to the PRO
d. The Medical Support Officer to be separate from the groups and not part of it
e. Collection of personal contribution needs to be made well in advance – year before departure
f. 70% of the funding should be in place one year before departure
g. All members of the County need to engage and support
h. Deposit for flights needs to paid one year before departure, it will save £120 per person, and the balance does not need to paid until 10 weeks before departure.
Outcomes from doing the tour
a. The cadet experience was achieved
b. The local community has been engaged
c. The potential to set up a legacy is more real
d. The thirst for another tour is apparent
e. The expedition phase of the tour really highlighted the strength and leadership in all the cadets
f. Life changing for all