By Rick McGinnis

Barrie’s Navy League Cadet Corps moved into a new home last month after spending years in the armoury building, sharing space with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets with whom they are too often mistaken. It’s a welcome move for the fifty-three members of #24 Chambly. They no longer have to share a gym while practicing semaphore or learning how to tack a sailboat into the wind.

“It was starting to get a little bit crowded for us,” said Sonya Anderson, the corps communications officer. “We needed a space of our own.”

The group’s move into the halls attached to Ferris Lane Community Church gives them access to a gym, a classroom and a kitchenette, where the boys and girls of #24 can learn about seafaring, history and leadership without distractions.

Aimed at young people between nine and twelve, the Navy League Cadets are an independent organization with more than 3,500 members active in 102 communities across Canada. They are unaffiliated with the cadet groups sponsored by the Department of National Defence (DND), with whom the Navy League Cadets will often march beside in parades.

“The kids are taught discipline but a lot of history as well,” Anderson explains. “We attend a lot of the events that were major battles or that had a major impact on the military. For instance, we march in parades like the Remembrance Day parade, the Battle of the Atlantic parade in May and, in June, there’s the Battle of Britain parade.”

The group’s sponsor, the Navy League of Canada, is more than a century old, while the Barrie chapter dates from 1953 and is named after the HMCS Chambly, a warship that served in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. The group is entirely run by volunteers like Anderson, who started driving cadets around when her son joined and found herself taking on the duties of communications director when she became chief of the corps.

The busy year-round program includes camping and snow tubing in addition the summer sailing program. As well, members of the local corps can be found marching Santa Claus parades in Barrie and Innisfil, in addition to civic commemorations of military events like D-Day.

Cadets can choose to join one of the DND-affiliated cadet organizations when they turn twelve, but many choose to stay on for the extended end of their final year and the summer program that involves a small fleet of two-person sailboats, berthed on Lake Simcoe.

“We are one of the very fortunate Navy Leagues that has a boathouse and a summer sailing program,” Anderson says. “Not everyone does. But the boathouse comes with a lot of responsibilities with our boats, and we often need volunteers. In fact, we’ve got a big boathouse reno that’s going on and a lot of people are going to be showing up with their tools and swinging hammers and doing a lot of things in preparation for the summer sailing program.”

Photo: Barrie Navy League Cadets with dignitaries.