Sea Cadets helps teenagers to stretch themselves and become the best they can be. We know what that takes because we've been doing it for over 160 years.

The turbulence of youth

The pressures that young people face are ever-changing, but what remains constant is that the teenage years can be turbulent. Independence is exciting, but also daunting.

For orphans of the Crimean War, sleeping in the back streets of England’s sea ports, life looked bleak. To help them, coastal communities banded together to provide places for sailors to pass on nautical skills and training to give these destitute young people a future. This is how, in 1856, the Naval Lads’ Brigade was born.

Royal patronage

Soon, they were springing up across the country, and in 1899, Queen Victoria marked their importance to young people by becoming Patron, and giving £10 to the Windsor unit for uniforms.

Today, HM The Queen is our Patron and HRH The Prince Andrew Duke of York KG GCVO is our Admiral of the Corps.

Scroll through our gallery to learn more about our rich history....

Unit History

The Unit was formed during 1938 at the Drill Hall in Reigate, where in response to an advert placed in the local paper some thirty boys gathered to form the Ships Company.
At this time the Unit was under the parentage of the Navy League and was known as Beatty unit, the name "Beatty" was worn on the Cap Tallies.
Earl Beatty of the Battle of Jutland fame lived in Reigate Priory.
The Ships Company steadily increased in numbers and were taught by dedicated ex seamen and mariners.

Eventually, uniforms were issued and the solid foundations of the unit as we know it today were formed. During the war years, the Unit numbers increased considerably and the Unit adopted the name T.S. Ark Royal.
The connection with Ark Royal and Reigate Town goes back to the Armada when Lord Howard of Effingham lived in Reigate Priory and acquired the ship "Ark Raleigh" from Sir Walter Raleigh and changed the name to "Ark Royal"

Soon after WW2, the Unit moved to Hooley Lane and were given the use of an old Villa "Shenley". During the 1950's and early 1960's the Unit was very strong with some 80 plus boys and the band performed on a number of occasions at the Royal Tournament.

In 1970, the Girls Nautical Training Contingent was formed at the TA Centre in Batts Hill, Reigate. This coinsisted of approximately 20 girls and at that time they were independant of the Unit with their own Command Structure.
In 1975 the GNTC won the Mountbatten Trophy for the Best GNTC in the Country. It was not until 1981 that they were amalgamated with the Unit Complement. Since that time the girls have become an integral part of the Unit and the Unit success has reflected this time after time over the years.

In 1974 the current Unit Building was erected on the site at Hooley lane.

In 1988, we celebrated our 50th Anniversary with a Review and Parade attended by over 250 Sea Cadets from all over the Southern Area from as far afield as Whitstable and Poole. Our Guest of Honour on that occasion was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach.


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