As the improvements to the adult and cadet messes are almost complete, it seems an appropriate time to look back over the 30 or so years since the Dechmont Cadet Training Centre was opened to cadets for the first time, and see what has changed since then.
It was in 1985 when it was decided that it was necessary to replace the Battalion training centre at Winston Barracks, just outside Lanark. The barracks had been the regimental home of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) until 1964 and the 52nd Lowland Division until 1967. Most of the barracks were not in use and the main buildings were all closed up, but the cadets had the use of some wooden huts in a corner of the estate for cadet accommodation and a small brick building for adult accommodation and messing. The huts were in a poor condition and, particularly in the winter, were cold and damp. So plans were set in motion to build a new training centre within the grounds of the Territorial Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Association’s (now Lowland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association) range and training area complex at Dechmont.
So in 1987 the new building was officially opened by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Robert Gray in the presence of a number of military and civilian VIPs. The senior cadet of the day (now C Company Commander) Cadet RSM Derek Coulter was in charge of the Guard of Honour drawn from detachments across the Battalion.
Looking back Major Coulter remembers:
‘I had the privilege of being the Battalion’s Cadet RSM the year Dechmont was officially opened and I was in charge of the parade and the banner party.
Preparations began the night before when all cadets involved where brought in to HQ to get the centre ready for the opening. Although it was the official opening we had already been using the centre for company weekends and APC boards for many months. Our aim was to get the centre looking new again and that was not an easy task.
I remember on the morning of the opening we were all up bright and early to wash walls, polish furniture, move beds and get the centre ready for the visitors arriving. My task on the day was to get the outside seating set up for the parents and dignitaries and to arrange the car parking which was on the firing point of the old 600m range. It was an extremely cold day and all the stones in the car park were frozen together. It was no easy task setting up the rows of chairs as the legs kept going through the stones making the chairs wobbly! So it was over to plan B and we started sawing wooden blocks to put under the legs of the chairs – but we got there in the end.
The parade was made up of twenty four cadets and three banner party from all the detachments and cap badges within the Bn. We had a number of rehearsals on the day under the watchful eye of Major David Baxter who was the CEO at the time. As you can imagine he wanted the parade to go well, as we all did and we had about 6 rehearsals before everyone was happy. There were a number of issues on the day and this was mainly due to the cold weather. The band of the then 1/52 Lowland TA were playing on the day but it was too icy for them to march, so they were positioned on the far corner of the parade square. This gave us a problem as we could not hear the music until we marched around the corner of the building! The guard commander on the day was Lieutenant Geoff Lamb who had to meet the Lord Provost David Gray, introduce him to me and then to take him around the squad to talk to the cadets. This was probably the most nervous part of my day as I wanted to get the commands correct. After he inspected the cadets and spoke to the parade I had to march the banner party to the front door to present the Lord Provost with the Battalion banner before the official opening took place. This is still the banner we currently use within the Battalion. It was then the official unveiling of the plaque by the Lord Provost and the Commandant Colonel Angus Wighton. The cadets had to stand in the freezing cold for about one hour and I must say they all did extremely well considering the conditions.
After the parade all the cadets had the chance to meet the guests in the mess over a well earned warm drink.
I can honestly say it was one of my proudest days as a cadet and it is a memory that will last with me forever. If I was to sum up the day I would say it was an excellent parade enjoyed by all in spite of the extremely cold weather.’
While the new training centre was an enormous improvement over the old one it had limited accommodation (mainly for male cadets as girls had only just started being recruited into the ACF) and the dining room had to double-up as the only lecture room available. There was no fence around the complex, so it was not unusual during the evening to open the curtains in the sleeping accommodation and find a couple locals smoking (or worse) on the grass outside.
Since then, of course, there have been a number of improvements and additions including new stores, dedicated lecture rooms, new girls’ accommodation and now extensions to both the cadet mess and the adult mess.
It’s interesting to speculate as to what the next 30 years might bring, not only to the Dechmont Cadet Training Centre but to the Glasgow and Lanarkshire Battalion as a whole. Certainly Cadet RSM/Major Coulter will not still be serving in its ranks, but some of today’s cadets almost certainly will be.