Cadets in Manitoba

By Lynn A Hawkeye

Early Army Cadets

Canadian Army Cadets can trace back their history to the creation of Drill Associations in 1861, predating confederation by 6 years. Great Britain had also created a Cadet movement in 1860. These early associations were linked to local schools. The American Civil War and the threat of the Fenian Raids motivated their creation in Upper and Lower Canada. These early Cadet units, called drill associations, marked the beginning of the Canadian Cadet Movement, one of the country's oldest youth programs.

These early "drill associations" accepted members ranging in age from 13 to 60. The distinction between high school Cadets and the adult militia became clear in 1879, when authorization was given to form 74 "Association for Drill in Educational Institutions". Young men over 14 years of age where invited to participate and would not be employed in active service.

These associations across Canada included 2 in Manitoba. Currently, the two oldest and active Army Cadets Corps in Manitoba are #19 Portage la Prairie Cadet Corps, Portage la Prairie, MB formed in December 24, 1909 followed by #407 Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada Cadet Corps, Winnipeg, MB founded in April 17, 1913.

Early Sea Cadets

The Navy League in Canada was formed in 1895 with one of their main mandates to support and lobby for the creation of a Canadian Navy. Around 1896, the League started sponsoring Canada's first Boys Naval Brigades. After the formation of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1910, the youth programme was renamed from "Boys’ Naval Brigade" to "Navy League Sea Cadets," to permit closer liaison with the Navy.

The Navy League authorized the creation of Girls Naval Brigades as early as World War One. The girls benefited from a training program providing, as much as possible, a parallel training to that of the boys. The first official Sea Cadet Corps under the Army Cadet system was #859 Winnipeg Boys Naval Brigade Cadet Corps formed on November 19, 1920 in Winnipeg. Still active today as #49 John Travers Cornwell VC. In 1942 all the remaining Sea Cadet Corps were transferred to Navy League and renumbered accordingly.

In 1948, Navy League Cadets were formed for boys 10 – 13 years of age. The first corps in Manitoba was formed in Brandon as #4 Stan Hawitt NLCC. By the mid 60s the Corps in Winnipeg, #7 JRK Millen had the distinction of parading as the largest Corps in the Commonwealth.

In 1950, the Navy League Wrenettes were formed for girls between 12 to 18. NLWC Centennial in Winnipeg was disbanded in 1975 when girls across the country were integrated into Sea Cadets. NLWC Centennial was reformed in January 1976 for girls ages 11-13 (now mirroring NLCCs). By the early 90s, most NL Wrenette Corps were disbanded and integrated into the NL Cadet Corps. NLWC Centennial was the last Corps parading in Canada, disbanding 16 Jun 97.

The World Wars

Forty thousand former Army Cadets and several thousand former Sea Cadets served in His Majesty's forces during World War One. By the end of the war there were 64,000 boys enrolled in Army Cadet corps across Canada.

During the twenty years following World War One, Cadet training came to a standstill. Many corps survived these hard times, but the Depression and the lack of public interest caused the cancellation of the uniform grant for Army Cadets in 1931 and the instructional grant for 12 and 13 year olds in 1934. In Alberta, only a couple of corps functioned beyond 1934. This was clearly some of the darkest days for Cadet corps.

The beginning of World War Two brought a renewed public interest in Cadet training. An astounding amount of Cadet corps were formed in high schools across the country. During the war, the Royal Canadian Navy began its partnership with the Navy League in sponsoring Sea Cadets and their officers were taken on the payroll to the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Air Cadet League of Canada was formed in 1940, and raised its first official squadrons in 1941. Prior to 1940, Air Cadet squadrons did not exist and were in fact Army Cadet Corps that were affiliated with RCAF Air Reserve squadrons. The first Air Cadet unit was #1601 Air Force Cadet Corps formed in Vancouver on April 13, 1939. It stands alone as being the only Air Cadet unit formed within the Army Cadet system. The corps was transferred to the new Air Cadet League in 1943. From the outset, the Air Cadet League enjoyed a partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force, which enrolled Air Cadet instructors as commissioned officers.

During and after World War Two, you could find a Cadet corps that paraded a female platoon or company. But these unofficial female Cadets could never lawfully be trained, kitted, fed or transported and were not allowed to attend summer camp. Despite that, the girls proudly wore their uniform and trained as best as they could primarily in school corps.

