How Emmalee became Duke's 'favourite cadet'!

Dessie Blackadder


Dessie Blackadder

AFTER the sad passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Ballymena girl and ex Army Cadet Emmalee Wray, recalls the honour of being selected as the Queen’s Cadet - and became Prince Philip’s favourite cadet!

Emmalee Wray, formerly a cadet with Ballymena Detachment of the Army Cadet Force (ACF), where she gained many qualifications and experiences, one of which was the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and this paved the way to her encounter with Prince Philip.

Emma tells her story and explains why: “After achieving my Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards (DofE) within the Cadets, I couldn’t wait to start to work towards my Gold. I chose netball as my sport and singing as my skill – two activities which I really enjoyed and will keep up.

“The residential section of my DofE was run at Ballykinlerin County Down, but it involved Cadets from right across the UK. Together we took part in all sorts of outdoor activities and we earned leadership qualifications.

“As a bonus, when I completed that residential training, I discovered that I had been selected to represent the Army Cadet Force UK as the Queen’s Cadet at her 90th birthday beacon lighting at Windsor Castle. I would be walking by the Queen's side representing Northern Ireland at the official birthday party in Windsor Castle!”


The Queen’s 90th birthday was marked on 21st April 2016 with a nationwide chain of beacons when Her Majesty lit the first beacon at Windsor Castle Great Park accompanied by members of the Royal Family including the Duke of Edinburgh. The event was heavily televised and with lots of media coverage.

“On that day the Duke was speaking to myself and another RAF cadet. He asked us both if we had done the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme?

“I replied that I had, it was one of the reasons I was here whilst the other cadet truthfully said he had not. The Duke of Edinburgh responded by saying I was now his favourite cadet!

“It was one of the best experiences of my life and meeting HM the Queen and HRH Duke of Edinburgh issomething I will never forget and would never have achieved if it were not for the Army Cadet Force.

“As a Cadet I gained many qualifications and had many great experiences - which included a six week Canadian exchange. This all proved incredibly useful when I was compiling my personal statement when applying to universities.”

Emmalee was presented her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award at St James Palace, London.

Congratulating her at the time the Colonel Adrian Donaldson, Commandant of 1st (NI) Battalion Army Cadet Force, said:

“Emmalee put a huge amount into the ACF and it was a pleasure to have such a great asset in the Detachment. Her good humour, determined attitude and enthusiasm combined to make her a fantastic Cadet”.

The ex Ballymena Academy pupil went on to be accepted at Newcastle University, joined the University Officer Training Corps, graduated, and is currently finishing her Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

She now plans to progress in her Army Career she has recently passed her Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) and will be attending The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in September for her Commissioning Course.

1st (NI) Battalion ACF would like wish her every success.

The ACF are Duke of Edinburgh Award providers for this excellent, nationally recognised award and you would like to take up the challenge along with everything else that organisation has to offer aged between 12 and 17 or would like to join as an adult instructor, visit

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