The cadet program can trace its history to the creation of Drill Associations in 1861, pre-dating confederation by 6 years. These associations (precursors to the Royal Canadian Army Cadets) were linked to local schools.
Origin of the sea cadet program can be traced back to before the turn of the century. The first cadet association of the sea element began in 1896. The Navy League in Canada, whose main purpose was encouraging the development of the naval aspects in Canadian society, decided to found the Boy’s Naval Brigade. In the beginning, it directed the brigades itself, with its own resources, techniques and funding
In 1917 and 1918, all branches of the Navy League were granted federal charters under the newly formed Navy League of Canada. Under the new organization, branches, which previously acted independently, were now grouped into divisions for the purpose of coordinating the work of the league in respective regions.
At this time, leagues applied to be charted. The Navy League of Canada – Welland Branch (No. 93) was chartered on 25th of November 1918. The founding members were:
The Honourable Richard Harcourt;
Judge LBC Livingstone;
John H. Crow;
Louis Blake Duff;
Col. E Cohoe, VD;
Col. L Clark Richmond, KC; and
Magistrate John Goodwin.
The charter paper includes the chartering and establishment of the Welland Boys Naval Brigade. Although the warrant number and date do not reflect it as being first (as applications were filed simultaneously well after the fact), the cadet corps was the first chartered by the newly established Navy League of Canada. Thus, granting the title of “Oldest Canadian Sea Cadet Corps” to the Welland Sea Cadets.
6 RC(Sea)CC VICTORY – Montreal, PQ (1896) and 31 RC(Sea)CC LION – Hamilton, ON (1917) trace their origins to before the existence of BELLEROPHON. However, these corps applied for their charter well after the Welland Cadet Corps
The Brigade, conducted its activities in a former city water work building (pump house) located at the end of Deniston St. The Lion’s Club erected a boathouse to the river at this site.
The first skipper was Mr. Horrance Cox. He was assisted by Mr. Ed “Pop” Mason, ex-Yeoman, RN. These two men ran the unit from its inception as a youth program. Soon, they were joined by Mr. Jack Taddersall and Mr. Paddy Curtis.
Later, Mr. Daniel “Cappy” Couglan, ex-Chief Coxswain, RN, joined the ranks in 1921. Mr. Couglan rose through the ranks to become the Chief Instructor. History also records that “Cappy” chose the name “BELLEROPHON” for the Welland unit in 1923. The decision was based on the fact a relative had served onboard HMS BELLEROPHON during World War 1.
In 1922, the quarters were moved to Dorothy St. This building, located on the east side, served as the YMCA in Welland.
The Boy’s Naval Brigade was changed to the Navy League Sea Cadets in 1923. This allowed a closer liaise with the Navy League and the Royal Canadian Navy. It was also in that year that Admiral Story, RN (ret’d) volunteered to supervise the cadet corps under the Navy League by appointing L. Cdr HRG Williams, RNR (ret’d) to command.
Shortly thereafter, a Ladies Auxiliary was formed, the first in Canada. This was not recognized by the Navy League until chartered on 14th February 1933, 10 years after its creation.
The 1930’s produced more firsts for Welland: Lt Jack Barber would become the Commanding Officer of BELLEROPHON after rising through the ranks where he started as a cadet.
In 1941, His Majesty, King George VI, the Royal Patron of the Navy League of Canada graciously consented to be the Admiral of the Navy League Sea Cadets. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, continues this Royal Patronage today, having appointed HRH, the Duke of Edinburgh as Admiral of Sea Cadets. In 1942, the term Royal was added to the name and thus began the reign of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets.
It was also in 1941 that the Royal Canadian Navy became a joint partner with the Navy League of Canada in support of the Sea Cadet movement. The association, first with the RCN and subsequently with the Canadian Forces, has continued to be mutually beneficial.
The “stone frigate” once again weighed anchor and sailed onto a new berth at the Welland Armoury in 1948 on the southwest side of Lincoln St.
