Sea Cadets — Field lane
History of the Sea Cadets/Girls Nautical Training Corps

The Sea Cadet Corps has one of the longest histories of any youth organisation in the country, but like every British institution it has evolved haphazardly. A few of the landmarks in its long development are summarised in the text below.

1856. Sailors returning from the Crimean War started up 'Naval Lads Brigades' in Whitstable and other ports. By the turn of the century there were 'Brigs' and 'Brigantines' in several towns.

1910. The Navy League, a pressure group formed in 1895 with the aim of influencing maritime thinking in Parliament and reminding the country of its naval history and dependence on the sea, decided also to sponsor a small number of these independent Units as the Navy League Boys' Naval Brigade. This slowly expanded with the addition of other formations such as Sea Scout Groups.

1914. The Navy League applied to the Admiralty for recognition of its 34 Naval Brigades. This was granted in 1919 subject to an annual efficiency inspection by an Officer on the staff of the Admiral Commanding Reserves and the title Navy League Sea Cadet Corps was adopted. There were 5 other Sea Cadet Corps, all much smaller.

1937. Lord Nuffield gave £50,000 to fund the expansion of the Corps.

1939. At the start of the war, there were nearly 100 Units with some 10,000 Cadets.

1942. The Navy League's 1941 scheme for training Sea Cadets in T.S. (Training Ship) Bounty for service in the wartime Navy caught the Admiralty's imagination. The Admiral Commanding Reserves took over the training role from January 1942, HM King George VI became Admiral of the Corps, Officers were granted appointments in the RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) and the Corps was renamed The Sea Cadet Corps. A huge expansion to 400 Units and 50,000 cadets coincided in many towns with 'Warship Weeks' so that the newly formed Unit took the same name as the adopted warship. The Admiralty now paid for uniforms, equipment, travel and training, while the Navy League funded sport and Unit Headquarters. Thousands of 'Bounty Boys' progressed into the Navy as communications ratings, many returning to their Units after the war ended. In the same year the Girls' Naval Training Corns was formed as part of the National Association of Girls' Corps, with units mainly in Southern England.

1943. All Units were given Unit numbers in Alphabetical order from No.1 "Aberdare" to No.357 "York". Thereafter Units were numbered in sequence as they were affiliated to the Navy League, reading 399 by the end of the war.

1947. The Admiralty offered to take over the Sea Cadet Corps entirely. The Navy League disagreed but suggested that it continue its co-sponsorship of the Sea Cadet Corps as during the war. The conditions were now embodied in an agreement with the Navy League, known as the Sea Cadet Charter. Among other items it undertook to support a maximum of 22,000 Cadets, to supply uniforms, boats, training facilities, travel expenses and limited pay to adult staff who retained their appointments in the RNVR (and in the later reorganisation of the RNR). The Sea Cadet Council was set up to govern the Corps with membership from the Navy League and the Royal Navy, and a retired Captain took on the task of supervision, first as Secretary to the Council and later as Captain, Sea cadet Corps. From the same date the GNTC expanded throughout the Country. By the late 1950s there were more than 50 Units and the name was changed to the 'Girls' Nautical Training Corps'.

1955. The Commandant General, Royal Marines asked permission to form a Marine Cadet Section which could be fitted into an existing organisation and the Council agreed to this. By 1964 the section had expanded from the original 5 detachments to 40. By 1992, 75 Units had Marine Cadet Detachments whose training is similar to the Army Cadet Force.

1962. It was. proposed to amalgamate the 3 Girls' Corps into one National body, to be called the Girls' Venture Corps. The Girls' Nautical Training Corps, not wishing to lose its naval identity, asked the Navy League to take over its sponsorship and in 1963 it was affiliated to the Sea Cadet Corps, in many cases sharing the same premises with local Units.

1976. The Navy League was renamed the Sea Cadet Association since support of the Sea Cadets and Girls' Nautical Training Corps had now become its sole aims. At the end of the year the title of Admiral Commanding Reserves lapsed and his functions, including responsibility for the Sea Cadet Corps, were transferred to the Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command (CINCNAVHOME) in Portsmouth. The Charted was revised and replaced by a Memorandum of Agreement, which is reviewed every two years.

1980. On 31st March the Ministry of Defence Navy) approved the admission of girls into the Sea Cadet Corps within the overall ceiling of numbers. The Girls' Nautical Training Corps ceased to exist as a separate body and its Units were admitted to the Sea Cadet Corps to form Girls' Nautical Training Contingents in a number of Units. This number, originally set at 120, was raised to 150 in 1983 and then, in 1986, all limits to Contingent numbers were removed by the Admiralty Board and replaced by a limit of 35% of girls in the Corps overall. By late 1991 over 300 Units contained girls.

1992. The successful integration of the boy and girl cadets and their adult leaders over the previous 11 years led to the logical step of discontinuing the separate GNT Contingents from 1st January. Sea Cadets, male or female, now enjoyed identical training; adult Sea Cadet Staff, male and female, enjoyed the same opportunities, insignia, rank nomenclature and pay.

In its Golden Jubilee year under this title the Sea Cadet Corps numbered some 400 Units once more (including the Malta Unit) with a rising total membership of around 16,000. Sea Cadet Headquarters also retained a supervisory role over 3 Units in Bermuda and 1 in the Falkland Islands and maintained friendly links with Commonwealth Corps founded in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong and others in Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Germany and the USA.

1994. At a conference in Portsmouth an international sea cadet association was formed to encourage international exchanges, to foster the Sea Cadet ethos world-wide and to stimulate the formation of new Corps. Founder members were: UK, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Holland, Japan, South Africa, Sweden and the USA.

1995. The Sea Cadet Association was reconstituted as a company as well as a national charity.

Many Sea Cadet Units – known as Training Ships – are based in inner city areas where they continue to promote the origins of the movement, providing worthwhile activities for young people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to develop their life skills. Although more than 20 percent of new recruits embarking on careers in the Royal Navy are Sea Cadets, the movement is not primarily a pre-service organisation, but sets it sights on equipping young people with the essentials of self reliance, personal discipline and team work which will hold them in good stead whatever career they pursue.

Our core training is based on seamanship and traditional maritime skills, but Cadets can also study mechanical and electrical engineering, communications, cookery, computers band musician, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, and a host of associated subjects to prepare them for adult life. With the experience of the Sea Cadets under their belts, many ex-Cadets have risen to the very top of their professions.

The sea still plays an important part in our lives. Sea Cadets go to sea aboard Royal Navy ships, attend courses at Naval bases including helicopter flying at Naval Air Stations, and fly the flag for the Navy at national events, highlight of which is the annual Trafalgar Day Parade in London’s Trafalgar Square to commemorate Admiral Lord Nelson’s death at the battle of Trafalgar.

There are opportunities for foreign travel too. The Corps is a leading light in the International Sea Cadet Association, forging nautical links with nations around the world from South Africa and Australia to Bermuda, Canada and the United States of America.

Today, the Sea Cadets have come a long way from those early days in the seaport back streets when orphans of the war first donned the blue uniform. Now the Corps continues to offer unrivalled opportunities for young people aged between 10 and 18 years despite the competing attractions of the "youth leisure industry". Why do young people join the Sea Cadets? Because they want to do something worthwhile - Because they want to belong to the best youth movement around - Because they want to invest in their own community and make the most of what the new millennium may bring - Because they want to meet the challenge of the future with the motto:

Ready Aye Ready

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