DEFENCE has been very much part of the Academy’s lifeblood – accounting for a sizeable slice of the school’s budget. The combined cadet force (CCF) has been an integral element of guarding pupils and staff in the event of an attack.
We have been fortunate to have had several competent and capable masters who have taken on the occasionally thankless task of supervising this uniformed group. Older parents will fondly recall the avuncular Mr King or perhaps the slightly irascible Mr Nott.
More recently we have had Mr Wallace, or Major as he titled himself, taking care of matters. Sadly, Mr Wallace felt unable to continue in this position and on his somewhat unexpected departure the Headmaster saw fit to appoint junior assistant geography teacher Mr Shapps to this coveted role.
Whilst on paper Mr Shapps, or Inepto as the boys call him, was seen as a safe pair of hands, increasingly it looks as though this was a somewhat precipitous promotion. His only prior contribution to school matters was the overly dangerous ‘smart driveway’ – shortly to be removed.
He made a rather ignominious start to his high-profile role by standing up in assembly and asking the CCF to justify their existence. This bizarre and frankly uncalled for intervention was greeted unsurprisingly by deafening silence, broken only by the Headmaster’s quick-witted intervention in lustily singing I Vow To Thee my Country.
This embarrassing indiscretion was followed by a far more serious and costly error of judgment relating to an essential and expensive part of the Academy’s military hardware.
For decades the nautical needs of the CCF were catered for by Morning Cloud – an old-fashioned rowing boat, moored on the ornamental lake. With a wooden hull repaired with glass fibre it had begun to show its age – many boys complaining that the rowlocks were something of a handful for less dextrous pupils.
After a successful fundraiser, we managed to negotiate an advantageous deal on two state-of-the-art pedalos. Featuring twin belt-fed pea shooters and surface-to-air mounted catapults, HMS Chiddingfold and Bangor should have been a deterrent to be reckoned with.
Retrofitted with a radar system from the High Street electronics emporium Fitsyou, we were confident that our water-borne requirements were met for any future military flare-ups.
What a pity therefore that HMS Bangor lived up to its name, by accidentally ramming Chiddingstone during a routine tying-up on the lake’s pier.
Mr Shapps was responsible for overseeing this almighty and costly debacle, and it will come as no surprise that he is now being closely monitored. His assertion that the radar malfunction was somehow the fault of Fitsyou was wide of the mark – especially given the satisfaction the Academy has experienced with previous purchases from this impressive store.
Finally, word reaches us that several parents were unduly alarmed by reports that, owing to an insufficient number of pupils being enrolled into the CCF, they might find themselves being pressed into accepting the King’s Shilling.
We are delighted to point out that there is no truth whatsoever in this unfounded rumour. The CCF enjoys a full complement of both officers and squaddies. In the unlikely event of the Academy ‘running short’ we feel sure that many ex-pupils will be happy to step into the breach and do the right thing.
On a happier note, we would like to report that Mr Clarke’s deranged suggestion that the Academy should replace the Headmaster has been treated as a badly timed joke. We wish Mr Clarke well whilst he recovers from his ‘funny turn’.