God’s Cadets: Joining the Salvation Army, BBC 4 9pm, directed and produced by Nick Poytnz.

I’ve an admission to make I was once a member of the Sally Army. I wasn’t a cadet more a lowly conscript. A Sherrif’s Office told me to join them or go to that other blasted place. So I’m not neutral about this, I was saved and the meals we served were very cheap and nutritious too. So in a way I’m family. William Booth, the Methodist minister, started it all off in 1865 and quickly recruited his wife and eighteen children into his ready made army. I’m of a different  generation and am thinking Blue Peter and this is one I made earlier.  Part of the problem for the Salvation Army’s south London cadet’s training college is this incestuous relationship still holds true. Salvation Army recruits largely come from within those whose parents where army members. Numbers are down. They used to attract 300 potential recruits a year, now its 29. Training takes two years. They get an allowance of £681.91 a month and free accommodation, which in London is worth about (my wild guess) £250 million and rising. As you’d expect they are all very nice people and would be the kind of neighbour you’d hope for that doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs. Sex is optional, but only with a fellow member. Oh, well, there used to be some kind of rule like that. Catholics used to have some kind of rule like that too, but we had the get out clause of purgotory, which has now been abolished, to make way for the super-highway straight to heaven. We also had Dante and his gradations of different kinds of hells. There was the usual gripes about the Salvation Army uniform.  It’s virtually unchanged since Booth’s time. Catholic priests, of course, claim a longer heritage and wear a dress because Jesus did. Neither group to my satisfaction were able to answer the question of what colour  are Jesus’ eyes? This may seem flippant, but in the salvation game there are winners and losers. In the classroom they do a bit of arithmetic. If there are seven billion on the planet and seven billion that have lived before this and  sixteen of those were Salvationists how many get into heaven and how many are going to hell? Darren a first year cadet was faced with that dilemma. His granny died. Darren is an outsider. He is one of the few that were called from outside the flock to be a Salvationist. Dorothy and his kids left behind what he describes as a comfortable life to pursue his dream. There’s no going back. Granny’s likely to be in hell and him and his kids are going to heaven. It’s a cold business. A major in the army, who seemed a lovely and sincere woman, described her sister’s death and how she’d rejected her Salvationish heritage and had died outside the faith, which is literally hell. The numbers game to me never adds up. But by all other measures those with such beliefs live and remain healthier longer and are more likely to be happy.  


I watched this programme as a friend of a friend was brought up a salvationtist and is still a Christian. Well your are full of suprises CM and well done for 'confessing' to this bit of your past.

I think Salvationists do some good work and have the courage of their convictions. And I like the music cos I like pretty much any kind of music. The uniform and the army vibe would put me off but that's personal taste, they seem pretty non-violent for an army.

I attended Quaker meetings for over 20 years because I drifted into it and they are sort of 'into peace'. But the Quakers I know tend to be very conservative in their lifestyles and they were sort of conservative when they started. The Ranters were more wild and lively.

Faith is interesting and I think it is better have some sort of faith than none. I am a sort of 'pick and mix' faith person I go for the fun bits of this and that!        Elsie

HI Celticman

Again searching for something of yours to comment on, I came upon this. I know nothing about the Salvation Army - other than that they do good things and play music. So what you wrote was both interesting and informative. I certainly didn't realise that they were paid and given accommodation. And the idea that you have to keep within the faith or else - that sounds a lot like the Mormons. As a Catholic who married someone from outside the faith and whose children are not included in the fold - I knew where you were coming from on that. But lots of us are more freethinking these days, and less guilt involved.


I enjoyed the read.

Jean Day

I don't know much about the sally army either, but they are an interesting bunch. Faith is a funny thing. It's an either you're for us or against us. If you're against us then you can go to hell-- literally!