I’VE always been a firm supporter of the Sea Cadet movement. The cadets, with their historic close links to the Royal Navy, offer a disciplined, well-structured environment in which youngsters can learn an array of interesting and useful skills whilst having a great deal of fun.
So I was delighted to receive an invitation from the folks at Training Ship (TS) Black Swan – the Sunbury and Walton branch of the sea cadets – to attend their annual prize giving on Friday evening.
The guest of honour was the new Mayor of Elmbridge, Councillor Barry Cheyne, who was picked up from the Walton shore in an ex-police boat called ‘Fuzz’ – kindly loaned for the occasion by Jenny Beagle of Bridge Marine in Shepperton – and was ceremoniously piped ashore at Black Swan which nestles on the riverbank just next to Shepperton Marina.
Black Swan is a thriving group with a total of 45 cadets of both sexes, aged between 10 and 18. But the youngsters couldn’t operate without the hard work and voluntary time of a dedicated band of about 16 adult helpers who run the show.
The unit’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Phil Hunter, served in the Navy himself, both in surface ships and on Polaris submarines, and he brings all the excellent traditions of the RN with him. I wondered what the best part about running the cadets was for him,
“No doubt about it,” he said. “I get a real buzz when parents come up to me and thank me for helping to give their youngsters some direction. It’s fantastic watching these young people come of age, learning respect, self-discipline and belief in themselves – that’s what we can offer.”
I watched as the parade of smartly turned-out cadets went through the colours ceremony – raising the ensign – with everyone playing their part well and obviously enjoying it.
And at the prize giving which followed, it was a real treat to watch cadets taking turns to march smartly to the front of the headquarters hut to receive a host of awards.
Black Swan offers cadets the chance to take all three levels of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, to learn sailing, rowing, canoeing, meteorology, cooking, communications, rope work and a whole lot more.
Gail Cramp, who heads up the organising committee for the unit, pointed out that two of the cadets are this year going on sailing exchange trips – one to Russia and the other to Bermuda. How good is that?
If you’d like to know more about the Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets, contact Phil Hunter on 01932 223964.