July 22nd 2019

Like father like daughter: finding friendship and family in the ACF

Maria being presented with her commission

Maria being presented with her commission

A woman from Northampton has explained how she followed in her father’s footsteps by joining the Army Cadet Force (ACF) and how it has become like a second family for her over the last 25 years.

Major Maria Walding, aged 39, has been involved with the ACF since she was born, reached the highest achievements as a Cadet, and then went on to inspire Cadets as an Adult Volunteer for 20 years.

Maria at a an event as a Cadet

Maria at an event as a Cadet

Maria explained: “When I was born in 1979, my father was in the ACF, so you could say I was born into the organisation. I grew up around the ACF and eventually joined as a Cadet when I was old enough.”

As a Cadet, Maria pursued every opportunity available to her, but found the people she met is what kept her coming back week after week.

She said: “I was in the Corps of Drums and have many fond memories of parades and performances over the years. I progressed to Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major, achieving Master Cadet and a Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award along the way.

“The ACF has been a huge part of my life where I have made lifelong friends, some of who are as close as family.”

In 1999, after aging out, Maria decided to support the organisation that had given her so much by becoming an Adult Volunteer just like her Dad.

Maria 2

Maria after a fieldcraft exercise

She stated: “He retired from the ACF shortly after I became an Adult Volunteer but I followed in his footsteps in many ways, taking on nearly all the jobs that he had done during his time.”

Maria was a very busy Adult Volunteer and was involved in almost every aspect of Cadets. She has been a Detachment Commander, Duke of Edinburgh Officer, Area Training Sergeant Major, Company Sergeant Major and a Company Commander.

Since hanging up her pace stick and getting Commissioned in 2012, Maria has held even more senior roles in the ACF, including taking on command of the Corps of Drums.

Maria graduating from her City and Guilds Licenciateship

Maria graduating from her City and Guilds Licenciateship

She explained: “My greatest achievement was to have over 50 musicians, both Cadets and Adult Volunteers, on parade at Annual Camp and to have representatives from all six areas within the county. Since then, the Corps of Drums across the county has flourished and continues to parade over 50 musicians.”

The revitalisation of the Corps of Drums is far from Maria’s only achievement she said: “I have gained lots of important qualifications, I can assess and supervise Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, I have become a canoeing instructor and I’ve learnt to ski but one massive achievement for me was completing the City & Guilds Licentiateship, this was a massive deal for someone who left school with only GCSEs.”

Maria has now been in the ACF for more than 20 years, she has earned her Cadet Force Medal and this wouldn’t have been possible if the ACF didn’t open membership up to women just as Maria was born in 1979.

Maria on the ski trip

Maria on the ski trip

Maria concluded: “The ACF has been a part of my life for a majority of the 40 years I have been alive. The ACF has shaped most of my life and has been the reason I have achieved so much at work and at home.

“If women were not allowed to join the ACF the year I was born I would not have gained the qualifications I have, I would not have met my partner and I would not have two gorgeous goddaughters, who belong to very close friends I have met in the ACF. I have a lot to owe the ACF and am grateful for the opportunities it has given me.”

To find out more about joining the Army Cadets as an Adult Volunteer or Cadet visit

“The ACF has been a huge part of my life where I have made lifelong friends some of who are as close as family.”