Navy League in Australia and the Sea Cadets - Early History

Navy League in Australia and the Sea Cadets - Early History

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Early History of theNavy League of Australia & the Sea Cadets

The Navy League’s birth.The Navy League’s birth was due to the initiative of Englishman, Robert Verburgh from Blackburn, Lancashire. His drive led to the eventual formation of this body at a public meeting held in London on 17th January, 1895.

The Crimean War was then forty years in the past but new wars and rumours of wars, saw the Atlantic and Pacific rim nations, jostling for territory and wealth.1895 was a special year in the twenty year period up to 1900 during which Africa had been colonised under the ‘first come first served’ principle of imperialism as nations, with a taste for Empire, acquired 240,000 square miles of territory. By 1914 they had jointly succeeded in forcefully colonising 560 million people. There were many variations of imperialism - Britain protecting its sea routes to India, Russia wanting warm water ports, the US looking to exert its influence in the Latin American States and the Caribbean region, and France wanting a return to the glory days of the Napoleonic era.

Greater awareness of need for self protection saw tensions between imperialist powers lead to conflicts - Britain vs France over control of the Nile in 1898, British colonial vs Dutch settlers in Boer War of 1898-1902, the US vs Spanish war of 1898, the Russo - Japanese war of 1904-5, Germany vs France confrontation in 1911 over control of Morocco. These international skirmishes led to general re-armament.

Navy League ObjectiveBritish citizens founded the Navy League of Britain to give urgent voice in support of Empire issues, current and future. The Navy League’s objective was “strictly non-political organisation that would urge upon Government and the Electorate the paramount importance of an adequate Navy as the best guarantee of Peace". During the next six months they published “The Navy League Journal” and produced the ‘Naval Review’ as the official organ and mouthpiece of the Navy League. It subsequently changed its name to “The Navy” and only ceased when Navy League in England ceased to function in 1995. Their UK Sea Cadet Association continued their historic role.

Navy League Branches - InternationalNavy League Branches had been established throughout the British Empire at Cape Town, Natal, Toronto, Malta, Hong Kong, Canada 1895, Australia 1900, New Zealand 1896, British Columbia and Shanghai. Within five years fifty-three Branches had been formed.In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt founded the Navy League of the United States some seven years after Canada, as an independent body not associated with the Navy League in Britain, but obviously considering it to be a worthwhile objective.

Navy League in Australia

After Australian colonies joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 branches of the Navy League were established in:

Victoria August 1915 (The NLSCC [Navy League Sea Cadet Corps] started in Geelong in the late 1920s–“TS Barwon”, research indicating that other NLSCC branches were formed in Victoria in the mid to late 1920s)

South Australia c1916-17 (first NLSCC in 1957)

New South Wales November 1918 ( first NLSCC in Australia Nov 1920, Balmain Company)

1950 - Navy League of Australia becomes a Company Limited by Guarantee, and the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps (NLSCC) was renamed Australian Sea Cadet Corps (ASCC).

Western Australia 1952 (first NL-ASCC in 1952)

Queensland c1953 (first NL-ASCC in July 1954)

Northern Territory c1990 - 1992

1973 January - ASCCadets (2000 strong) merged with the RAN’s Naval Reserve Cadets (c200 strong) into a new Naval Reserve Cadet (NRC) organisation, under sole RAN patronage. In 2001 the name changed back to Australian Navy Cadets (ANC), the Australian Navy’s name used for its cadets from 1 July 1907 when they first started training in Williamstown, Victoria.‘The Navy League Journal’ in Australia 1920 -

In 1920 the Navy League’s NSW Branch published the world’s third only Navy League Journal, after Canada (The Sailor) and the UK (The Navy). NSW simultaneously started the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps (NLSCC).


