During the early years of the Second World War mobilizing the entire community, young and old, was an important aspect of war preparation. The explosive growth of both the Canadian navy and the merchant marine showed that an ever-increasing supply on men was required to maintain the sea links across the Atlantic and around the world.
One way to address this need was to create youth training units throughout the country and in 1941 The Minister of Naval Services authorized the formation of Sea Cadet Corps across Canada. The sea cadets were a late addition. Army Cadets had existed in conjunction with schools for many years and air cadets were formed in 1940. The Navy League cadets dated back to 1918 but they had not been particularly successful on Prince Edward Island. The difference with the Sea Cadets was that the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) was an active partner with a Civilian Committee to create support for the initiative.
In June 1942 enrollment for the Corps in Charlottetown was initiated. The Charlottetown Yacht Club offered its facilities for training and the hall of Prince of Wales College was to be used for drilling purposes. Training was provided by officers and men of the RCNVR including Lt. Ian Burnett, Norman Saunders, B. Earle MacDonald, Albert Roop and Dr. E.S. Giddings. The training to be provided was to be similar to that given to naval recruits during their first eight weeks at a training establishment. Restricted to boys 12 to 18 years of age preference was given to recruits 15 years and older.
Within two days of the announcement of the formation of the Charlottetown Seas Cadet Corps “Kent” some 115 boys had signed up at the Charlottetown Yacht Club and within a month 65 cadets were in training two nights weekly with plans to expand to 150 when more uniforms and equipment were secured. In an inspection of the Corps in October 1942 100 cadets in their blue naval uniforms drew positive remarks from the Commanding Officer of H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte, Lt. M.G. McCarthy. The following year saw the formation of a corps in Summerside.
In 1943 the designation “Royal” was appended to the name when the King consented to be the patron of the corps. The Kent Corps continued to grow, a sea cadet band was formed and some 150 boys, six officers and two instructors were planning for a 1943 summer camp at Camp Buchan, near Pinette.
In what was to become a regular training exercise several of the cadets (under the close supervision of the regular crew) took over the control of the wheel, deck and engine room the S.S. Fairview on its return trip to Rocky Point for a Saturday afternoon in May 1943. The next year two, 14 foot International Dinghy sailboats were provided as the most appropriate type for seamanship training. The fleet was added to as the sea warfare ended and Lieut. Commander C.P. MacKenzie reported that a 46 foot diesel harbour craft would be attached to H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte. The craft had been built in Summerside by Palmer and Williams. In addition to the harbour craft the training In addition to the fleet grew to 4 sailing dinghies, and 2 rowing cutters.
In addition to the weekly sessions, summer camps continued to be a major part of the training regime with 72 boys from Charlottetown and 19 from Summerside at a camp at Waterside, near Pownal in 1945, 100 boys at the same location in 1946 , 40 boys attending regional camp near St. John N.B. in 1947 and a contingent of Island boys at a 1948 camp at Mahone Bay.
In 1947 Chief Petty Officer Lawson Drake was chosen as one of twenty-five sea cadets to represent Canada on a visit to the United Kingdom as guests of the Navy League and the British Admiralty. They crossed the Atlantic on H.M.C.S. Warrior and spent several weeks abroad.
Seventy years on, RCSC Corps Kent continues to be active with training and sailing activities at the naval facility at H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte.