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It’s the 5th November today and here in the UK that means only one thing to most kids and lots of adults as well.  It’s ‘Bonfire Night’, which is celebrated every year to commemorate Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  I think we are supposed to be celebrating the fact that he failed.

Guy Fawkes, was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Guy Fawkes and fellow Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up Parliament and assassinate James I of England.  Fawkes was caught in the act, imprisoned and tortured at the Tower of London and suffered a traitor’s hideous death.

In my day we celebrated with bonfires and fireworks in the street.  Nobody had heard of Health and Safety 70 years ago.  Celebrations now are strictly controlled, well organised and supervised, but with the same historical motivation and effective entertainment value for audiences of all ages.

Keeping kids, from the age of around 10 into adulthood, motivated and effectively and usefully entertained is a big challenge for communities globally.  In South Shields we are lucky to have lots of parents and adults who volunteer so that we can all enjoy the real benefits of numerous youth organisations.  My wife Lilian and I support a few of them and in particular, because of our background, the South Shields TS Collingwood Sea Cadet Unit.

I mention it because the unit was reviewed in September by Captain Philip Russell, RN, Captain of the Sea Cadets Northern Area, which takes in Northern England down to the Humber, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Bermuda.  His report and comments were very positive and instead of me waffling on, I will just include notes and comments from Collingwood’s Unit Commanding Officer Jim Simpson then Captain Philips.

‘2019 started on a high having been awarded a Burgee, our 10th in a row, which is something the unit has only achieved once before in its 81-years existence.  The District Award for the 7th time in 8 years and The Stephenson Trophy, National Sea Cadet Award for Best Unit in the Northern Area, for the first time in our history.  T.S. Collingwood was also awarded the Captains Cup for coming third out of over 600 units in the whole of the UK, which is a truly fantastic achievement.’

‘During 2 years of fundraising by cadets and staff members, £13,500 was raised to enable us to pay for 22 cadets and 6 adults to visit Malta for the unit Summer Camp in August.  They all had a fantastic time, staying with Malta Sea Cadets, who were the perfect hosts.  The cadets visited many historic sites learning all about the Royal Navy’s presence and the Second World War, also enjoying boat trips, swimming, water parks and BBQ’s, with plenty of tears when it was time to leave.’

‘Numerous other activities have been undertaken and we spent the months up to Christmas collecting 3 car loads of foodstuffs and cleaning items to donate to a local food bank.  They were gratefully accepted on behalf of the people who are less fortunate.’

Captain Philips observations included, ’If you want to see the Cadet Experience in action, then South Shields unit is the unit to visit, as it maximises every opportunity to deliver an amazing experience.  From Offshore to National Area training, it is all on offer.  The amazing trip to Malta is also a fine example of what can be achieved when you dare to dream big.’

‘There is no shortage of talent in South Shields.  Also there are few units that come close to the community engagement of TS Collingwood.  It is without any hesitation that I award a Burgee to South Shields for yet another fine performance.’

A burgee is the highest award that reflects the level of training, community participation, events, staff and cadet attendance of the unit.  This will now make it 11 Burgees in a row that the unit has won and Lilian and I send the whole team at Collingwood our sincere Congratulations.  We never cease to be amazed at what they achieve for the benefit of themselves and our community.

We are very proud to be associated with our land-based Training Ship, TS Collingwood and its people.


JHL MBE SSL Co. Chairman