Origin of Sea Cadets

In 1856, at the conclusion of the Crimean War, sailors returning home formed a Naval Lads Brigade to help orphans in the back streets of British ports . By the turn of the century the British Mercantile marine was mainly manned by foreign seamen and so the Navy League established sea training schools for boys interested in the sea, at Windsor, Eton and Liverpool, in order to place them in the Navy and Merchant Marine. The Sea Cadet Corps was born.” By 1910 the UK Navy League adopted the Naval Lads Brigades and in 1914, Admiralty agreed to sponsor them . Sea Cadets went on to serve with distinction during the two world wars. “In the second world war the corps provided communicators for the fleet, with their Units receiving a “bounty” for every trained signalman who went to sea. They were known as “Bounty Boys”. Tradition still lives on for Sea Cadet Officers wear the wavy lace insignia of the 1939-1945 wartime Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve - the heroes of the Atlantic.”

Australian Sea Cadets

The NSW Navy League Branch in 1920 stated that “when possible the NSW Branch of the Navy League (preferably in conjunction with other Branches of the League throughout the Commonwealth and the Dominion of New Zealand) hopes to be able to embark on a scheme of … Service for boys on similar lines to the organisations in England and Canada which are known as the “Navy League Sea Cadet Corps. Within a month of determining that a Sea Cadet unit was to be started the Navy League’s NSW Branch received six hundred applications. These were from boys of the surrounding districts eager to enter the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps. Three hundred passed the medical and were enrolled; one hundred (the limit of the Navy League’s current training capacity) commenced training. Three months later first unit of Navy League Cadets was launched with seven voluntary instructors, an Hon. Chaplain, Medical Officer, Surgeon Dentist and 52 Cadets, the boys to have a fully qualified physical instructor, regular course of weekend training, illustrated lectures on the Royal Navy history, the Mercantile Marine and subjects on sport. By September 1921 premises at corner of Grove Street and Wharf Rd., Snail’s Bay, Balmain were obtained for use as a Training Depot, the first Navy League Sea Cadet training depot opened in Australia. The Royal Australian Navy loaned a training cutter to the Cadets for training.


January - a third Navy League Sea Cadet Unit was formed at Drummoyne. The North Sydney Cadets trained in St Peter’s School Hall, Lavender bay, North Sydney. The Richmond Corps trained in the Drill Hall, Windsor Road, Richmond. In the first 18 months four Sea Cadet Units were formed at Balmain, North Sydney, Richmond and Drummoyne.


The Navy abolished the left-handed personal salute of a Naval rating when meeting an Officer. Salutes from that time were only to be made with the right hand, officers saluting seniors are to follow the same rule .

The Navy League NSW Branch, opened the first Navy League owned Sea Cadet depot in Australia - the Parramatta River Sea Cadet Depot. Other depots had been established by lease or good will.

A new Sea Cadet company ‘Concord’ was established. There were now five Companies, Balmain, Drummoyne, North Sydney, Concord and Richmond.

October - sixth Sea Cadet unit formed at Windsor, NSW.


Lane Cove Company, the eighth Navy League Sea Cadet Company, formed.


March another Sub-Branch and Sea Cadet Company was formed at Rose Bay, the ninth.


The Corps reached nearly 2500 cadets when the Royal Australian Navy and the Navy League agreed to the RAN becoming the Cadets sole sponsor from January 1973, just 53 years after the Navy League NSW Branch had started the first Sea Cadet Company.

Summary of Navy League Sea Cadet Corps (NLSCC) - from 1920

1920 - 1929: Balmain Company formed, Snail’s Bay - first Navy League Sea Cadet Company formed in Australia. (see Birchgrove Company for continuation)

1921 - North Sydney Company formed, NL Sea Cadets NSW (50 cadets in 1938), 2060. The Council in 1929 gave them their hall rent free.

1921-2 - Drummoyne Company formed in 1921 and reported in January 1922 as “proceeding satisfactorily”. (training depot later named “Sydney”``after the RAN cruiser).

1923 May - Richmond Company formed.

- Concord Company formed.

1924 September - Lane Cove Company formed.

1925 March - Rose Bay Company formed.

April - ‘Eastern Suburbs District’ formed - HQ at Clovelly Company, plus Rose Bay Company.

1926, Birchgrove Company, formed from the Balmain Company by splitting the large Company into two.

