The military, even at its junior levels, is largely about tradition.
So it was rather fitting last weekend that the 263 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Beacon Hill commanding officer accepted the commissioning pennant from Second World War-era frigate HMCS Beacon Hill, its Victoria-constructed namesake, from the son the last CO of the navy ship.
Retired commander Rod Hughes presented the pennant, along with some other mementos from the ship collected in a wooden box, to Lt. Cynthia Lawless in a special ceremony Sunday during the corps’ annual ceremonial review at its hall in Langford.
The pennant had been presented some years ago to retired rear admiral Bill Hughes – he passed away in 2013 – and son Rod felt it was fitting that the cadet corps receive this very special collection of naval artifacts.
The gifting of the artifacts was special for Lawless, who got to know Bill Hughes a few years back through the longtime Canadian navy man’s work reviewing cadets, and his spearheading of a stained-glass window campaign for St. Paul’s Garrison Church in Esquimalt.
“He was very generous and passionate about staying connected with the corps,” she says.
Not only did he invite members of the corps for the dedication of the stained glass piece, Lawless says, Hughes made a significant financial contribution to the group for its annual top cadet award, which is given annually in his name.
“It’s rather bittersweet. The reason why we’re getting the commissioning pennant is because he’s no longer with us. That’s what makes it a little more heartfelt and connected. It’s a circle of connected things and it’s wrapping all that up. A piece of him remains in the cadet hall.”
The hall already has a number of artifacts from the Beacon Hill, which was in service from 1944 to 1957. They include a wooden battle board, the ship’s bell, a picture and a cast of the ship’s crest, and a few smaller items.
The presentation from Rod Hughes was just one of a number of awards given on the day.
Chief Petty Officer First Class Taylor Cartwright was the most decorated cadet, earning the Hughes/Beacon Hill award as top cadet for the year, the Lord Strathcona medal, plus the Division Music, leadership and best .22 rifle marksmanship awards. Not only that, she earned recognition for near perfect attendance.
Other top individual award winners were:
Petty Officer First Class Cam Welch, Royal Canadian Legion Cadet Medal of Excellence; Petty Officer Second Class Erin Lawless, for the Navy League Medal of Excellence and Duke of Edinburgh bronze pin; Chief Petty Officer Second Class Brian Lawless, for the Duke of Edinburgh gold pin, and CPO2 Kershia Younger for the Sea Cadet Service Bars.