RCSCC 31 LION is quite possibly the oldest continuously operating Sea Cadet Corps in Canada. Named after the Royal Navy battlecruiser, HMS LION, flagship of Vice Admiral Beatty at both Dogger Bank in 1915 and Jutland in 1916, RCSCC LION traces its history to 1917.
When the Hamilton Branch of the Navy League of Canada received its charter in September, 1917, it probably simply recognized an already existing organization. An article in The Hamilton Herald (6 November, 1920) refers to the Boys Naval Brigade in Hamilton receiving uniforms thanks to the efforts of “navy league workers” but it is felt that an informal and un-uniformed organization had existed for several years at that point.
In 1923, the Boys Naval Brigade became the Sea Cadets and the Hamilton corps moved in with the brand new Half Company of the RCNVR at the corner of Bay Street North and Burlington Street. It would likely have been at this point that LION “adopted” the Naval Reserve’s 12 pdr field gun which has been such a symbol of the corps ever since. In 1935, the RCNVR moved to 41 Stuart Street leaving the cadets behind. In 1941, the Navy League/DND partnership, which continues to this day, began and Sea Cadet officers received warrants rather than commissions and were paid.
In 1943, King George VI granted the Royal prefix to the corps. The Hamilton Half Company, RCNVR, now known as HMCS STAR, moved to new quarters at Pier Nine on the Hamilton waterfront at the foot of Catharine Street, and the Sea Cadets moved from Bay Street to Stuart Street. They stayed there only a short while and then moved in with the Naval Reserve again.
Their stay there was also short because HMCS STAR was soon overcrowded and the Sea cadets had to go. On 8 May, 1948, a brand new Navy League Barracks were opened at 595 Catharine Street North, across the street from HMCS STAR. In 1968, with the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, Sea Cadet instructors received commissions in the Cadet Instructor Cadre of the Armed Forces
As LION approaches what is believed to be its centennial in 1917, a possibly ominous cloud lies on the horizon. While the Navy League owns the building, the land belongs to the City of Hamilton and the lease to the Hamilton Port Authority was terminated in the spring of 2013 as the city looks at plans for developing the city’s waterfront. Just how the venerable barracks and RCSCC LION fit into the city’s plans remains to be seen.
For over ninety-five years, RCSCC LION has been giving young men, and, since 1975, young women, aged 12 to 18, opportunities to learn and grow in a disciplined but enjoyable nautical environment, along with possibilities of travel to camps across Canada.
Contact RCSCC LION at 905-522-4414 or visit between 18:30 and 21:00 on Wednesday evenings.