December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 11, 2013
The long-serving soldier responsible for co-ordinating the development of thousands of Norfolk’s army cadets has stepped down from his role after 15 years.
Major David Whitehead, who has retired as executive officer for the Norfolk Army Cadet Force, was recognised for his service during a farewell ceremony at the force’s headquarters in Dereham.
His military career began in 1964 and he served with the Royal Anglian Regiment until 1998, when he took the job of co-ordinating the training, equipment and volunteer efforts which support up to 800 army cadets at any given time across the county.
“The most rewarding thing is seeing these young adults develop and push themselves further than they would expect,” he said.
“At the Trooping the Colour in London, the Queen’s colours are carried by the youngest officer. It is symbolic of the army’s trust in youth, and of youth’s acceptance of responsibility. That is what I have always tried to encourage, because the army has put its trust in the cadet force.”
Major Whitehead, 66, lives on Crown Road in Dereham. As executive officer, one of only eight permanent staff in Norfolk’s cadet forces, he supported the 140 volunteers which help run the organisation. The cadets are given a structured training programme which deals with everything from first aid, map-reading, shooting, expeditions and field-craft.
Many continue into careers with the army. During Major Whitehead’s time as executive officer, three have been killed in action: Paratrooper Cpl Stephen Bolger from Cromer, Royal Anglian L/Cpl Alex Hawkins from Beetley, near Dereham, and Royal Marine L/Cpl Ben Whatley from Tittleshall, near Fakenham.
“Three of our cadets have been killed in Afghanistan and several have gone on to be decorated for their service in the army,” said Major Whitehead. “Others go on to join the police or the fire service or to become teachers.
“We are an enormous family – we see them married and we see them have children and, unfortunately, we have attended a few funerals. But most of them go on to become decent members of the community, and we are proud of that community.”
Major Whitehead said he was “humbled” by the presentation arranged for him in Dereham on Wednesday, which was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson, who is also president of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.
Mr Jewson said: “The cadets are a wonderful youth organisation providing challenges for young people in a world where they need challenge, structure and some discipline. David has been here all the time I have been here, so I have every reason to be grateful to him. He has done a marvellous job.”
Major Whitehead will be replaced by Major Alf Todd, also a former Royal Anglian, who said: “I have known David since 1973 and he is probably one of the most efficient people I have ever worked for, or with. It will be a hard job to follow in his shoes.”