Early Days in the Rainbow Sea Cadets Corps, Victoria BC

by John M. MacFarlane 2012 (updated 2014)

Tent Inpsection

In 1935 the Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps held its annual summer camp at Fort Rodd Hill. Here the winners of the Camp Tent Inspection proudly display their "E" (for excellence) pennant.

The Navy League of Canada is a not–for–profit organization founded in 1895 and incorporated in 1918. In the years following the First World War, the Navy League took particular interest in seeking continued support for a Canadian flag, the Merchant Marine and maintained shore hostel facilities for the benefit of seafaring personnel. The training of boys was formalized under the name Boys’ Naval Brigades across the country; this became the main raison d’etre for many local Branches during the Depression. The League was active on two fronts: support for a strong Royal Navy, in various forms, and in urging the Canadian Government to establish a Canadian Navy. At the time, there were no Sea Cadets, although youth were to be encouraged to "follow the sea", (i.e. in a modestly flourishing Merchant Marine, or by joining the RN.)

The first Canadian Branch, of the British Navy League, was formed at Toronto, Ontario (very much an inland city, although on the Great Lakes) in December, 1895, being the 5th Branch in the Empire. Other Navy League branches were formed, in Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria (in 1901), Quebec City and elsewhere, but many were short–lived, only being re–activated with the onset of war in 1914. However by 1904 there were 11 Branches operating across Canada, but only three "had attempted to do any active work." The first of the documented youth operations, and only boys at that, was about 1902 (some reports claim 1917) when the Canadian Branch of the Boys Naval Brigade was formed, copying the British Boys Naval Brigades.

Beginning in 1902, the League sponsored Canada’s first Boys Naval Brigades. That year there were 19 Corps reported as operating, some with names such as HMS Lion and HMS Victory, others with patriotic names such as: "HMS Boy Travers Cornwell" (in Winnipeg – still existing!), "White Ensign" and "Captain Vancouver" They had, reportedly, 1,416 member Cadets, although this may have included instructors and commanding officers. The first official Sea Cadet Corps was #859 Winnipeg Boys Naval Brigade Cadet Corps formed on November 19, 1920 in Winnipeg MB. The name Boys’ Naval Brigade was changed to the Navy League Sea Cadets to permit funding from the Department of the Militia. The Navy League of Canada sponsored the establishment of the Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps in Victoria BC in 1918. In 1941, His Majesty, King George VI consented to be the Admiral of the Navy League Sea Cadets which adopted the name "Royal Canadian Sea Cadets". During the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Navy began its partnership with the Navy League in sponsoring the Sea Cadets and their officers were taken on the payroll of the Royal Canadian Navy.

In 1954, a parallel series of girls’ Corps were established, called the Wrennettes. In the 1950s the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps became that in name, and a junior series of Corps, for youngsters 10 to 13 were formed by Provincial commands, the Navy League Cadets. Currently the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps are administered, trained and financed jointly by the Navy League and the Department of Defence; include both boys and girls, ages 13 to 18.

An early commanding officer of the Rainbow Sea Cadets was Lieutenant–Commander Percy W. Tribe who had been a Warrant Officer in the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve during the First World War. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Navy League of Canada and appointed as Commanding Officer. He was later promoted to Lieutenant–Commander. Tribe was a big influence on the lives of the boys in the Corps and was instrumental in influencing former members to enlist in the Navy.


Cadets wore naval–style uniforms and cap tallies with the name of their Corps on their caps – but new recruits could tend to a very ‘salty’ looking appearance.


Cadets progressed by training and examination through naval style ranks as they gained in experience and maturity.

In 1935 the Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps held a summer camp at Fort Rodd Hill (site of the present Ft. Rodd Hill National Historic Site). Boys slept in tents and ate in a mess tent, all pitched on the field in front of the fortifications facing HMC Dockyard across Esquimalt Harbour.

Rainbow Ships Company

The annual picture of the ship’s company shows the size of the Corps and includes the Officers, Instructors, members and the ship's dog. In the Depression–era not all the cadets had complete uniforms.

Morning Divisions

Morning Divisions were held at 0800 to start the day with the traditional observance of "colours" and a march past.

Cutter Pulling

SCC Rainbow Fort Rodd Camp Cutter Crew Practicing Boat Pulling in 1934. (It is presumed that the boats were borrowed from the Dockyard across Esquimalt harbour for the duration of the camp.)

Field Gun Crew

SCC Rainbow Field Gun Crew in 1935.

Church Parade

Church Parade was held on Sundays by the Padre, a volunteer clergyman. The band’s drums were piled to form an altar, and the proceedings were held outdoors.

Summer Camp

The Victoria Colonist newspaper gave Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps activities at the summer camp lots of great publicity.

Summer Camp

The triumph of Cadets over officers in boat pulling was considered a subject suitable for reporting in the Victoria newspapers.

In 1937 a bequest from the late Albert H. Ridgman allowed his nephew, D.G. Pennock, to purchase silk colours the Corps from a British manufacturer. The presentation was reported in the Victoria newspapers:

Interesting ceremonies at parade of Corps in drill hall last night. With the usual ceremonies incidental to such an occasion carried out in smart naval fashion, the colours, recently arriving in Victoria from England were presented to the Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps at the Drill Hall last evening by D.G. Pennock on behalf of the donor, the late Albert H. Ridgman.

