History

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....

The Tunbridge Wells Unit (No. 340) of the Sea Cadet Corps was founded in 1935 by the late Captain W.A. Cable of the Royal Indian Navy. His medal, ribbons and epaulettes are on display in the Wardroom.

The Unit very quickly became successful and built up a membership of 100 boys. The original Unit Headquarters building, located to the South of the town, soon proved to be inadequate and an appeal was made for funds.

Largely through generous donations, enough money was raised and the present Unit Headquarters building, formerly a Church Hall, was purchased for £1000.

During Warship Week in 1945 the Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells adopted HMS BRILLIANT, a destroyer of 1360 tons built in 1931 and serving with the 18th Destroyer Flotilla in the South Atlantic.

This name was taken by the Sea Cadet Unit, which has been known as TS BRILLIANT ever since.

The Unit has constantly striven for the highest standards and maintains a strong link with the Borough and local community, taking on our role at civic occasions with pride. The Unit has attended every Remembrance Day Parade in Tunbridge Wells without a break since the Second World War.

Presentations are given at local schools for recruiting and the Unit has put on displays at School Fetes for many years. Over a long period the Unit has supported The Royal British Legion on its Poppy Appeal and also the RNLI.

The Girls' Nautical Training Contingent was started in 1971. Female membership has continued to flourish right up to the present day where boys and girls are fully integrated into the Sea Cadet Corps.

The Unit's first affiliation was with HMS SCYLLA, a Leander Class Frigate based at Chatham. This association came about as the brother of one of our cadets at the time was the helicopter pilot on board. This very fruitful and happy affiliation continued through the 1970's with many cadets enjoying their first sea experiences on her. The link effectively ended with the closure of Chatham and the move of HMS Scylla to a new home port.

Councillor Commander W.R. Symon RD RNR, introduced as his guest, the First Sea Lord, the late Admiral Sir Terence Lewin. He announced the construction of a new HMS BRILLIANT with the words "We are building her for you" The Borough resolved to renew its affiliation and this was approved by the Commander in Chief Naval Home Command in January 1980. After a period of 35 years at long last the Unit had a namesake once more.

Following the Falklands War, where HMS BRILLIANT served with distinction, she was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Royal Tunbridge Wells. At that ceremony and all subsequent exercising of those rights, the Unit was privileged to play a key part in the proceedings.

The Unit enjoyed a long and happy affiliation, with cadets taking passage on homeward runs from Gibraltar and Sardinia. We also supported the ship in Plymouth Navy Days and took part in many sporting and social events. The Ships' Company were regular visitors to Tunbridge Wells and the Unit. Both were equally saddened by the decommissioning and sale of our illustrious namesake to the Brazilian Navy in 1996.

However, our new President, Commodore Barry Bryant RN, served aboard HMS Brilliant during the Falklands conflict as the ships flight commander, thus continuing our close association.

The Unit attended a two week camp at HMS ROOKE in Gibraltar in October 1994 and whilst there, conducted the Sunset ceremony on Trafalgar Day and took part in the Remembrance Parade in Gibraltar Cemetery.

In 1994 the Unit was awarded the Stephenson Trophy, reaching runner up spot in the Canada Trophy competition and winning the Thomas Grey Memorial Trophy.

The Unit won the Stephenson Trophy again in 1995.

In 1998 they won the Canada Trophy - for the best unit in the country.

In 2002 they once again won the Stephenson Trophy.

The Unit display teams have been performing locally for many years and on the wider stage have visited our twin towns of Wiesbaden in Germany and Lambersart in France. The band has taken part in the Royal Tournament and Navy Days as part of the Sea Cadet Massed Band on several occasions.

During 2005 the country celebrated the 200th anniversary of Nelson’s great victory the Battle of Trafalgar. TS Brilliant provided members for the Sea Cadet Royal Guard and Massed Band representing the Royal Navy at parades in Portsmouth and Trafalgar Square, London.

2005 also marked the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Tunbridge Wells Unit of the Sea Cadet Corps, this was commemorated with a parade by 200 Sea Cadets through Tunbridge Wells. Cadets from TS Brilliant were also present at the International Festival of the Sea and the Fleet Review by Her Majesty the Queen at Portsmouth.

In 2004 & 2006 our band was runner up in the bi-annual National Band Competition.

During 2007 our Armed Guard won District and Area competitions at Chatham and Portsmouth to become National Champions at the final held at Plymouth.

The Unit had an extremely busy year during 2008-9 with the formation of a Marine Cadet Detachment and culminating in our Band becoming Premiership Class National Champions.

 In February 2010 the Unit deployed to Germany, representing Tunbridge Wells and the Youth of Kent at celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of a letter of friendship between Tunbridge Wells and Wiesbaden. This event became one of the first events in the Cadet 150 calendar. Cadet 150 is the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Cadet Movement.

As part of these celebrations, numerous band members joined a massed Sea Cadet Band for a parade of all cadet forces down the Mall, with HRH Prince Charles taking the salute. After the parade the cadets were invited  to Buckingham Palace where they attended a garden party.

During September the Unit Band took part in the Area Band Competition as a Premiership Band. With a lot of hard work and effort, they won all awards in their class namely Best Band, Best Dressed Band, Best Drum Major, Best Solo Bugler and Best Solo Drummer.

As part of the Cadet 150 celebrations, the Unit invited the Tunbridge Wells Air Training Corps and the Army Cadet Corps to join them in the Remembrance Day procession from the Unit to the parade in the Town Centre.

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