The Eton College CCF was founded in 1860 as the Eton College Rifle Corps at a time when it was thought that Napoleon III was threatening to invade Britain. It was the first continuous school corps of its kind.
Boys can join the corps from D block upwards.The aim of the corps is to provide boys with a wide range of military skills, adventurous pursuits, leadership experience and the opportunity to complete the Duke of Edinburgh Award at silver level. The corps is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Wilcockson (a master at the school) who is assisted by an Adjutant and two permanent CCF staff, both of whom have been regular soldiers. There are several masters who are commissioned officers, as well as regular Army officers and NCOs who often assist with training. The corps has its own purpose-built building, the ‘Orderly Room’, which houses its stores, offices, mess and training rooms.
Boys may choose to be members of the Army or the RAF sections but most of the training is the same for both sections. Training moves rapidly through drill, weapon-training, battle skills, signals, shooting, leadership exercises, and a range of adventurous training activities. In every half there is a weekend exercise or ‘corps scheme’ when training is much more intense, demanding and wide-ranging. In the summer half there is a range weekend when live ammunition is fired. In addition to basic infantry training, members of the RAF section have the opportunity to fly in the Tutor aircraft at RAF Benson and glide in the Vigilant at Dalton Barracks.
More senior boys specialise in military and survival skills and prepare as cadet instructors through a cadre course.
The highlight of the year is the annual tattoo for which boys prepare during the first part of the summer half and perform on the evening before the 'Fourth of June'. To an audience of over 800 people the corps parades and presents its colours, demonstrates a range of activities from precision drill to a light gun race accompanied by the Eton College CCF military band including the pipes and drums. The evening concludes with a small-scale battle scene.
Although the CCF is not designed to recruit for the armed forces, a significant number of boys do nevertheless take up commissions. For example, an average of six Old Etonians attend Royal Military Academy Sandhurst annually, with five OEs due to commence training at RMAS at the beginning of 2013. The Army is the biggest single employer of OEs.
There are a wide range of summer camps which boys are expected to attend. Some camps are abroad (to Germany or Cyprus, for example); others are organised through Army contacts in the UK and concentrate on specialised military skills and adventurous training.
In 2010, Her Majesty the Queen visited Eton to inspect the Corps on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, and unveiled a plaque commemorating those Old Etonians awarded the Victoria Cross and George Cross.