Parading at full strength and drawn up in lines forming three sides of a square, with the drums of the Corps piled at the open end, against which the covered colours rested, the cadets stood at attention while Lieutenant–Commander P.W. Tribe introduced Mr. Pennock and removed the casing and released its silken folds.


The presentation of Colours to the Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps

Most Worthy Object Mr. Pennock stated it gave him great pleasure to make the presentation of the flag to the boys on behalf of his late uncle, who would appreciate, if he were alive, the most worthy object to which his benefaction had been devoted.

The flag was received by Sub–Lieutenant Smith, who took it kneeling, as the Corps guard presented arms and two cadets stepped from the ranks, alongside the kneeling officer, to start a parade of the colours along the three sides of cadets standing at attention. while the band played a slow march to the tune of "The Banks of Allan Water".

Following the removal of the flag to the office of the Corps where it will remain until consecrated, Commander Tribe thanked Mr. Pennock for his part in making the presentation and introduced Captain J.A. Philipsen whose efforts were mainly instrumental in acquiring such a magnificent flag for the cadets.

Symbol Soul Captain Philipsen, who addressed the boys briefly on what the flag meant as well as what it stood for, told the lads in blue that the colours were symbolic of the soul of the British Empire, and hoped that serving under it in any capacity later on would make them as fine men as they were good boys now.

Observing the ceremonies were the instructors of the Corps who have given unselfishly of their time in building up the fine reputation attained by the Rainbow Sea Cadets. They are: Lieutenant C.M. Henry, Lieutenant Albert Hardy, Captain W. Brown, Captain J.A. Philipsen, Chief Petty Officer Green, Bandmaster Bert Drysdale and First Aid Instructor C. Filewood.

Former Commanding Officers

  • 1918–1920 Captain D.S. Evan–Jones
  • 1920–1946 Lieutenant–Commander P.W. Tribe
  • 1946–1948 Lieutenant–Commander G. R. Powell
  • 1948–1949 Lieutenant–Commander R.P. Kingscote
  • 1949–1952 Lieutenant–Commander J.E. Mason
  • 1952–1962 Lieutenant–Commander T.A. Dando
  • 1962–1963 Lieutenant W.W.M. Ross
  • 1963–1964 Lieutenant E.S. Price
  • 1964–1971 Lieutenant–Commander D.R. Casey
  • 1971–1974 Commander F.W. Conconi
  • 1974–1977 Lieutenant–Commander K.R. Neilson
  • 1977–1978 Lieutenant–Commander W. Creighton
  • 1978–1980 Lieutenant–Commander J.A. Cummings
  • 1980–1981 Lieutenant–Commander F.C. Allwood
  • 1981–1984 Commander J.I. Manore
  • 1984–1986 Lieutenant–Commander W.J. Wrathall
  • 1986–1988 Lieutenant–Commander I.T. Burke
  • 1988–1988 Lieutenant (N) J.D. Taylor
  • 1988–1992 Lieutenant–Commander M.J.B. Smith
  • 1992–1994 Lieutenant–Commander E.A. Bisal
  • 1994–1998 Lieutenant–Commander J. Jones
  • 1998–2001 Lieutenant (N) J. Hillsden
  • 2001–2003 Lieutenant (N) R. Thompson
  • 2003–2006 Lieutenant (N) F. Milne
  • 2006–2010 Lieutenant (N) R. Finley
  • 2010–2013 Lieutenant (N) L. Driemel
  • 2013–(to present 2016) Lieutenant (N) J. Webb
Jamie Webb

A very smart looking Sea Cadet Petty Officer Jamie Webb carrying a cutlass with a cadet naval gun crew during summer training at HMCS Quadra (in Comox BC) in 1982 when he was a Gun Captain during the Ceremony of the Flags.

Jamie Webb

Jamie Webb receives the trophy for Top Guardsman in 1983. Webb went on later in his career to become an Aide–de–Camp to the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and Past President of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia Foundation. He is a Lieutenant (N) and now Commanding Officer of the Rainbow Sea Cadets. He is typical of the positive outcomes of Sea Cadet training for young Canadian people.

  • Canada’s Best Sea Cadet 1964 – Steen Anderson (Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps)
  • Canada’s Best Sea Cadet 1965 – Peter Banfield (Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps)
  • Canada’s Best Sea Cadet 1966 – Gary Long (Rainbow Sea Cadet Corps)
  • (Remarkable that this title should be awarded to the Rainbow Sea Cadets three years in a row. All three went on to serve in the University Naval Training Division (UNTD) and were appointed as A/Sub–Lieutenants RCN(R)).

Editor’s Note Persons interested in joining the Sea Cadets should refer to the the Rainbow Sea Cadet Web Page. (The Nauticapedia is not affiliated in any way with the Sea Cadets.)

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2012) The Rainbow Sea Cadets Corps. Nauticapedia.ca 2012. http://www.nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Rainbow_Sea_Cadets.php

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