The Oratory Celebrates the 110th Anniversary of Oratory CCF
A special dinner was held this weekend in celebration of the 110th anniversary of The Oratory School Combined Cadet Force (CCF), from the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) in 1913 to the CCF today, and its association with The Welsh Guards.
We were delighted to welcome guest speaker and former School Captain, Old Oratorian Colonel Tom C S Bonas (OS 1966-1971). Colonel Bonas is the former Regimental Adjutant of the Welsh Guards based in London. He has performed military duties on many state occasions including Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh's funeral; the Platinum Jubilee; Command Vigil as Queen Elizabeth II laid in state and at the Queen's funeral. Most recently Colonel Bonas has performed duties alongside HRH King Charles III during the Coronation, having worked closely with the King when he was formerly HRH Prince of Wales and Colonel of The Welsh Guards.
During his time within Welsh Guards, Colonel Bonas was responsible for the non-operational activities, with an extensive portfolio that included liaison with a wide variety of agencies and organisations. His speech at The Oratory’s 110th anniversary dinner was humoured and engaging as he shared military highlights from his extensive 50 year career, what it means to be in the services - where "every day is different, exciting and challenging" and the vast opportunities that a military career can offer. Colonel Tom Bonas says, "I am hugely honoured and privileged to be invited here tonight as guest speaker and it's a great pleasure to be back here at The Oratory School."
The Oratory's CCF was founded in 1913. Here is an excerpt from the 1913 edition of the school magazine recounting its origins:
"That some definite measure of elementary military training should be made a part of the life and work of the school has a long time past, been a growing desire in both the Masters and the Boys. Its absence in a school that paid its yearly tribute of brain, muscle and character to Sandhurst and Woolwich was, at the least, remarkable; and careful enquiry revealed the fact that its inclusions was necessary if the School was to retain its tradition of all round efficiency. Hence during this term a big effort has been made to meet this need. At the time of writing it is too early to judge the result; but there is already the promise of early and complete success."
During the next 5 years, over four hundred Old Oratorians were to serve in World War I, with 84 giving their lives for our country and future freedom. One notable Oratorian wartime hero was Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC who fought in the Boer War and in World War I and was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for bravery in battle, for his actions at the Battle of the Somme. All Oratorian wartime heroes are remembered on memorials within the school's main chapel and in the school's Garden of Remembrance, where the annual Armistice Day Remembrance Service and Parade takes place.
Now in its 110th year, Oratory CCF continues to thrive with both boys and girls voluntarily joining the Army, Navy and RAF sections from 3rd Form onwards. A third of the school's numbers are enrolled within the Corps, which saw a 90% uptake from this year’s 3rd Form cohort. CCF provides a real challenge outside of a pupil's normal comfort zone. As one parent says, "For our son, the co-curricular activities, sport, and the CCF has truly allowed him to understand what he wants both now and in the future."
Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel S J Bosher says "Oratory CCF continues to go from strength to strength. Last year we achieved the first Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet appointment that The Oratory School has had since the formation of the school’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF). Now we have our first female SUO, who hopes to join the RAF on leaving the school. Great opportunities exist within the Corps, from our most recent gliding trip at RAF Little Rissington to challenging CCF field weekends across the country."
The Oratory very much looks forward to seeing Oratory CCF continue to thrive into this next century!