Parkstone Detachment Commander, Ross Wheeler-Clayton (22) yesterday (4/2/19) attended the prestigious Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award presentation at St James Palace, London where he had the honour to meet HRH Prince Edward.
Ross and his fellow awardees were described by guest presenter and TV personality Matt Allwright, as “Having the tenacity of a limpet.” stating that they’d all “held on tight even when the situation felt tough and going against them”,
Ross’s journey began with the Bronze Award whilst part of the Combined Cadet Force but he then moved directly on to the Gold Award as that year he had chosen to do the 35 mile Dartmoor Ten Tors Challenge.
He started out in 2012 with the plan of finishing shortly after his 18 months volunteering as a direct entrant to the Gold Award but as plans go, exams came, commitments changed, and members of his group got jobs and moved to different areas of the country it became increasingly difficult to progress.
With only his expedition to complete and after a couple of years of attempts, he transferred to the ACF in 2017 and very shortly in April 2018 travelled to Devon for an expedition on Dartmoor, not knowing a single person attending.
Little did he know that these strangers from all areas of the world would bond so quickly and support each other with the strength to carry on through the official wettest area in England, 3 out of the 4 days on expedition.
For the Award presentation Ross travelled to London with his mother, Della, as his guest. She said “I knew I would one day get to the palace” and “was extremely proud of everything Ross had achieved whilst completing his DofE Award”.
It was whilst standing in the queue, at St James Palace Ross recognised familiar faces from his expedition team which was great as they were all once strangers on the boggy wasteland of Dartmoor and here they were, united together again for this momentous occasion.
Throughout the ceremony, several speakers expressed how prestigious the Gold Award was and TV presenter, Matt Allwright also referred it as the ‘Super hero training” because “by the end, you have done so much, you can tackle anything with the strength to persevere.”
Speaking of meeting royalty Ross said: “I was honoured to meet Prince Edward who took a genuine interest in what we had done, he was really down to earth and witty. He himself has completed the DofE so it was great to share our experiences.”
Ross stated; “When my name was called, I felt that I had really made it. All of the time, effort and commitment I had put in, had all paid off for this unbelievable moment in the home of Royalty. From this Award, I have grown massively as a character through volunteering at Mencap Children Centre, learning to drive for the skill, traditional boat building for the residential and meeting many new and interesting people along the way.” He added; “I highly recommend the DofE Award as it is truly life changing, character building and if you have the tenacity of the limpet through the struggle, you will have the ability achieve greater things.”
Ross himself has since qualified as a DofE Leader and can now assess his Cadets on expeditions up to Silver Award Level – giving him the opportunity to “give back some of the opportunities” he received whilst undertaking his own award.