Since the inception of the first cadet college in 1958, cadet colleges have been producing successful citizens and leaders both in civil and military sectors. As cadets are exposed to a tough training environment, they learn how to manage and overcome any challenge that may come on the way in life. The cadets’ visit to the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in the United Kingdom has been conducted under an exchange programme between the institutions, which cadets attend annually. Every year the best cadets from twelve Cadet Colleges of Bangladesh participate in this programme. I was proud to be a member of the team that visited the cadet colleges this year. The voyage of few days to the United Kingdom printed a permanent impression in our hearts.
It was expected that the visiting days would come with great excitement and fill up everyone’s heart with enjoyment and make a book of sweet memories to cherish all our lives. In like manner, fifteen souls from different places of the country had a lifetime adventure. This ‘lifetime adventure’ comprised twelve cadets, two teachers - Mr. Md. Tareekul Haq, Assistant Professor from Jhenidah Cadet College and Ms Dilara Parvin, Assistant Professor from the Cadet College of Rangpur, under the leadership of Major Md. Shafi Shahriar, Adjutant (Pabna Cadet College). This journey started on 30th July at 5:00 am local time from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Our hearts were enchanted and synchronized with the same tunes of thrill and excitement. We reached the Heathrow Airport on 1st July 2018 at 6:00 pm local time. When we arrived at the Heathrow Airport, London, the frigid air of England kept us busy in pulling our blazers and jackets, but the coldness was neutralized by the warm reception we got from Lt Colonel Steven Saunderson, who was the Vice Principal of the Royal Military School. Though it was summer in England, it was like winter to us when we reached the premises of the school three hours later.
We were escorted to the compound where we would stay for the next 8 days. Not even then did we realize that this building (named Nelson House) would occupy such a big place in our hearts. Next morning, we were guided through the campus of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School. We stood with pride and honor as we saw the Bangladeshi flag waving next to the royal flag, which made us feel at home. After a while we headed for a local trip to Canterbury. We visited the Canterbury Cathedral. It astonished us to see how they preserved, maintained and respected their age old monuments and traditions. The city is situated on the bank of the English Channel, which separates England from France.
The place we were taken to was also known as “Dover beach”, which reminded us of the great poem written by Mathew Arnold. The cool breeze, the summer paradise and the white cliffs stole our hearts. We witnessed the Inter-House Athletics Competition of the Dukes and visited the AG’s room. The most interesting event followed next - the indoor wall climbing. A test of our perseverance, determination, teamwork and co-operation was evident in the training. A friendly basketball match was held just after, which united our spirits. I was appreciated by the members of both teams because I scored the highest in the match.
We went through leadership and first aid trainings, which broadened our views, enhanced our inner qualities and made us more capable to overcome challenges and emergencies. The leadership training was conducted by Major Andrew Nunn. He gave us some command tasks, theoretical and practical lessons which changed our views, thoughts and outlook not only as a leader but also as a human being. The first aid training was conducted by Lt Phillimore. This training was more practical and they emphasized real life situations to make it more attractive. He taught us how to render first aid, wound care and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).
On that very day, we went to have a feast in a Bangladeshi restaurant called ‘Hotel Rajmahal’. Standing on another soil and speaking in foreign tongue made us realize that a part of ours was still in Bangladesh and we understood the real value of our motherland.
On the 4th day we had our most awaited London tour. As it was summer in London, the city’s typically sullen weather was absent. The skies was vibrant and the people lively. It looked like a city of the 20th century. They maintained their royalty by preserving their honor and age old traditions. This shows how conscious the British are to protect their identity and heritage.
Although we could not visit the Elizabeth Tower as it was under construction, we visited other wonders like the Buckingham Palace, West Minster Abbey, Admiralty Square, Trafalgar Square, London eye and the best of all, the London Dungeon. The London Dungeon recreates various glory and macabre historical events in a gallows with humorous style.
This glorious day finally came to an end. As we were leaving London, our hearts wished to stay for few seconds more. But when we reached the school campus at 8 o’clock, it was still day time. The ever radiant campus made our minds calm and happy. We enjoyed the soothing zephyr and the azure sky was very endearing and prepossessing. The soothing environment made it possible for us to put the sadness of leaving London behind.
During our stay, there was the farewell of the Dukes. Every year, new Dukes enter and old Dukes, after finishing their academic session, leave the school. To honor them, the school chapel arranges a ‘Leaver’s Service’ programme. We attended the programme and sang hymns with the Dukes, and also learnt about their school chapel. It intrigued us to see how they honored their war heroes.
We attended the Grand Day Production: BUGSY. It was a comedy movie of the 1990s. It involved acting, singing and miming by the students of grade 7. Even though they were their youngest students, their confidence and attitude were glowing like professionals. Their enthralling performance blew our minds.
The final day was the best day of the trip. It was the day of the Grand Parade. The Duke of York’s Royal Military School is the only school in England which has this kind of a parade. Their school flag is awarded by the Queen. Before the parade, we visited the parade ground. There we saw fighter planes, Royal tanks and artilleries of World War II displayed on the ground. We were amazed to learn about the history of those planes, especially the ‘Spitfire’.
We attended the parade wearing our uniforms, and it made us proud to represent our cadet college. The Grand Day parade was very attractive. The band display was the best part followed by their commands and gesture of showing honor. An air display was also held where seven paratroopers with different flags of the Great Britain landed on the grounds. After the parade we were taken to the food court of the VIP’s in Red House where we had the chance of meeting a number of generals of the British Army and marshals from the Royal Air Force. This great day finally came to an end with our farewell party at the house of Lt Col Steven Saunderson. We were given certificates for our trainings and we officially took farewell from this dynamic man.
Finally, on 7th of July we departed from Heathrow Airport. Lt Col Steven Saunderson was there to see us off. When we left the verdant campus of the Royal Military School, we had nothing but sadness and a broadened outlook to see the expanded possibilities of life. Even though the members of the team are now in different places of the country, we bear the motto of the military school in our school
“Looking forward with confidence, looking back with pride".
Farhan Shafat Siddiqui, Cadet Number – 2666, Jhenidah Cadet College