Combined Cadet Force
C C F
Thank you to Bryan Gourlay for sending me his
recollections of the short time that he spent in the CCF.
notice someone mentioned they had been in the ATC.
I’m sure a good number of others
will have had similar experiences as boy soldiers.
The ATC was an independent
unit. The CCF was similar but was associated with a school."
"Like many other
Edinburgh schoolboys in the mid 1950s, I
joined the CCF.
Driving this decision was the ominous prospect of doing
National Service a few years down the line.
I knew a boy who had used his CCF experience
to swing a three year short-term commission in the RAF,
which seemed much more appealing to me than becoming a foot
soldier for 18 months."
"Of course, you
couldn’t immediately join the CCF’s Air
Force section. You had to
join the Army section
first of all, and pass your Part I Test,
before deciding whether to stay in the Army
section or transfer to either the
Navy or RAF section."
"One of the biggest
tests was learning how to cope with the army uniform we were
allocated from the school’s store. There was no telling how old
these uniforms were or how many boys had worn them before.
They were not the more comfortable
fatigue-type uniforms you see cadets with today. We had a World War
II (or older) battledress, a khaki ‘hair’ shirt, tie, trousers and
gaiters etc., complete with a web belt and a Balmoral and a
Glengarry for our headgear.
We had to buy our own boots and haversack from
the Army and Navy store in the High Street."
"It was a bit of a
rude awakening. The battledress
jacket had to have razor-edged creases steam ironed into just the
right spot on the arms – not the middle – and the trousers also
creased in particularly complex manner.
That was for starters.
We had to buy just the right khaki-coloured
Blanco for coating the belt and gaiters,
and polish all the belt brasses and cap badge until they dazzled old
ladies on the bus to school."
"The boots were
another story altogether. They were
a grainy leather and came complete with cuddy heels (horseshoe
shaped), soles full of round studs (segs) and a steel tips to make
just the right noise as we marched up and down.
The toe-caps then had to be transformed from
the original leather into a highly-polished almost patent leather
state you could see your face and other parts of your anatomy in."
"I spent countless
hours in our outhouse with a tin of black polish, a candle, brushes
If I remember correctly, a layer of polish was
applied to the toe-cap, the table-spoon was then heated by the
candle flame to burn the polish across the cap, also using the brush
and finally the cloth to buff things up and measure progress. Some
timely spitting might also have been involved.
This process was repeated over many days and
weeks endlessly trying to reach a shine that would live up to
inspection and be as good as my fellow cadets.
On CCF days, a final buff up was carried out
before setting off for school, and several times during the day,
along with a silent prayer that it wouldn’t rain and muck things up."
"The driving force
of our Royal High CCF unit was sergeant major Jimmy Veitch, the
school’s assistant janitor, whose uniform
and bearing put us all to shame.
Under his stern-like ‘guidance’ we learnt how
to march up and down the playground, not
to mention marching and crawling around the Calton Hill practicing
our ‘battle’ techniques."
"From time to time,
we had an excursion to the rifle range. That
would be beyond imagination today.
We’d start in the dark bowels of the school
basement where the CCF’s rifles were to be found,
chained up for security reasons. These were World War I and II Royal
Enfield 303s, a fearsome sight for 14
We were each allocated a heavy rifle and
proceeded to march down Regent Road, past Holyrood House, St
Margaret’s Well and the right-hand side of Haggis Knowe that took us
behind Salisbury Crags to the Hunter’s Bog rifle range."
plan was put into action.
Some boys were put to the extremities of the
Hunter’s Bog with red flags to keep stray people from getting shot.
Another squad was sent forward about 200 yards
or more, to the target area where they hid behind a concrete
embankment ready to indicate on the target where the bullets had
The remainder where instructed on how to use a
303, in particular holding it tightly. It
had a kick like a mule and was known to break young boys’ collar
After setting the back-sight to the correct
distance we loaded a clip of five large 303 bullets, settled into
position, pulled the rifle stock in as tightly as we could, then
pulled the trigger. This was
followed instantly by a loud dull thud and the obligatory mule kick."
Part 1 Test
"After couple of
school terms, the novices had to face up to their Part I
Test at Dreghorn Barracks, where they were
put through their paces by regular NCOs.
This started with inspection and drill on the
parade ground in our immaculate, fully bulled-up kit.
We then had to demonstrate some of our
tactical skills over a bit of rough ground, the NCOs taking great
delight watching us doing a ‘monkey crawl’ through the mud –
thoroughly mucking up our uniform and boots."
"Pretty soon after passing my Part I, I
joined the small group in the RAF section as much to get away from
boots and gaiters than anything else.
‘Brylcream Boys’ with spanking new uniforms from the Turnhouse air
base. Black shoes were the order of the day,
highly polished, of course."
"The end of my CCF
career came soon after I read that national service was being
discontinued and I was going to miss the cut-off date by about three
I apologetically turned in my uniform as the
prospect of joining the RAF voluntarily seemed to have lost its
"I don't know
if there is now any trace
left of the rifle range
in Hunter’s Bog. I’m sure one
of your energetic contributors will jog up there and find out!
It is shown as the Volunteer Rifle Range on
the 1876 Ordnance Survey map, with measurements shown up to a
distance of 600 yards, and
it is clearly shown on the 1919
chronological map of the city."
Please click on the
thumbnail image below to see an enlargement of part of this
"As kids, we kept
well clear of Hunter’s Bog when we heard firing.
I’m not sure how our politically correct, safety-freak
masters would react to young boys blasting off with 303s in the
middle of the city nowadays."
Bryan Gourlay, Biggar,
Lanarkshire, Scotland: February 29, 2008
Thank you to Lily Laing, Park Rangers' Office,
Holyrood Park who replied:
Rifle Ranges at
is very little evidence of the ranges left to-day. They were
demolished in 1961. They were initially, in 1859, below the Dasses*.
They changed directions some years later.
was a photograph from the Evening News on February 21, 1961, that
showed workmen demolishing the rifle ranges.
Lily Laing, Park Rangers' Office,
Holyrood Park: March 11, 2008
The Dasses are ridges of igneous rock to the N and NE of the summit
of Arthur's Seat, dating from volcanic times.
History of the
Lily Laing also sent me a
brief history of the rifle range at Hunter's Bog, Holyrood Park.
- The range was set up in the 1830s by a
garrison from Edinburgh Castle.
- By 1877, there were eight firing lines
running down the Bog.
- The range was later realigned with the
targets on Arthur's Seat.
- The army stopped using the range in
- Edinburgh Rifles Club continued
to use it until 1961.
Thank you to Mike Melrose, Edinburgh, who
Rifle Ranges at
Laing is geographically spot on. There were two levels of
shooting position facing roughly North East.
target line must have therefore faced South West.
When we were kids in the Canongate in the
early sixties we used to go and dig or pick up bullet cases where
the cottage and shooting positions were, and find the spent bullets
in the slopes below Arthur's Seat where the targets were.
Incidentally, the Scottish photographer,
Lindsay Robertson, currently has a superb photograph in the
City Art Centre
of the area where the ranges were at this time. This
exhibition is currently being shown together with the Ansel Adams
Mike Melrose, Greenbank, Edinburgh:
March 17, 2008.
Eric Gold, East London, replied:
Rifle Ranges at
interesting to hear about the old rifle ranges in the park as we, as
bairns, would play there.
I found a blank
or maybe a live bullet, but my ma gave it to Big Ginger the
Policeman at the bottom of the brae for safety reasons."
Eric Gold, East London:
March 17, 2008