The photograph above shows TS Godley cadets close-hauled in a Crown, autumn sailing on Lyttelton Harbour in 2017. They are learning and practising the same skills in the same-sized boat and the same environment as their predecessors from earlier generations.
The Crown is basically a fibreglass-hulled version of the old, wooden, clinker-built 17-footer that would have been familiar to the Cadets of half a century ago. Below is another photograph, of TS Steadfast cadets in a 17-footer engaged in a Lyttelton Harbour race against TS Waireka cadets from Dunedin. The date of this photograph is unknown, but it appears to be from the 1970s. The older photograph was found in the wardroom at the Cass Bay on-shore training area.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The cadets of yesteryear would probably step into a Crown and be able to sail it easily. Today’s cadets would likewise manage very well if they found themselves in a 17-footer, although they might find the boat heavier to handle and possibly slower through the water.
However, apart from the boat, there are two obvious differences between then and now.
One is the all-male crew – today’s Crown sailors are just as likely to be young women and the Crown in the top photo has a female coxswain.
Also, the lads from the previous years are not wearing lifejackets (possibly they are under the thwarts), and their clothing seems inadequate for the conditions. Perhaps young people were hardier then, but today’s cadets are not foolhardy. Lifejackets are now compulsory and the young people of today favour neoprene wetsuits and polypropelene undergarments to ward off hypothermia.
Neville Peach was a Sea Cadet at TS Steadfast during World War II and went on to a near 30-year career in the Royal New Zealand Navy, retiring in 1977 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He joined the navy as a sick berth attendant in 1947 and saw active service in the Korean War, including on raiding parties, during which one of his shipmates, Able Seaman Marchioni, was killed.
Lieutenant Commander Peach’s full biography at the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy can be found here.
Cadets from TS Steadfast made a direct contribution to the war effort during World War II, splicing wire ropes for bren-gun carriers, and establishing a mine-watching station on the shores of Lyttelton Harbour.
These photographs from The Press, 19 June 1942, shows cadets splicing ropes. The caption records that they gave up a night a week to prepare the wire ropes for the New Zealand armed forces.
A cadet from this era, Victor Fifield, spoke of this work in an interview he gave in 1996. He said the ropes were used on the bren-gun carriers, for a winch that kept the vehicle’s tracks up.
Sea Cadets pose for photos on an annual training camp at Quail Island in 1944, as pictured in The Press on 24 January that year.
Members of the Canterbury Division of the Sea Cadet Corps, the forerunner of TS Steadfast, are in the top photo. The bottom photo shows cadets from the Otago Division. Auckland and Wellington divisions also attended the camp.
The camp was commanded by Lieutenant Commander H.B. Anderson, seen right, talking to Commander T.S. Critchley, the Naval Officer in Charge at Lyttelton.
This is one of the earliest known images of the Christchurch Sea Cadets in training. Published in The Press on 12 October 1933, it shows cadets learning bends and hitches (knots) at the Canterbury Rowing Club headquarters.