Back in March 2020, like many other organisations, Birkenhead Sea Cadets were forced to close their doors in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and the ‘first’ national lockdown. At the time, it was all very new and an uncertain time for the cadets and volunteers. However, we are delighted to say that even a national pandemic was not enough to stem the enthusiasm of the team at TS Blackcap.
The unit learnt to adapt to the challenging times; and very quickly started to engage virtually with their cadets and volunteers. Initially, this was from a welfare and wellbeing perspective; calling on the unit Chaplain to offer pastoral support, advice and guidance. This quickly evolved and we saw the birth of ‘Virtual Sea Cadets’. Both cadets and volunteers started to engage in virtual training and activities; this continued until the unit was able to reopen their doors in April 2021.
Alongside the virtual training, the unit volunteers have continued to work hard behind the scenes to reinvigorate the Unit Development Plan. A number of volunteers began to identify a range of maintenance jobs that needed doing in readiness for a return to parading. Initially the tasks where small focused tasks that would help improve the physical environment and ensure that the unit could safely achieve ‘Covid Secure’ status. Once Government guidance allowed, the volunteers set to work on completing these tasks. As time went on the more jobs were added to the list and more and more jobs were completed.
As plans for reopening appeared to be pushed further and further back and with extended periods of lockdown and changing Government restrictions the volunteers had to down tools from time to time; but didn’t deter them.
Throughout the last 12 months, the team have managed to convert a disused ‘Boat Shed’ into a modern, multi functional training space for cadets to develop their engineering and seamanship skills. They have also redecorated the whole interior of the unit headquarters which now provides a modern and clean training facility with a new fresh look throughout. In addition, they have also converted a former office space into an interactive navigation classroom with a ship’s simulator installed to allow the cadets to practice and develop their navigation skills and offer a unique training experience to our cadets to continue to keep them engaged.
Petty Officer Mike Larsen, the Commanding Officer said, “I am really proud of what the team have managed to achieve; particularly in such a challenging year. Many of our volunteers are key workers, who have continued working throughout the pandemic. Despite this, as soon as the restrictions allowed they have worked together to ensure we can make the most of a difficult situation.”