It will soon be anchors aweigh for members of Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps #347 Avenger, who will be heading to Halifax, Nova Scotia this spring for a ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
There are currently 23 members in the Corps, which is based in Ashcroft and has participants from Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Spences Bridge, and Lillooet. Most of them will be making the trip to the east coast, says Civilian Instructor Kathleen Fitzgerald, after fundraising for the past two years.
“Not all of the cadets will be attending the event, but they’ve all been working towards it,” says Fitzgerald. “The parent committee incorporated a points system that will be used going forward, with cadets receiving points for attending fundraisers and community events and for their Thursday cadet corps meetings.
“Kids who live in other communities have done fundraising there if they can’t come here. They’ve shown real leadership skills.”
For many years it has been tradition for the members of 347 Avenger to commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic at the cenotaph in Ashcroft on the first Sunday in May, when events are held Canada-wide to pay tribute to the longest battle of World War II. The Battle of the Atlantic lasted 2,075 days and took the lives of thousands of members of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The cadets mark the event with prayers, readings, a minute of silence, a ring and respond that names all the craft lost during the battle, and the placing of candles. “The cadets remember the members of the navy and the merchant navy who fell,” explains Fitzgerald. “It honours their memory and teaches respect for what they did, apart from Remembrance Day.”
Thanks to the cadets’ efforts and the support from the community, local businesses, and service groups, the fundraising target has been met “and then some”, according to Fitzgerald. The trip will be full of activities, with the centrepiece being the Battle of the Atlantic ceremony.
The night before the cadets observe the event in Ashcroft they stay at the Ashcroft Legion and take it in turns to stand vigil at the cenotaph overnight. The members of 347 Avenger will be taking part in a similar vigil the night before the ceremony in Halifax.
During their stay they will have familiarization tours of other branches of the Armed Forces, naval operations, and more, to see what other kinds of careers are available. There will probably be a tour of one of the navy ships in the port, meals at the mess, and the opportunity to interact with some of the navy personnel there.
“It’s going to be a quick trip, specifically to go to the ceremony,” says Fitzgerald. “We’ll have some fun things planned, but we’re going there with a purpose.”
In 2012, several members of 347 Avenger went to Halifax for the Battle of the Atlantic ceremony, and Petty Officer 1st Class Gabriele Johannsson described the experience as “something the cadets will never forget.” While they were there, Ashcroft’s own Major Rob Truscott took the cadets on a tour of a Sea King helicopter.
A much larger group of cadets is going in 2020, and Fitzgerald says that the corps—which is in a rebuilding year after a number of seniors aged out—has a lot of young leaders starting to shine. She adds that “[Petty Officer First Class] Alison Spooner, who’s in Grade 12, has been an incredible leader for this young crew.” At the Ceremonial Review in June 2019, Spooner received the Lord Strathcona medal, the highest award available to a Sea Cadet.
“We’re in a good situation with strong numbers,” continues Fitzgerald. “The youth who are coming out are enthusiastic, and we’re hopeful about the continuation of the group.
“We have strong support from the Legion [Branch #113 Ashcroft], and we thank everyone for their support and contributions in getting us to our goal of letting our kids have this experience. Within the Sea Cadets they get to travel to camps, and to Vernon for sail trip weekends, but there are opportunities for bigger events.
“The nice thing about Sea Cadets is that it gives kids of all ages the opportunity to learn and grow, and experience things they might not get to do in their everyday lives.”