1927 July -, Eastern Suburbs (“Nelson”) Company formed, NL Sea Cadets NSW, (otherwise known as Elizabeth Bay.)

Feb. Mosman Bay Company formed

1928 April-June - Middle Harbour Company formed. After 15 months its listing ceased, possibly forming part of the Manly Company.

July - Manly Company formed

September - Balgowlah Company of NL Sea Cadets NSW, 2093, formed.

September - Leichhardt Company formed, NL Sea Cadets NSW, 2040

November - 2nd Mosman Bay Company formed.

1929 January - Cook’s River District Company formed, Woolwich Company formed. Balmain company absorbed by Birchgrove .

1930, September - Lane Cove Company absorbed by Woolwich Company. Greenwich Company formed (Parramatta River) (Berry Island Depot?). Auburn Company Formed (Parramatta River). Artarmon Company Cadets plan to use Berry Island as their depot

August - Elizabeth Bay Company formed. It was divided into Seniors and Juniors to more efficiently train the Cadets in more relevant age groupings. (also known as Eastern Suburbs Company.)

Jervis Bay Company formed 1930’s - ‘Cook’s River in common with some of the other League Units, is being adversely affected by the prevailing financial depression. Progress is not likely until the advent of more favourable times’.

July - Vaucluse Company formed . Depot later located at Signal House, near Signal Station.

Oct. - Newcastle & District Company formed by Rev’d. McCulloch, NL Sea Cadets NSW, 2300

1931 Mar. - CAPT W.W. Beale leaves for England with his family. CAPT Beale, founder of the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps movement in Australia, was also the Navy League’s Journal Editor since its inception in 1920. From the time of his departure an acting-Editor took over and the March 1931 edition has no Volume or issue number and is entirely devoted to Cadets and for the first time the words “NAVY LEAGUE SEA CADET JOURNAL” appears across the top of each page. From this time it became a quarterly magazine. CAPT Beale did return to Australia for in 1949 he was again listed as Secretary of Navy League, New South Wales Branch.At this point in time it was recorded that there were 10 NLSC Companies .

June - 16 NL Sea Cadet Companies exist with two more being formed at Seven Hills and Lismore.

- Lismore Company formed. Victory Company, Seven Hills formed.

September - NLSCJ records that Victoria is about to launch out (in forming NLSC Companies)

December - Snapper Island, within a stone’s throw of Cockatoo Dock and Spectacle Island has been leased for 15 years as the “Sydney” training depot of the Navy League Sea Cadet Corps, NSW. The island is now being levelled off, in order to re-erect the three-storied signal station, 85ft.x45ft. now standing on 47 Carey St., Drummoyne together with the amateur transmitting station which has been in operation for the last three years. Tennis courts, swimming baths and miniature rifle ranges will be installed. Accommodation for 150 boys will be provided, double the present number training at the old depot. The depot maintains a fleet of 9 boats, including two motor launches, value £1,750. The lease will cost £2 per annum versus £100 at present depot. The new depot would be a memorial to HMAS Sydney.

Formation details of following Sea Cadet Companies is not known:

1920s - St Peter’s school Company NSW

c1932-38 - Fairlight NL Sea Cadet Company of NSW (disbanded - cadets joined North Sydney about August 1938),

c1932-38, ‘Victory’ Training Depot Company, NL Sea Cadets NSW, ?

NLSCC Regions:

No.1 region - (1929 Sep) - Eastern Suburbs (August 1930), Birchgrove, Leichardt.

No.2 region - Mosman, North Sydney, Balgowlah.

No.3 region - Artarmon

No.4 region - New Cadet Company March 1930

No.5 region - (1929 Sep), Drummoyne (“Sydney”), Woolwich, and Auburn Companies.

