Scottish School Uniform: Cadets

Figure 1.--This Scottish boy was a member of his school cadet program in 1917. Note his cap on the table.

Scotland like England has an active cadet program where secondary school clildren receive some basic military instruction. The program was a British program so the legal basis for the program in Scotland was the same as in England. The program datescfrom 1860 when militia units were orhanized into a nationmal force and began to set up youth auxileries or cadet groups. While the cadet progran became a national program, there were differences in the uniforms. The dress uniform for most Scottish units included the kilt, but for training, pants are todsay generally worn. We are less sure about earlier periods.

British Cadet Program

The Cadet program in Britain was a national program. Thus it was essentially the same throught Britain including Scotland. Only the unifoirm was different. Britain for many years had no standing army, a phenomenn dating back to the struggle between Parliament bnd the Crown. There was, however, a long history of local militias. The Britih fought the Crimean War with the French as an ally (1850s). Napoleon III and hisasperations to empire caused some concern in England. The British Government began organizing local militia units into a nationwide Volunteer Reserve Force (VNF). Octavia Hill, a British social reformer, organized the first VCF unit on Castle Green--Robin Hood Rifles (1859). The VCF units responding to the interest of youths, bean forming Cadet Companies. Eight public schools decided to form independent cadet units. This was the genesis for what was to become the Army Casdet Force (ACF) which became the modern Combined Cadet Force (CCF). Adam Gray who was aleader in social reform founded more Independent Cadet Corps units (Late-19th century). The late 19th anbd early 20th century was a time of rising international tensions and rising military spending. Britain unlike the Cointinental countries did not have military conscription and aklarge standing army. The Govermnent decided to reoganized the VCF into the Territorial Army (TA), often called the Home Guard (1908). At this time both the Volunteer and Independent Cadet Companies came under the control of the Territorial Forces Association. The Public School units became part of the Officer Training Corps. The War Office took control of all independent Cadet units (1914). They becanme the Army Cadet Force (ACF) and a source of officers during World War I. After the War the Government made major curbacks in defense spending (Geddes Axe) (1923). A small part of the defense ciutbacks was terminating Governmental and Military support for the ACF. By this time, however, the ACF had become institutionalized ar several schools. Thus there was aprivate movement to msaintasin the program. Notable figures like Lord Allenby helped organize the British National Cadet Association (BNCA) which lobbied for renewed Governnent support. They succeeded in getting some limited support (1930s). The Cadet Forces supported the Home Guard durin the early partof Workd War when for a time it looked like aGerman invasion was iminent. The Government as a result decided to reestablish the ACF (1942). The public school units became part of the CCF (Army) (1948). The Government conducted a review of the overal military program (1957). As a result, the ACF became aecognized national youth organisation sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Scottish Uniforms

The uniforms worn by Scottish boys in cadet programs are almost identical to those worn by English boys, of course because England and Scotland as well as Wales and Ulster. are part of the United Kingdom. The primary difference is that at Scottish schools the cadet uniform included a kilt and Scottish cap. Balmoral type tams were once worn while today the Glengary cap is more common. Some photographs show boys in the same group wearing both. It is not clear if rank is a factor. While the dress uniform is different, the training uniforms appear to be the same, although there may be some differences from school to school. Some photographs from the 1960s do show boys wearing both kilts and military trousers. HBC believes that rank may have been a factor. More recent photographs show more uniformity.


We do not yet have a great deal of chronological information about school cadet uniforms. We have, however, begun to collect some information. We do not yet know anything about the 19th century. The cadet uniform worn in Scotland in 1917 was quite similar to that being worn in the 1960s (figure 1). The Barmoral tam is still quite common. We note boys wearing plain kilts as well as tartan kilts. The Scottish brigades began wearing plain kilts during World War I. Presumably some of the cadets groups did the same. There appears to have been differences from school to school. We see boys at some schools wearing Glengarys. We also notice plain kilts rather than plaids. The jacket is the main difference, The 1917 jacket buttoned at the collar, The 1960s jacket had a "V" fromt and was worn with a tie. The color looks quite similar. The kilt and spats are similar although the knee socks were different. The kilt in the 1960s appears to be a dress uniform item, I'm not sure if this was the case in 1917.

Service Programs

The various services sponsor their own cadet programs. Thus the Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force all have cadet ptograms with destinctive uniforms. Scottish boys in Army cadet programs wear the kilt as part of their dress uniform. Only limited information is current available to HBC at this time on the dress iniform in Navy and Air Force cadet programs.

Personal Experiences

The 1960s: Memories of school uniforms and other clothes during the 1960s

Individual Schools

Available images provide climpses of the cadet uniform at various schools in different years.

Unidentified school

This portrait is unidentified. It was almost certainly taken in Scotland during Worlkdf War I. The boys look very young. They may be the youngest boys at a public school/academy. That would mean boys about 13-14 years old. Some of the boys here look a littleyounger, but this could be a public school cadet groups. Or they could still be at their prep school. They would have been the older boys at a prep school which would be boys 12-13years old. Prep schools could not participate in the Armny Cadet Force (ACF). There was nothing, however, to prevent the schools from organizing their own independent cadet group. Preo schools today do not have cadet groups like this. But we are not sure about prep schools duriung the orld war I era. A further complicsation is that in Scotland there were full term schools, including colleges and academies that boys of all ages. Of course, schools can be identified from their uniforms, but as these boys are wearing cadet uniforms, that is not possible.

High School of Glasgow

The boys at the High School of Glasgow wear some differing uniform items. I'm not sure if these differences were just tolerated or they represnt a difference in rank. The boys pictured appear to be the senior boys. The cadet uniform was standard throughout the United Kingdom, but cadets in Scotland and Ulster had some distinctive features for their uniform, I'm less sure about Wales.

Additional Information

Related Links: Careful this will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but each of these sites are highly recommended

Boys' Preparatory Schools: Lovely photographic book on British Preparatory Schools during the 1980s with over 200 color and black and white images.
Apertures Press British Prep School eBooks: Apertures Press has published six eBooks on British prep schools
Apertures Press New Zealand book: Apertures Press has publushed three eBooks on New Zealand schools


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Created: June 5, 1999
Last updated: 5:30 AM 2/12/2018