Lest we forget

Meet a unit in Merseyside that plays a big role in its community by taking part in local Remembrance Day events

November is a time to honour the sacrifices of members of our armed forces, through Remembrance parades and personal reflection. One unit in Merseyside plays a big role in its local event – raising money, playing in the band and supporting their community.

Every day for two weeks in November, sea cadets from Southport Unit head out in wind, rain or sun, with collection boxes and paper poppies. The unit has consistently won fundraising awards from the Royal British Legion (RBL), raising between £6,000 and £8,000 for the past 13 years.

A cadets band marches through town
Marching through the town and performing with the band are just some of the ways cadets take part in Remembrance

When Remembrance Sunday arrives, the unit and its band march in uniform to Southport War Memorial. Throughout the year they visit a local home for veterans, and sites including the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Remembrance is an essential part of the unit’s activities, benefiting both the cadets and their community.

First Lieutenant Tim Petford has driven the unit’s fundraising for more than a decade. Tim spent nine years in the British Army; now aged 80, as the local RBL Poppy Appeal coordinator he distributes 500 collection boxes around Southport. “It’s my passion to raise money for ex-service people,” he says. “That and Sea Cadets are the two things I love. It makes me feel so proud, and the cadets are so proud for doing it. They’re helping people who are suffering and need the money. I love working with the cadets to do it.”

A sense of pride  

Tim is supported by Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander (SCC) Steve Boyes RNR, who hasn’t missed a Remembrance parade since joining Southport as a 10-year-old cadet.

“We take quite seriously what Remembrance is about,” Steve says. “It’s important that young people understand what has happened and the impact it is still having on families. People from the community see cadets out in the town centre, wearing their poppies and laying the wreaths. They’re showing their respect and taking part in the service with the veterans and townspeople, including the mayor, our local MP, Lord Lieutenant and others. 

Cadets selling poppies
Cadets sell poppies at a local supermarket

When out fundraising, younger cadets team up with more senior cadets, like 16-year-old Able Cadet Elizabeth. “It’s always nice to see the juniors involved and a lot of people supporting the Royal British Legion by buying poppies,” Elizabeth says.“We get a lot of members of the public who talk to us about their stories. I think they’re impressed by what we’re doing, because we’re raising money and we’re not expecting anything in return.”

Cadets selling poppies
Selling poppies to raise money for veterans

Further afield  

Elizabeth and Able Cadet Jack, also 16, were part of an intergenerational group of cadets and veterans who visited the National Memorial Arboretum in August. This is the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance, and has almost 400 memorials. 

The cadets were shown around the arboretum by Charlie Bagot-Jewitt, Sea Cadets Area Officer for North West and former Chief Executive of the National Memorial Arboretum. 

They visited a memorial commemorating WWI soldiers who were shot for desertion, and the Armed Forces Memorial for anyone killed on duty since 1945, with space for 31,000 names. Elizabeth found the day emotional but “well worth the trip. You realise how much has gone on that you don’t know about”.

Charlie says: “It’s massively important that Remembrance isn’t sugar-coated. It’s important that we pass on the tradition: the knowledge of Remembrance, the knowledge of what happened in the wars of the 20th century that we don’t want repeated, and that we are an island – we have a Royal Navy, and sea cadets are a core part of Royal Navy tradition.”

Role models  

At the arboretum, Jack saw a Falklands War memorial commemorating HMS Glamorgan, which his grandad was on board when a missile struck it. Inspired by his family, Jack has wanted to join the Royal Navy since he was 12. 

“I just think I would really enjoy it. I decided I’ll go to college and join the navy at 18 and go into communications.” He says Sea Cadets has taught him commitment, and how to keep his uniform neat. That self-discipline, pride and self-confidence will be skills for life.

“I feel very proud, being in the parade – family can come and watch you, and you’re always looking smart”

Able Cadet Jack

The pandemic disrupted Remembrance parades and fundraising in 2020, as well as trips to Normandy’s war graves, which Southport takes with South Liverpool Unit. This year has largely been back to normal: Jack and Elizabeth attended weekly band practices to prepare for the parade, and fundraised safely with masks and social distancing.

“I feel very proud, being in the parade – family can come and watch you, and you’re always looking smart,” Jack says. His grandad never misses the parade: “It makes him proud when he sees me working hard and showing how much we respect the people who fought for us.” It’s a rewarding experience for volunteers, too. “I feel proud that we are able to make cadets better people by giving them an understanding of the world,” Steve says. “To see them become more respectful, decent young people through the experiences we’re giving them.”

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