From the early 1960’s, BELLEROPHON had built a reputation with her marching band. Lt Paddy Curtis was the first Band Master, followed by Lt Duncan Doan, only to be taken over again by Paddy. These two had led the band through many performances earning awards from many local, provincial, national, and international organizations.
1968 saw the Navy League Wrennette Corps PATRICIAN organized for females. Previously, Mr. Horrance Cox and Mr. Ed “Pop” Mason attempted to introduce a program directed toward females. These sailorettes (though not under that name) started in 1919. Sailorettes disbanded after one year from a lack of recognition and support by the Navy League. PARTICIAN would stand for 12 years under the commands of Lt. Pat McLean, Lt. Joyce Peacock, and Lt. Marion Kenyon. The interim Commanding Officer for the final two years was S/Lt. Martin. She would be the first female officer of the unit, however, not the first in Canada. In 1974, after an Act of Parliament made it possible for females to join the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet, the NLWC PATRICIAN was amalgamated with RC(Sea)CC BELLEROPHON.
The local militia unit moved to its current home of the Lake St. Armoury in St. Catharine’s in 1969. The armory in Welland, and home of BELLEROPHON, was torn down. BELLEROPHON once again set sail for the changing rooms of the Crowland Pool on King St. 1971 saw the cadet corps move again to a facility run by the Welland County General Hospital.
Relocation was common for the next few years. In reaction to find a stable home for BELLEROPHON, the Bellerophon Society Inc. was formed on 8th June 1979. This led to the purchasing of the former Maple View School on South Pelham Rd. and an official christening ceremony was held on 19th November 1983.
In 1987, the Navy League of Canada – Welland Branch formed the Navy League Cadet Corps PEGASUS. This unit was to deliver the program to youth who were not of age to join Sea Cadets. PEGASUS operated for 10-13 year olds for only two years before ceasing operations.
1991 had BELLEROPHON, once again, moving operations to Merritt Island. The ship had been anchored on the island from 1991 to 2008. In 1993, the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps BELLEROPHON celebrated its cherished heritage by hosting its 75th anniversary and reunion.
In 2004, the corps participated in the Inter-Provincial Cadet Exchange (ICE). The unit traveled to Whitehorse in the Yukon. In late-2005, the corps hosted the 11 RC(Sea)CC SIOUX from Laval, PQ as part of the same program.
Many former serving cadets and officers have continued the strong band tradition alive and well. They have created and maintained a band known as, the Bellerophon Drum and Bugle Band. The band has been in operation for many years and serves as a connection to the former days of BELLEROPHON and its current crew. The cadets support the band by participating and parading in special events, while the band shows up for cadet functions to perform such as Annual Review.
In May 2008 the cadet corps moved again to rejoin an old friend. With their kind permission, BELLEROPHON moved into the Welland Armoury with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment – Charlie Company. This move rekindled an old association with the regiment that went without since their move from Welland back in 1969.
The corps celebrated its 90th anniversary at the Welland Armoury with a grand parade. 78 RCSCC VALIANT (Port Colborne) and 103 RCSCC NIAGARA (Niagara Falls) assisted in putting on a celebratory parade and anniversary for BELLEROPHON.
Due to numerous factors, in spring 2010 DND/CAF and the Navy League of Canada decided to merge 141 RCSCC BELLEROPHON and 78 RCSCC VALIANT. In June 2010, 141 RCSCC BELLEROPHON, the oldest Sea Cadet corps in Canada, closed its doors for the final time.
During the planning meeting of the merging units, Mr Larry McQuinn, VP of Sea Cadets for Navy League, declared that should a Sea Cadet start up in Welland in the future, it will be known as BELLEROPHON. During the same meeting, the two command teams did not want to take one of the two names. Instead, it was decided to resurrect the name RENOWN for the recently closed corps in St Catharines. Thus, 125 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps RENOWN II was created.