Opening our doors

There was cause for celebration and a special appearance at the official opening of our National Support Centre

HRH Princess Anne is greeted by cadets outside the National Support Centre

Our National Support Centre (NSC) at 200b Lambeth Road is where our employees raise the funds and develop the programmes that help our charity give sea cadets fantastic experiences. It also offers space for training and development activities for cadets and volunteers across the UK, and opportunities for them to meet the charity’s trustees and senior management team. 

While the NSC first opened for employees in September 2021, Covid-19 regulations made it impossible to hold an official opening ceremony. But with pandemic restrictions now lifted for Sea Cadets as well as the general public, April provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the move to the new National Support Centre from the old ‘Headquarters’, opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1979.

“Cadets were delighted by the encouragement their ideas received from their Admiral”

It was fitting that HRH The Princess Royal was able to perform the ceremonial duties on this occasion, in her capacity as Admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps. Her Royal Highness was greeted by the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, Christopher Wellbelove, accompanied by the Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet for Greater London, Petty Officer Cadet Malika of Rickmansworth & Watford Unit.

Cadets welcome Princess Anne to the National Support Centre

The Princess Royal then met with Captain Sea Cadets, Captain Neil Downing RN, before being escorted on a tour by our Chief Executive, Martin Coles CBE. After being introduced to NSC employees, Princess Anne then viewed a display on the story of the project – for which planning started in 2011, before work began in 2019. Much of the interior work took place during the pandemic in 2020, with a 247-year lease finally being signed on its completion in June 2021. 

HRH talks with cadets and Captain Sea Cadets, Captain Neil Downing RN, outside the NSC

Her Royal Highness then took part in a lively London Area Cadet Voice session. Cadets put forward their feedback on Sea Cadets’ national programme of competitions, along with their ideas for changes and improvements in line with our new five-year strategy. Cadets were delighted by the encouragement their ideas received from their Admiral, who contributed many excellent suggestions of her own. 

HRH sharing ideas at a Cadet Voice session

After unveiling a plaque to commemorate the occasion, and displaying some fine swordsmanship to cut the ceremonial cake with a midshipman’s dirk, The Princess Royal joined cadets outside for a piping demonstration of the ‘Call The Hands’. As a special preview of Sea Cadets’ contribution to The Big Help Out, it was the perfect way to end a royal visit that will live long in the memories of all the cadets, employees and volunteers who felt so privileged to attend. 

HRH cuts the cake – with a sword!

Before departing, Her Royal Highness commented that it was particularly nice to visit the National Support Centre and meet everyone behind the scenes of the charity.

Photos: Sea Cadets

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