I’ve mentioned it hundreds, maybe thousands, of times… but for those not in the know I am a Sea Cadet volunteer instructor.
I first started my Sea Cadet Corps (SCC) journey at the age of 14, when I was begrudgingly bundled on to a bus in Yeovil, headed to RNAS Yeovilton. I threw a hissy fit and didn’t want to go.
At the end of that first parade night? I’d made friends, been roped in to heading for the area football competition at HMS Raleigh in Plymouth and after that? I never looked back…
I learned to sail, fly a plane, took part in national parades & navigated by land, sea and air. I got to meet HM Queen Elizabeth and be inspected by her on four occasions, met (and was told off by) Prince Andrew and had my D of E award given to me by Prince Edward. I still love this, I’ll be one of those people telling these stories in a retirement home one day…
A Brief History of the Sea Cadet Corps
The Sea Cadets dates back to the Crimean War. Sailors returning home from the campaign formed ‘Naval Lads’ Brigades’ to help orphans created by the conflict. The Sea Cadets received Royal recognition in 1899 when Queen Victoria presented Windsor unit with £10 for uniforms. This is now celebrated as the birthday of the Sea Cadets and is held on June 25th each year!
In 1919 the Admiralty officially recognised the ‘Naval Lad’s Brigades’ and changed the name to ‘Navy League Sea Cadet Corps’
By the start of the Second World War there were 100 units in the UK and around 10,000 cadets, all trained as seafarers. During the war, the Navy League purchased an old sailing vessel – Training Ship (TS) Bounty on which many of the cadets took pre-service training for the Royal Navy. Due to the contribution made to the war effort, officers in the Sea Cadets still wear the lace insignia of the wartime Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves.
In 1942, the Admiralty had taken over the training and it was renamed to the Sea Cadet Corps.
Today, there are over 19,500 cadets and adult volunteers making up the SCC in over 400 units around the UK and abroad.
And with no further ado, here are some of my favourite moments of my Sea Cadet career, the skills you can learn and just a fraction of the options available to those of you between the ages of 10 and 18!
1. You can fly a plane!
I was fortunate in that my cadet unit – TS Mantle VC – was on the base at RNAS Yeovilton, and so we were the guinea pigs, as it were, for a Sea Cadet aviation course back in 2007. We had to navigate, route plan, conduct weather briefings and finally we were allowed in to the air to fly.
This is now a national Sea Cadet course.
Who doesn’t want to pretend they’re Maverick in Top Gun, let’s be honest…?
2. Play an instrument?
A lot of Sea Cadet units have bands. My unit didn’t, but there were a few of us who all (very oddly) played the flute, and so we headed off as part of the South West Area band and joined the National Massed Band. If you don’t play an instrument and your unit has a band, you can usually still get involved, learning to play the bugle, drums or bell-lyre!
I played at Navy Days, at the 2005 International Festival of the Sea, the Trafalgar 200 celebrations (as part of this we were all stationed on various Royal Navy ships for the International Fleet Review), national Trafalgar parades, the launch of the Cadet Vocational Qualifications at Rockingham and area events around the country.
I also made some of the best friends I could have asked for as part of the band, and we’re still in touch now!
3. You’ll become a pro at polishing & ironing
Ok, perhaps not the most exciting of reasons to join, but my parents loved me. This is more of a reason for parents to send their children to cadets than anything else!
I had to iron my uniform for every parade night, polish my shoes until they were super shiny and it taught me a lot of discipline. You learn to take pride in your uniform and appearance a lot more!
When I went to university I was shocked how many of my friends had never used an iron in their life, so I felt as though I was ‘adulting’ well. Plus, you have to admit, you do look super smart on parades!
Of which there are many…
4. You’ll become an expert in International Relations
Not only did we get to meet cadets from all over the world and have the opportunities to apply for exchanges with units in other countries, we also got to chat to people from navies around the globe.
This was at Plymouth Navy Days, when a Russian sailor wanted his photo with us.
I think he thought we were actually in the Royal Navy, but we were never ones for turning down a photo opportunity!
5. You will make long lasting friendships
As I said above, you make some of the best friends.
Whether at your own unit, units in the district and area or on courses, you will become a team that works together. If you’re lucky, you will stay friends when you leave.
Some of my best friends remain so even 13 years after joining!
6. You will have skills for life
There are so many options available to you as part of the Sea Cadets. You could learn to cook, sail, kayak, navigate, lead an expedition, pick up marine engineering and meteorology qualifications or even fly a plane.
You can windsurf, scuba dive, learn first aid, march and teach it, undertake your Duke of Edinburgh Award, rock climb, shoot a rifle… The opportunities really are endless!
There is also the option of taking BTEC courses through the Sea Cadets. What’s not to love?
The Sea Cadets have a number of offshore training vessels, made up of both motor and sail, including the famous SCC tall ship, TS Royalist!
You’ll be surprised how useful all of these courses and skills really are in life post-cadets as well! The amount of times I’ve had to tie a bowline, or a figure of 8, or even a clove hitch is ridiculous.
Thank you First Class Seamanship!
If you’re feeling really fancy after taking your seamanship course, you could even build your own mast out of twigs and paracord, in order to conduct colours, evening colours & sunset on a camp site…
… No? Just us? Ok.
7. Leadership and Teaching
As you progress through the Sea Cadets, you are given the opportunity to lesson plan, teach a class and even go on cadet instructor courses. This builds your confidence to no end, and whilst nerve-wracking at first, it is a wonderful opportunity, and it helps with school/college and university too, as those nerves when giving a presentation will be gone.
You’re given the opportunities to develop your leadership and teamwork as part of the Sea Cadets to no end, and it’s one of the most beneficial skills you will ever take away!
8. An opportunity to see how the Royal Navy operates
The Sea Cadets is not the Royal Navy, nor is it a forced stepping stone. However, there is a reason so many Sea Cadets go on to join the Royal Navy, and it’s because you get an opportunity to see how it operates first hand.
You will go on courses held at RN establishments, full of serving personnel, who are usually more than happy to chat to you and give you advice if you want it! You will get to visit Royal Naval ships, and there was even a summer camp to Britannia Royal Naval College, in Dartmouth.
I think this is still an annual camp, and I was fortunate enough to be selected to go on this twice. We were led by Young Officers in training, had tours, got out on the water and conducted some of the same classes, including a Bridge simulation trainer and exercise too.
9. The Marine Cadets
Some units even have Marine Cadet detachments (open to males and females over 13). Whilst I was not a Marine cadet or instructor, we did get to go out some evenings with them when they were taking fieldcraft classes.
This photo of my appalling camouflage paint is probably why I stuck to the Sea Cadet side!
Not very well done at all!
10. It’s fun. Amazing, incredible fun!
I don’t know one person I met in my time as a Sea Cadet who regretted joining and didn’t have a wonderful experience. It’s fun, you gain a crazy amount of confidence, both from the courses you go on, being away from home on these courses and at competitions but also from learning new skills.
There are so many great opportunities available and you really do make friends for life!
I mean it must be fun, I was a cadet from 2004-2008, staff from 2008-2010 and have recently rejoined as an instructor again!
I Want to Join!
Joining is so easy, call your local unit – find it here – and go for a look around on a parade night. You can meet the cadets and staff, have a chat about it and get all of the information. Then print off the joining form on the SCC website and go along with it in hand!
You won’t regret it! 🙂