Interview with Detective Dan Thomson
A little about my background
I joined 1414 as a 13 year old ‘probationer’ cadet (as we were called then) in 1998. I spent the next nine years in the Corps, rising through the cadet ranks to be promoted to Cadet Warrant Officer shortly after my 18th birthday in 2003. I was a CWO for four years before I reached the age where I had to leave as a cadet, but I immediately re-joined as a member of staff. During my time at the Squadron I had many fantastic experiences over the full range of cadet activities.
In 2008 I had to resign my commission shortly after joining the Police. I spent seven years as a uniformed response officer based in Uckfield and Hailsham, covering Wealden district which includes Crowborough. I approached the Police in the same way I had been taught to approach the Corps – I volunteered for every activity I could! As a result I have been trained as a response driver, a Taser operator, in ‘riot-control’ tactics, and as an advanced suspect interviewer.
In January 2015 I moved to Eastbourne as a Detective; I still cover the Crowborough area. My role involves the investigation of very serious and complex crime, such as robbery, drug trafficking, serious assaults, and fraud.
I am absolutely convinced that I would not be in the position I am now, if it weren’t for my time at 1414. It gave me a self-confidence that I would never have had otherwise.
I still live in Uckfield, I am married to Jenny and I have two boys, James (3) and William (1), who I hope will join the Corps one day!
Dan. It’s been some time since you were a cadet, but can you remember why you joined in the first place?
Because I wanted to be a fighter pilot! Joining the RAF and flying fast jets seemed really exciting, so I contacted the Careers Office and asked for advice on what I should do. They told me about the Air Cadets and that my nearest squadron was 1414, even though I lived in Uckfield.
I quickly grew out of wanting to be a fighter pilot, but joining the ATC was probably the best thing I did as a teenager. It opened so many doors for me and set me up for the future in a way that I would never have even imagined at the time I joined. I turned from a shy, reserved boy into a confident and capable young man.
I never even considered transferring to 2530, Crowborough was definitely the squadron for me!
What was the most exciting activity/event you ever got to take part in when you were a cadet?
I did so much during my time as a cadet that I find it really difficult to choose one event in particular. I always loved ‘green’ activities, and 1414 is incredibly lucky to have the facilities it has on the camp and in the wider Ashdown Forest. I had some great experiences on deployed exercises over the years.
For sheer excitement, though, nothing could top the Parachute Course I took as a 17 year old Cadet Flight Sergeant in 2002. It was a three-day course in Oxfordshire with the Joint Services Parachute Training Team, ending in a solo 3,500 feet static-line parachute jump from a light aircraft. It’s hard to describe the mixed emotions of anticipation, delight and sheer terror which result from deliberately jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft.
There have been a lot of changes over the last few years, can you tell us a bit about how things ran in your day?
From what I understand of how the Corps operates now, there used to be far more emphasis on classroom-based learning than there is now. My impression at the time was that the Corps was pushing everyone to go through as much classification training as possible; and back then that meant being taught out of a manual, in front of a blackboard – not much incentive to attend for those who had spent a whole day at school already! I spent a long time as the Squadron Training Officer and getting the right balance of classroom and practical activities, was a frequent problem.
There also seems to be a far greater range of activities available to cadets now; I’m often amazed at what I see cadets getting up to on Facebook!
You were promoted to CWO and then joined the staff team for a while, what made you decide to become a member of staff at the squadron?
I was incredibly proud of that promotion to Cadet Warrant Officer; I was the first one the Squadron had had in a long time. In those days being a CWO meant that you could stay until age 22 and I did; 1414 was by that point such a big part of me that I wouldn’t have considered doing anything else.
After I reached 22 it was a natural progression for me to return as a member of staff. I spent a short time as a CI before being granted a commission as a Pilot Officer; something else I was very proud of.
Shortly after gaining my commission, however, I joined the Police and soon found that my shifts weren’t compatible with being able to commit to the Squadron. With great reluctance I had to give up the Squadron to concentrate on my profession, but I have always had it in mind to return some day when I have more time on my hands.
Can you give one piece of advice to a twelve or thirteen year old who is considering joining the squadron now?
There is something that was constantly repeated when I was in the Squadron – it was said to me many times, and I must have said it myself to every group of new cadets I saw. It was, “you get out of the Corps, what you put in”. I know that will still be true today.
The advice I would give is to throw yourself into every aspect of Squadron life, take every opportunity that’s offered and volunteer for everything you can. You won’t regret it.