No.6 region - Manly

No.7 region -

No.8 region -

According to RAN Records 36 NLSCC units were formed 1932 (1), 1947 - 1971 (35), the second group over 24 years.After the 1939-45 war the RAN’s Australian Navy Cadet units were re-established in January 1950, whereas the Navy League’s Unts had operated throughout the war, but at reduced strengths. Many Cadet Units struggled or went into voluntary recess during the 1939-45 war period as volunteer instructors became scarce or were required for defence work or serve in the defence force. Immediately after the war the Navy League, in 1946, restarted Companies with new staff, new names, new groupings of Cadets and new depots as the war years removed the experience of those who had previously volunteered creating a vacuum which older cadets tried to overcome.Edited and collated from notes by CMDR John M Wilkins RFD RANR Ret’d;


NLJ = Navy League Journal of New South Wales

NLSCJ = Navy League Sea Cadet Journal of New South Wales

NLJNS = Navy League Journal of NSW New Series commencing 1938.

TN = ’The Navy’

1.NLJ Vol.1 No.6 September 1920, p18 2.NLUS Website: 28 October2000 3.Email Notes from Bill Tully (National Library) 4.ibid 5.NLJ Vol.8 No.10 February 1928. P10 6. Cmdr F.G.Evans MSS notes October 2000. 7.UK Sea Cadet Website: 29 September 2000 8.UK NL Year Book & Diary 1955, p253 9.UK Sea Cadet Website: ibid 10.Ibid 11.NLJ Vol.1 No.3 June 1920 12.NLJ Vol.1 No.11 February 1921, Photo of recruiting line up and NL flag, p11 13.NLJ Vol.1 No.6 September 1920 14.NLJ Vol.2 No.2 June 1921 p18 15.NLJ Vol.2 No.9 January 1922, p 12 16.NLJ Vol.3 No.5 September 1922, p18 17.NLJ Vol.4 No.1 May 1923, p5 18.NLJ Vol.5 No.11 March 1925, p22 19.NLJ Vol.10 No.12 April 1930, p18 20.NLJ Vol.2 No.9 Jan 1922, p12 21.NLJ Vol.11 No.7 Nov. 1930, p8 22.NLJ Vol.4 No.1 1923 May, p18 23.NLJ Vol.4 No.1 May 1923, p19 24.NLJ Vol.5 No.6 1924 Oct, p18 25.NLJ Vol.5 No.11 1925 August, p18 26.NLJ Vol.5 No.12 1925 April, p18 27.NLJ Vol.10 No.12 April 1930, p13 28.NLSCJ December 1931, p17 29.NLJ Vol.9 No.9 Jan 1929, p24 30.NLJ Vol.11 No.3 July 1930, p13 31.NLJ Vol.9 No.9 Jan 1929, p16 32.NLJ Vol.9 No.9 Jan 1929, p16 33.NLJ Vol.9 No.9 Jan 1929, p16 34.NLJ Vol.10 No.4 Aug 1929, p14 35.NLJ Vol.10 No.12 April 1930, p13 36.NLJ Vol.10 No.12 April 1930, p14 37.NLJ Vol.11 No.3 July 1930, p11 38.NLSCJ December 1931, p17 39.NLJ Vol.11 No.6 Oct. 1930, p8 40.TN Vol.12 No.5 May 1949, p5 41.NLSCJ September 1931, p17 42.NLSCJ June 1931, p13 43.NLSCJ June 1931, p13 44.NLSCJ June 1931, p13 45.NLSCJ September 1931, p17 46.NLSCJ December 1931, p14 47.NLJ Vol.11 No.4 1930 August, p8 48.NLJ Vol.11 No.6 October 1930, p10 49.NLJ Vol.10 NO.3 July 1929, p17 50.NLJ Vol.10 No.11 Mar 1930, p12 51.NLJ Vol.11 No.4 1930 August, p8 52.NLJ Vol.11 No.4 1930 August, p8 53.Original Charter of Navy League held by Tasmanian Division 54.The Navy Year Book and Diary 1955 extract pp245-253 55.The Navy League Journal No.1 July 1895 56.The ‘Journal of the Navy League - NSW Branch’ Vols.1 - 10; 1920–1932, 1938 - 1947 57.‘The Navy’ journal 1947–2005 58.Wilkins, John M RFD*, Australian Naval Reserves 1859-2006.

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