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Creston Valley Goes to War

Army Cadets

Cadets 1941

1746 Cadets Corps on parade outside Creston Valley High School, 1941

1942 Bolingbroke

The Bolingbroke bomber that made a forced landing near Creston, February 1942

Early in 1941, unit number 1746 in the “cadet training plan” was established at the Creston Valley High School (what is now Adam Robertson Elementary). All male students purchased (at a cost of $2.90, or about $48 today) drab green uniforms that also served as their school uniforms, were organised into platoons, and given training in everything from platoon drill to marksmanship, map reading, and signalling, semaphore, and Morse code. Cyril Colonel, who started attending the high school in 1943, believes it was mandatory for all the high school boys to be a member of the Cadets. He also remembers it being a handy alternative to detention: instead of being kept inside at lunch or after school, he says, transgressors were made to march up and down the sidewalk in front of the school with their full packs. “At least I was outside,” he says.

The fact that Dr. Murray was engaged to test 120 members in first aid gives some idea of just how large the Cadet corps was in 1941, and with a steady stream of new “recruits” entering high school every year, it undoubtedly enjoyed a consistently high membership throughout its connection with the high school.

In announcing the formation of the corps, the Creston Review wrote, “The object of this training is to give mental, moral and physical training to boys of high school age. It goes further, by developing character and teach true principles of patriotism and citizenship, not based on fear, mass hysteria or opportunism. The idea behind the cadet corps is to fit each male student, in this national emergency to take their places in the defense of their home and country.”

In other words: the Cadets were intended to give young men their first taste of military service and prepare them for more active roles in the future. It seems to have been quite successful, too: of the thirty-eight boys listed as officers in March 1941, twenty-two of them went on to military service, representing the Creston Valley in the army, air force, and navy and even among the paratroopers who went in on Sword beach on D-Day. The boys who were not officers are not named in the newspapers, but I think we can assume a fairly high percentage of them also found themselves on active duty. Certainly, there are many brothers of those named who did join up, and the ones who graduated from high school in 1941 or later were in all likelihood members of the Cadet Corps too.

One such was Bill Constable, who graduated from high school in 1942 and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force the following January. He recalls a duty assigned to the Cadet Corps in February 1942: A war-weary Bolingbroke bomber, being flown from Ottawa to Vancouver, lost an engine and made a forced landing near Creston. While waiting for repairs to be made, the Cadets got the task of guarding the plane. “We walked out from the fuselage to the wingtip and back," Bill recalls, “with .22 rifles that had the bolt removed so they couldn’t be fired. But they looked menacing, I guess.”

Though no longer affiliated with the high school, 1946 Royal Canadian Army Cadets Corps is still active in the Creston Valley.