Army Cadet Force Trip to Tambov Cadet School in Russia

During October half term in 2012 members of the 149 Rifles from the Royal Alexandra and Albert school visited the Tambov Cadet School in Russia.  During their visit they were interviewed by the local state TV channel.  Click here to watch the video (Youtube)

They had a memorable visit and here is the diary of Mr Ian Rowe who was the leader of the trip.   

Saturday 20 October 2012.

05:30 Five of the cadets meet with parents in the top car park while the other three cadets meet us at London Heathrow T5 in zone G.

06:15 We have all met up at T5 and start checking in for our 08:50 flight to Moscow. The check in attendant asks us where we are travelling too and then has to call someone from the airline to check our visas. This is a standard check for all Russia flights and visas are all fine. We say goodbye to parents and go through security. At airside we all get some breakfast and go together at 07:50 to catch the train to gate B34 and board a 747-400. The flight is 20mins late because of fog and then we taxi out. While taxing we stop and the captain says that we need to wait because of some paper work that has not been accepted. After 10mins we are cleared to take off for Moscow (Domodedovo). We have a tail wind and land at 15:30. Clearing Russian immigration takes a while and we then collect all our bags and are meet in the arrivals hall by two cadets and a guide from the school in Tambov. We pack up the minibus and head to Tambov which takes us 7hrs to travel 480km (300 miles) on mostly roads with potholes. We stop once for a rest and another for evening meal. We arrive at the school at 00:15 to a welcome party of around ten staff (inc Headmaster) and celebration fireworks. We go into the boarding house where we will be staying and a traditional welcome of a lady dressed in Russian clothing holding a very large circular baked bread. We all take a piece off, dip it in salt and then eat it. Then it’s sitting down to a very large Russian meal with all sorts of food. We finally get into bed at 02:00 after a very long day of travelling.

Sunday 21st October 2012.

Rise at 08:00 and breakfast at 09:00. We get in the minibus for an excursion around the city of Tambov. We see the train station, visit the museum of local history, walk along the River Tsna, visit the main cathedral and church, walk into Lenin Square and look at his statue, see the Pushkin library, viewing the tank on the rock to celebrate the work of the Tambov collective farmers who helped in WW2, visit eternal flame and the theatre etc. At 12:30 end up at the victory park looking at all sorts of weapons on display from WW2 with a teacher who now works at the school but has served in the Russian army. After this, all cadets are split into three groups and taken by Tambov cadets and parents to their homes for lunch and evening meal. We all arrive back at the Cadet School at 20:00. Catch up with what we have been doing and playing table tennis etc.

Monday 22nd October 2012.

Cadets are in No2s (formal uniform) and march to breakfast. After breakfast they march around in front of the whole school of around 500 cadets outside. We stop in front of the podium and are asked to stand on it. The national anthems of both countries are played and a speech is made by their headmaster and translated for us. Mr Rowe then speaks to the Tambov Cadet School and this is translated. He thanks them for inviting them, for the warm reception and on how well they are all turned out. The Tambov Cadets all march past us and we salute them back. We then have a tour of the cadet school and a tour of their own museum. We attend lessons in Russian, chemistry, art, maths, history before going into another room for refreshments of tea, coffee and snacks. While following us around we have Tambov State TV recording us while Cadet Rowe and Mr Rowe are interviewed. In the afternoon we are in the conference room and we Skype with another cadet school in Vologda (north east of Moscow). In the afternoon there is a concert put on by the cadet school which shows traditional Russian musical instruments, singing and dancing. It is a brilliant concert! We are then back into the conference room for a quiz on UK history against the Head of English. There are three cadets from both schools to make up the team who win 6-4. Our evening meal is with the Headmaster and senior leadership of the school and various governors. The local university has been invited along to do Russian singing and dancing. The meal is broken at 19:40 to see the news broadcast of us on TV. As soon as the TV broadcast is finished, there is a phone call from the reporter to ask Mr Rowe on his thoughts and he gives a very positive reply! After the meal we go back to the boarding house and meet with their cadets to play table tennis, chess, listen to Russian songs and chat.

Tuesday 23rd October 2012.

After breakfast we are in the school learning how to dismantle, clean and put back together an AK47 assault rifle (Kalashnikov) and then we spend a bit of time in their flight simulator. Cadet Duke thinks he is better than his father as he lands across the runway rather than along it. We then drive for 30km out of Tambov and into the forest where the cadet school has a camp. An ex army general trains the cadets and they showed us how to ambuscade and take over a camp. There was lots of shooting, explosions etc. Afterwards the cadets showed us some of their strength and skills by showing us hand to hand combat, breaking bricks on their stomachs and various military songs etc. Afterwards in the middle of the forest camp we enjoy fish soup and shashlyk over the open fire. We enjoy a rope swing and go back to the boarding house.