The Post-War Years

In recognition of the significant contribution of former Cadets to the war effort, His Majesty King George VI conferred the title ‘Royal’ to the Cadet program, creating the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. It is estimated that nearly 230,000 former sea, army and Air Cadets served in His Majesty's forces during World War Two.

After World War Two, quotas were imposed reducing Canada's total Cadet force to about 75,000 members. Many of the closed corps, those with membership restricted to boys in one particular school, were disbanded; some of them became open corps, training in militia armories or in Legion halls; others, like many corps sponsored by the Navy League, acquired their own buildings.

The Korean War stimulated growth among open corps in the early 1950s. Many school corps moved to armories and drill halls. After 1954, Korea veterans staffed the Area Cadet Offices that began to manage these corps and the summer camps that trained them.

Early Air Cadets

Prior to 1940, the first Air Cadet Squadrons were considered to be Army Cadet Corps that were usually affiliated with Royal Canadian Air Force, Air Reserve Squadrons whose officers provided or assisted with leadership and drill training. One of the first Air Cadet Squadrons in Canada was formed in Winnipeg by a member of The Winnipeg Lions Club. An invitation to some boys to bring their friends to meet at the church in the district of Henry Street, was issued. The following evening, twelve attended, and The Christ Church Air Cadet Squadron was formed in October, 1938. The Lions Club, donated $50 which went to buy cloth for uniforms. The corps was outfitted with blue shirts, shoulder straps and caps at a cost of 79¢ per Cadet. The movement grew until eventually there were over 800 Cadets divided to parade over five nights. Parades were held at Daniel McIntyre, St. Johns, Tachè Collegiate and Robert H. Smith School. The name changed to Winnipeg Air Cadets in 1939. About this time, Group Captain Bonham-Carter became interested and provided officers from the R.C.A.F. to assist in the training.

This program was absorbed by the new Air Cadet Program in 1941 to become #6 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. The Winnipeg Lions Club has been the sponsor of #6 Squadron and its predecessor since that day in 1938.

On the 11th of November, 1940, an order authorized the formation of the Air Cadet League of Canada and set forth the responsibilities of the civilian body and of the RCAF.

The organization of squadrons proceeded through the fall months of 1941. The initial eighteen squadrons officially stood up on September 24, 1941 of which two were in Manitoba. Number 6 (Jim Whitecross) RCACS, in Winnipeg and number 9 RCACS in Neepawa, MB.

With the start of the Air Cadet Program in Manitoba, squadrons were started at schools throughout the province in 1941 at both the cities and small communities alike. The program was popular with teen boys and the number of squadrons grew until 1945 when 59 Air Cadet Squadrons operated in the province. Some twenty squadrons functioned within the present boundaries of Winnipeg alone.

Unification of the Canadian Forces

With the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, came a number of changes in the Cadet world. Sea and Air Cadets came more fully under the control of the Canadian Forces in order to standardize the three Cadet organizations. A directorate of Cadets was established in Ottawa to set policy and co-ordinate the activities of the Sea, Army and Air Cadets.

Sea Cadet Officers became commissioned members of the Canadian Forces. Before this date, Sea Cadet officers were created by means of a warrant from the Navy League of Canada. The Cadet Services of Canada was superseded by the Cadet Instructor List, which was later re-designated the Cadet Instructor Cadre. Following the uniform changes that had taken place in the CF, all Cadets changed to green uniforms in the 1970s, and then reverted back to their traditional colour uniforms in the 1990s.

The Army Cadet League of Canada was formed in 1971 in order to give the Army Cadets a civilian voice comparable to that of the Navy League and the Air Cadet League.

Girls in the Cadet Program

Girls have participated unofficially in Cadet training almost from the beginning. Shortly after the Highland Cadet Corps was stood up at the Guelph Grammar School in 1882, a female Cadet company called the Daughters of the Regiment, was also raised.

On 30 July 1975, parliament amended the relevant legislation by changing the word boys to persons, therefore permitting girls to become members of the Royal Canadian Sea, Army, and Air Cadets. At long last, girls could finally do everything the boys had been doing for so many years. The biggest change was at the camp level. What had been for so many decades an exclusively male environment changed dramatically. In short time the girls adapted.