AN APPEAL has gone out for former Poole Sea Cadets to help the unit celebrate its 75th birthday in February.

TS Drax at Sterte, has helped many a youngster set sail on a naval or service career and now the unit is asking former members to get in touch and share their memories.

“We are appealing for anyone in Poole who has been involved in it over the last 75 years to get in touch with us,” said president, Malcolm Shakesby.

Founded in 1939, the year the Second World War started, the unit was originally on the water’s edge at Holes Bay.

In the 1980s the land was filled in to create the Holes Bay Road and the unit in Sterte Avenue West found itself a little further from the sea.

It currently holds burgee status, meaning that it is one of the best in the country. And its band, runner-up in a national competition, takes part in many events in and around the town.

“I’m quite proud of them really.

“They do put Poole on the map,” said Capt Shakesby.

Sea Cadets date back to the Crimean War when sailors returning home from the campaign formed Naval Lads’ Brigades. The aim was to help orphans created by the conflict, who ended up on the back streets of sea ports.

The first brigade was established at Whitstable in 1854 and in 1919 had grown to 34. By the outbreak of WWII, Poole became one of 100 units around the UK, supporting 10,000 cadets with training in seafaring skills.

The unit has 70 members with 30-40 turning out regularly. As well as learning boating skills they have the chance to secure qualifications.

“I started my sea going career there,” said Capt Shakesby. “I wanted to go to sea since the age of five. My career was mapped out. At about 12 I started to go to TS Drax, nautical school and then I went to sea.”

He was chief officer on a cargo ferry the Duke of Anglia, sailing from Dartford to Zeebrugge when the Townsend Thoresen ferry the Herald of Free Enterprise, capsized in the Belgian port in March 1987.

His captain told him to take a lifeboat and crew and try to help and he ended up controlling the rescue operation overnight. The disaster claimed 188 lives and for his actions he received the MBE.

The 75th anniversary of Poole Sea Cadets takes place on February 7 and anyone who has memories and photographs to share can contact Malcolm Shakesby on 01305 853334 at or contact the unit at Sterte.