Wednesday 24th October 2012.

We wake up to a layer of snow and it is still snowing. After breakfast we visit the Tambov museum complex which tells the story of Tambov during WW2. Afterwards we head down to the River Tsar and see the Sea Cadets rowing along the river. We also get in and have a go.  They are big old boats which take a bit to keep going. We also see some cadet sailors in smaller boats doing some sailing. We head back to the cadet school and finish off packing. At 16:00 we depart for the train station and catch the 17:30 train to St Petersburg which will get there at 12:30 on Thursday (18 hours). There are also 71 of their cadets going and they are all in two carriages. We all eat on the train while learning Russian/English and playing games. A wonderful experience!

Thursday 25th October 2012.

We arrive in St Petersburg at 12:30 and then have two buses to our accommodation. After settling in we get back on the bus and head to the Piskarevskoye Memorial, statue to the Motherland for the 900 day siege of Leningrad during WW2. We first go through the museum with a guide and then lead the front of the parade of 180 Russian cadets walking the 100m to the memorial to lay flowers. Either side there are over half a million bodies buried. Afterwards there is a big photo session with all the cadets in front of the statue. Then it is off to see the St Nicholas Cathedral, or “Sailors Church” (1753-1762). We have dinner back at our accommodation and afterwards each cadet school presents to the conference information about their cadet school at a concert. Mr Rowe addresses the convention at the end thanking them for the hospitality and for allowing us to attend. At 23:00 we leave for a night tour of St Petersburg in a minibus with an English speaking guide. We see the following: monument to Peter the Great (The Bronze Horseman) 1782; St Isaac’s Square monument to Nicholas I (1856-1859); St Isaac’s Cathedral (1818-1858); Palace Square; Winter Palace (The Hermitage 1754-1762); drive along both Nevsky and Admiralty Prospekt; Kazan Cathedral (1801-1811); Alexandrine Theatre (1828-1832); Anichkov Bridge (1785); Cathedral of the Resurrection (The Saviour of the Spilled Blood 1883-1907); lifting of the Trinity Bridge and the raising of Palace Bridge etc. This tour finished at 02:00!

Friday 26th October 2012.

After breakfast we went to the Peter and Paul Fortress. First we looked at the statue to Peter the Great (1992) and then all the cadet schools (including us) do some marching in the quad. At midday we were invited to stand right by the gun that is fired every day on the fortress wall. We have a tour in English through the Peter and Paul Cathedral and then through the prison. We then go to the Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signals where there are exhibits of old and modern warfare. It was then lunch at the University of Science and Technology and an opportunity to say goodbye to most of the Tambov Cadets as they need to catch an early train back to Tambov. Then on to Moscow House for presentations to the cadet corps.  St Petersburg’s TV is also present and interviews Cadet Rowe. We head back to our accommodation for dinner and pack for the train to Moscow. We depart St Petersburg station at 23:00 and boys make their beds and go off to sleep quickly.

Saturday 27th October 2012.

We arrive in Moscow at 07:35 and take the metro to another train station which has a direct train to the airport. We check our bags into left luggage and get some breakfast in a café. We take the metro to the centre of Moscow (two stops) and come out in front of the Bolshoi Ballet. We walk around to the Kutafiya Tower and enter the Kremlin. We pass the Arsenal Chamber and State Kremlin Palace for photographs in front of the Tsar Canon in Senate Square and then the Tsar Bell in Ivan Square. We go through the five Kremlin Cathedrals (Assumption Cathedral, Annunciation Cathedral, Archangel’s Cathedral, the Patriarch’s Palace, Twelve Apostles Church, the Church of Laying our lady’s Holt Robe). In Cathedral Square every Saturday at midday is the Trouping of the Colour so we stayed to witness perfect horseman and foot soldier skills. After exiting the Kremlin we walked back through Trinity Tower and through Alexander’s Gardens for a look at the Eternal Flame. Then it was into Red Square along the Kremlin wall, past Lenin’s Mausoleum and onto Pokrovsiky Cathedral (St Basil’s Cathedral). We walked past The State Historical Museum, Kazan Cathedral and Gum department store. We then had lunch in MacDonald’s and time for a bit of shopping. Taking the metro back to the train station, we got our bags out of the left luggage storage and took the 16:00 train to the airport. We all checked in for our flight back to London Heathrow T5 on a British Airways 767. There was a bit of juggling of weight as most bags were up to or over 23Kg. It was a good flight back and we were met in the arrivals hall by all the parents.