This year, 2004, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets (RCAC) celebrates its 125 th year of service to Canada , and since 2nd Nova Scotia Highlanders (CB) currently supports 4 local cadet corps, it is probably an opportune time to provide some information on this important part of the Regimental family. We will begin with a sketch of the origins of the RCAC and then follow up with a brief description of the individual corps with which we are affiliated. In conclusion we will look at a few corps which are no longer active, but which contributed in large measure to our Battalion’s affairs over the years.
For 125 years, the Army Cadets have been providing the opportunity for Canadian youth to take an active role in creating a positive future, not only for themselves, but for their communities as well. Army Cadet service teaches self-determination, leadership, discipline, and the other attributes which make our youth more productive citizens and future community change-makers. The origins of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets predate Confederation, with the creation, in 1862, of Drill Associations, which were linked to local schools. On 28 November 1879 , the Militia General Order Number 18 authorized the formation of Associations for Drill in Educational Institutions, and this date is recognized as the official founding of the RCAC. These Associations were spread throughout the country as follows: Ontario 34; Quebec 24; Maritimes 13; Manitoba 2; and British Columbia 1.
A Cadet Corps affiliation with a local Militia unit dates from 1899, and the Militia Bill of 1904 authorized boys of 12-18 years of age to be formed into school cadet corps. Two years later, “Open Corps” were also created (these corps were not connected with a specific school, and they now comprise the majority of current Army Cadet corps), including the 4 supported by Second Battalion, The Nova Scotia Highlanders (Cape Breton).
In 1908, an Order-in-Council was approved by the Minister of National Defence, Sir Frederick Borden, which among other things, trained school teachers as Corps officers and Cadets became primarily a function of various schools throughout the country. Shortly after, a corps of school cadet instructors was created and was known as the Cadet Services of Canada (CSofC), it subsequently became a part of the Reserves and the fifth component of the Canadian Army.
Between 1912-1918, the Army Cadet movement thrived and at the end of this period there were more than 64,000 enrolled, of these, upwards of 40,000 Army Cadets voluntarily enlisted in World War I. Of the 64 Victoria Crosses awarded to Canadians during that war, 25 of them were won by ex-Army Cadets. For the next 20 years 1919-39, as defence matters steadily declined, the Army Cadets (and Canada’s military in general) saw a decrease in both funding and enrolment.
The outbreak of World War II, however, brought a much heightened interest and in 1941, the Ministers of National Defence for Navy, Army and Air Force jointly requested the provincial Departments of Education to cooperate actively in the formation of cadet corps. In 1942, King George VI accepted the appointment of Colonel-in-Chief and conferred the title “Royal” on the Army Cadets.
It has been calculated that more than 124,000 ex-Army Cadets voluntarily enlisted in Canada ’s Forces during World War II; of this number, more than 19,000 received commissions and over 27,000 were awarded decorations. The next 20 years were also ones of expansion, with schools forming the basis of RCAC corps and teachers comprising the majority of the instructional/officer staffs.
In 1948, trades training was introduced in addition to local training and was conducted at Army Camps for 6-7 weeks during the summer period. By 1954, these courses consisted of Senior Leader, Rifle Coaching, Signals, and Driver & Maintenance. I had the opportunity of taking the former in 1955 and the latter during the year following, and can attest to the fact that the training was excellent. These summer camps were the beginning of the Army Cadet training which has been conducted, in recent years, at Camp Argonaut , part of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown , New Brunswick but which functions as an autonomous Army Cadet facility.
In 1956, the current RCAC crest (as shown at the beginning of this article) was designed and is worn on the uniform.
Integration and re-organization planning descended upon the Canadian Army circa 1964-66 and on 1 February 1968 , the Canadian Forces came into being. The Royal Canadian Army Cadets were placed under the control of functional commands having a regional responsibility (e.g. in Nova Scotia , Cadets became the responsibility of Maritime Command (read Navy).
On 1 April 1971 , the Army Cadet League of Canada was formed to work with the Department of National Defence in the administration of the Army Cadet movement. Four years later ( 30 July 1975 ), the National Defence Act was amended, allowing girls to enrol in the RCAC and females have since played an equal and vital role with their male counterparts. The Cadet Services of Canada was superseded by the Cadet Instructor List and was later re-designated the Cadet Instructor Cadre (CIC). The approximate strength of the Army Cadets today is some 21,000, with 450 corps spread throughout all provinces and territories.
As it has in the past, The Royal Canadian Army Cadet programme continues to provide such military skills as map and compass, drill, camping, marksmanship, etc. Members are also offered leadership training, citizenship, physical fitness and other related positive experiences, which prepare them for service in the Forces, should they choose. For those not opting for a military career, cadet experience ensures that they will bring to their civilian careers the myriad benefits their cadet service has provided.
RCAC CORPS SUPPORTED by 2nd Nova Scotia Highlanders (CB)
There are currently 4 corps on Cape Breton Island which have the Battalion as their affiliated unit and are located in the following areas: Glace Bay, Sydney, Sydney Mines, and Judique. A brief description of each follows: