More than 30 years of being an Army cadet colonel has seen Stanley man, Mike Cheetham, awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for his services to the community. “You don’t expect this sort of thing,” he said. “When it came I was surprised and considerably humbled to be recognised in that way.”
Born in Belfast, Mike, 77, was a commissioned officer with the Territorial Army for 32 years - starting as a officer cadet and going on to become a colonel.
Mike grew up in Milford, Belper, where his father was a master dyer. He joined the Belper and District Scouts and then, in the 1960s, became involved with the Duke of Edinburgh awards. It was this that led him to being commissioned as a cadet officer.
It was at a seminar in Derby, when he was with the Scouts, that he was asked to become involved with the cadets. He met Major Jack Cotterill who persuaded him to meet with him again, which he did and found himself joining the army cadet force.
With encouragement from friend Peter Hilton he moved up the ranks, as a training officer and second in command of cadets in Buxton, Haversage, New Mills and Clowne.
Mike even had a cadet centre named after him, the Cheetham Cadet Centre in Glossop.
“I took the army cadets up over the hill from Buxton to Glossop’, he said, ‘One of the girls became an international rifle shooter. She was very good. Many of the girls were as a good as the boys.”
All of this was while Mike was doing his day job as an admin officer for the county libraries at Nottingham. He started off doing two nights a week with the cadets, which then became four, then weekends.
Mike saw hundreds of youngsters rise through the ranks during his years with the cadets.
He said: “I saw some wonderful youngsters come through the ranks. Some excellent cadets turned up. It’s amazing what can be achieved. Youngsters would respond well to encouragement.”
During his years overseeing the cadets he did many interesting activities including taking the young cadets to Scotland to learn to ski.
Though he retired 12 years ago he kept himself busy and worked for a time at Shelter bookshop in Derby.
He is currently the branch secretary for the Derbyshire branch of armed forces charity SSAFA.
He said: “During a display at Kingsway Drill Hall, a man called Ray Smith said to me “I hear you are pretty hotshot at raising money, would you come and raise money for SSAFA? So I went along and four weeks later I was asked to be branch secretary and I said ‘yes’. That was 11 years ago.”
Mike and his wife Barbara, who he met at the former Palace Cinema in Belper, moved to Stanley from Derby in 1972. They have two daughters, one who is a teacher in Canada, and a grandson.
Mike said: “My family thinks it’s absolutely staggering that I’ve got an MBE. My wife is amazed and think she deserves a medal for putting up with me. Our daughters are over the moon, in Canada as its not something they are aware of as much. My grandson was thrilled and he will end up with my medals.”
As well as the MBE Mike also has cadet force medals and jubilee medals.
He said: “I’ve always been interested in military history. I have been a member of the Army Society for Historical Research for 40 years, as well as the 1745 Association.”
n Shirley Dooley, from Ilkeston, was also awarded an MBE for her work with the immigration service.
The New Year Honours lists 2016 recognise the achievements of a wide range of extraordinary people across the UK. In total 1,196 people have received an award.