Remembering our beloved Patron, The Queen

Volunteers and cadets past and present share memories and tributes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

HM The Queen in a yellow dress and hat talking and smiling with sea cadets

Mid-September became a time of sadness and reflection for Sea Cadets, as we came to terms with the passing of our beloved Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her first duty as our Patron was to inspect sea cadets at Holyrood Palace. Remarkably, 70 years on, this historic venue also became the scene of our last event with Her Majesty.

 “I feel honoured knowing that I was chosen to represent the Sea Cadets at the Ceremony of the Keys this June,” explains POC Alasdair Currie of Musselburgh Unit. “The meeting I had with The Queen, while short, has had a great impact on me,” he explains, noting that she “wanted to talk to as many of us as she could, asking each of us where we are from and what we do within our units.”

Cadets line up outside Holyrood while the queen stands in the doorway of the palace
Holyrood Palace was the backdrop for both our first and final events with HM The Queen

In 2012, Queen Elizabeth gave Sea Cadets the honour of leading the Royal Barge in the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla. “I was 13-years-old and in the Trinity boat sporting the Canadian Flag,” recalls Alex Fernquest, who was then a cadet at Neath Unit. “It was a massive honour to attend and gave me a sense of pride that I’ll hold on to for life.” 

“It felt absolutely amazing to feel part of something bigger than myself,” continues Alex. “My mother, along with other friends and family, watched the parade on a projector from the community welfare hall in the small Welsh village I am proud to be from. Apparently, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building!”

The Trafalgar 200 celebrations in 2005 even saw one young cadet get a glimpse of The Queen’s famous humour. Nathaniel Davies, now a PO at the South Shields Unit, tells the tale: “The Queen spoke to me briefly while inspecting the cadets attending the beacon lighting next to HMS Victory. She asked me: ‘What is it like as a Sea Cadet?’ My reply was: ‘Exciting but also hard work at times – I imagine it to be somewhat like your own work, Your Majesty.’ I didn’t receive a verbal answer, she just smiled and tapped the side of her nose before continuing greeting the other cadets present.”

A flotilla of sea cadets on the Thames
A flotilla of Sea Cadets boats on the Thames

Many others from the Sea Cadets family got in touch with their memories of The Queen. Stewartry Unit Sub Lt (SCC) RNR Emma Blackwood says, “I was privileged to meet the Queen at the Port of Stranraer in 1996 when she came to open the ferry terminal. I was a cadet aged 12. She asked us what our favourite activity was in the Sea Cadets, most cadets said sailing!”

Emma meeting The Queen in 1996 when she was a cadet

CPO Rick Webb of Rochdale Unit treasures the memories of being part of a very small team of Police Officers charged with escorting members of the Royal Family around Greater Manchester, during the Commonwealth Games in 1996. Having dropped off the Duke of Edinburgh, Rick had just parked up when The Queen’s vehicle stopped right in front of him.

“I remained sat to attention in the driver’s seat with hands at ’10 to 2′ and the engine running. I slowly looked up and there was Her Majesty looking at me! I slowly nodded, which she acknowledged with a little smile before she alighted to join her husband.”

CPO Tamara Dixon was “proud to represent Sea Cadets” when “privileged to pipe The Queen onto the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in Dartmouth”, during its official opening in 1991. What a unique honour! 

Cdr (SCC) Ian Wilson MBE RNR received his MBE for services to the Sea Cadet Corps from The Queen, following his retirement as CO of Peterhead Unit in 2009. “My MBE was presented in Nov 2011 and was undoubtedly one of my proudest moments in my SCC experience.”

Ian Wilson receives his medal from The Queen
Cdr (SCC) Ian Wilson MBE RNR receiving his MBE for services to Sea Cadets

OC Lesley from Nuneaton and Bedworth Unit paid her own special tribute to The Queen by teaching herself the National Anthem on a Bell Lyre. All the more impressive given that she has only just started band! Meanwhile, Junior Cadet Ellese of Telford Unit was moved to create this colourful depiction of Her Majesty.

A cadet's drawing of the queen
Junior Cadet Ellese’s drawing of Her Majesty

Our Chief Executive, Martin Coles CBE, was privileged to represent the national charity at Her Majesty’s state funeral service in Westminster Abbey. On Horse Guards Parade, our First Lord’s Sea Cadets paid respects on behalf of Sea Cadets, saluting the Ceremonial Gun Carriage prepared by its Royal Navy custodian, Paul Barker MBE – our Sea Cadets Training Centre Manager.

Several former cadets made their old units proud as they appeared at the procession with the Royal Navy or royal Marines. Leading the sailors pulling the gun carriage, in the greatest honour of her 17-year career, was former Maidenhead cadet, Cdr Nicola Cripps RN.

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