As part of Armed Forces Week 2021 and in keeping with her theme for the year of youth and young people, the Chairman of Kent County Council, Mrs Ann Allen, paid a visit to the Dartford and Crayford Sea Cadets.
The Sea Cadet Unit was founded in the Second World War and has since provided thousands of cadets with training. The unit has its foundation in the customs and traditions of the Royal Navy and there are currently more than 30 cadets, meeting twice a week alongside Brooklands Lake in Dartford. The cadets are also seen regularly at local community events such as Remembrance Day and Armed Forces Day.
The cadets undertake life skills training including first aid, catering, marine engineering, communications and seamanship. They also enjoy water-borne activities such as sailing, rowing, windsurfing, canoeing and paddle boarding. This is alongside the usual activities of camping, orienteering, archery and shooting.
Cadets are able to attend residential courses, visit Royal Navy ships and take offshore voyages on board the Sea Cadets’ fleet of sailing and power vessels, such as the square-rigged flagship TS Royalist.
During her visit, the Chairman met with Petty Officer Kai Sargeson and had the opportunity to see the cadets on parade. The Chairman spoke with a number of cadets about what they have been doing and what the Sea Cadets means to them.
Cadet First Class Millie said: “I joined Sea Cadets as a quiet shy 12-year-old, not knowing anyone at the unit. Sea Cadets has allowed me to grow in confidence over the last three years, becoming a First-Class Cadet in the last six months.
“Sea Cadets has allowed me to meet a variety of friends from other schools and walks of life. It makes me feel I am part of something special. A feeling of belonging. There are, of course, lessons to be learnt but the staff lead by example.
“Since joining Sea Cadets, I have undertaken courses including catering, navigation and first aid. Even during the recent lockdowns there have been online courses to keep us entertained. Some of the courses I have undertaken have been at my own unit, but some have been further afield allowing me visit other areas such as HMS Cavalier at Chatham Historic Dockyard. I have especially enjoyed the first aid course and feel this might be an area I want to work in when I am older.
“Much of the work involves and impacts on the wider community. I have experienced this when selling poppies at local firework displays. The public often ask about the things we do at sea cadets. I have also helped raise the profile of Sea Cadets by helping at the local summer fair, manning the stall, and talking to those who are keen to find out more about our organisation.
“I was very lucky to participate in the Remembrance Day parade and laid a wreath. The pride and excitement and a little nerves I felt at this will be a lifelong memory. I was also able to represent our unit at Trafalgar Day parade showcasing what sea cadets can offer.”
Leading Cadet James said: “I joined Dartford & Crayford Sea Cadets six years ago when I was just 10. Even at that young age I was very interested in naval history, and I was pretty sure that I wanted to make a career in the Royal Navy.
“As a junior at the unit, I received a uniform, but I could not wait until I would be old enough to wear the ceremonial ‘No 1’ uniform, but for this I had to wait until I was 12.
“In the meantime, as a junior, I started to learn how to parade and was given the opportunity to attend lots of courses, including Junior Summer Camp, where I travelled by coach to Doncaster with a few other cadets. We spent a week sleeping in barracks and we did lots of activities, including fencing and archery.
“When I reached 12, I was promoted to cadet. This meant that I was entitled to wear the formal uniform of the sea cadets and allowed to attend many more courses.
“The sea cadets have a fleet of ships, which pre-Covid, undertook voyages around the UK and to the North coast of Europe. I was lucky enough to twice go onboard The John Jerwood for a week. I had a great time there and enjoyed the opportunities to get involved with the activities onboard, even getting to helm the ship into port!
“I have been to many other interesting places: Scotland to complete a meteorological course and at Plymouth I spent a week at the Royal Navy training centre at HMS Raleigh.”
After her tour, Mrs Allen said: “I was delighted to visit the Sea Cadets, learn more about what they do, and the opportunities it affords the young people in the area. The range of activities they undertake and the opportunities they have, especially in supporting their local communities, allow the young people attending this cadet group to learn and develop valuable life skills that are transferrable in later life.”