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Civvy Life – Andy Burton, Sea Cadets Volunteer

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Andy served in the Royal Navy for over 10 years and is enjoying passing on some of his skills to young people through volunteering with the Sea Cadets.

What’s your Military background?

I joined the Navy in November 1982, just after the Falklands War and I left in September 1994 having Served on board two Type 42s – Exeter and Glasgow and I Served eight years on HMY Britannia – the Royal Yacht.

How was resettlement for you?

The first couple of years were quite hard. Obviously, coming out of the Navy and in to civvy street, attitudes were completely different. In the Military it’s all: ‘look after each other’ and ‘work as a team’ and yes, you work as a team in civvy street, but you don’t look after each other. It took me about two years to settle down.

Why did you decide to get involved with the Sea Cadets?

I used to be a cadet myself before I joined the Navy. I was there for four years between the age of 12 and 16, when I joined up.

From the time I left the Navy until about five years ago I was always in a job where I worked unsociable hours. Then I changed jobs to working Monday to Friday daytimes and to be honest, I was bored. I was just driving past the local unit in Southport and I just popped in to have a chat with them to see if there was anything I could do.

You can put in as many hours a week as you want: the parade nights are just two hours a week. It’s gone from strength-to-strength and I’ve requalified in all my boating instructor qualifications through the Sea Cadets so I’m now a qualified powerboat instructor, dingy instructor and stuff like that. Now I’ve moved units and I’m at TS Invincible, which is Chorley Sea Cadets; I actually run the unit up there. It’s rewarding, I enjoy it.

Was Cadets an influence in your joining up?

Yes, definitely, I was quite lucky. One of our instructors was a bloke called PO Blackmore and he was a World War 2 vet – he was a master gunner on board HMS Exeter during the time it was chasing the Graf Spee around the South Atlantic. The stories he told were an influence but I think the biggest influence was the old Ark Royal TV series, ‘Sailor’. I saw that on the telly and never wanted to do anything else apart from join up.

Can you paint a picture of the sort of things that Sea Cadets do?

The Sea Cadets have got around 400 units across the country and we’ve got about 14,000 cadets aged between 10 and 18 involved. We sail, we get kayaking qualifications which are nationally recognised by the RYA and the British Rowing Association. They can get qualifications in marine engineering, catering, first aid, seamanship. (There are about 400 courses a year that they can go on which are heavily subsidised.)

We get involved with local charities. Chorley is involved with ‘Turn to Starboard’ – a national charity that teaches veterans that have post traumatic stress to reintegrate with society by helping them to attain sailing qualifications. We also do stuff for a local hospice.

What has volunteering for the Sea Cadets done for you?

They helped me re-qualify. As I say, with my boating certificates. The biggest reward is actually seeing the kids achieve. Starting at the beginning of the boating season – boating is my speciality – you see a kid who has never been on the water in their life and they come along for one weekend and get the bug for sailing or powerboating or kayaking and 12 months later they’re qualified and off sailing on their own – with a big smile on their face.

That side of it is brilliant. I’m lucky enough that over the last five years I’ve seen a number of cadets go from young kids and actually develop into young adults – one of the girls is a fixed wing aircraft mechanic out in Fort Lauderdale learning how to fix the planes ready for the Queen Elizabeth.

What questions should a Service-leaver ask themselves before getting involved with Cadets?

What can I offer the Sea Cadets? A lot of ex-Servicepeople have got loads of qualifications in engineering and stuff like that and to be honest the Sea Cadets are crying out for qualified instructors who have got good knowledge that they can pass on to the youngsters. That gives them a good foundation and a good working knowledge for when they join up or go on in their future lives.

The Sea Cadets is based on the traditions of the Royal Navy; the honesty, the integrity and the self-discipline, respect and loyalty. You can pass that side of it on.