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Cadets march shoulder to shoulder with Black Watch veterans

November, 2010

The words of Rudyard Kipling are carved in the stone façade of our local Legion Hall: Lest we forget.

I once gathered my children on a park bench across the street, where they could see the inscription and reflect on its meaning to those who lived through the Great War.

One day my daughter Margaret would don a uniform and march shoulder to shoulder with veterans and servicemen into that very park to pay her respects at its cenotaph.

Montreal’s prestigious Black Watch has a cadet corps, we discovered after looking into a corps closer to home whose training night conflicted with Margaret’s other activities.

We encouraged her to join the Black Watch so she could explore her Scottish heritage, and because the unit seemed to have so many activities. She stayed because she found her place in a regimental family whose heritage stretches back to before Confederation.

Margaret is 13 and has attained the rank of lance corporal.

Cadet Lance Corporal Brennan Kock and father Peter at a remembrance ceremony. Brennan is a third-generation member of the Black Watch. Photo: Sherri Rattray

When she talks of cadets, she speaks of teamwork, taking risks and sometimes making mistakes, of working hard to gain the approval of her officers, and learning to take on the responsibility of leadership. She tells me of this year’s new recruits, and how they swelled with pride when they received their uniforms. She is proud for them too, and she has tasted the camaraderie her grandparents experienced during their years of service to their country.

Peter Kock says he can’t understand why more parents don’t put their kids into cadets. He speaks of the many opportunities his son Brennan, 13, has enjoyed since he joined the Black Watch cadet corps: trips to Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories, field training exercises, visits to the veterans’ hospital, marching in parades and bagpipe lessons. Brennan is the third young man in his family to be a Black Watch cadet, following in the footsteps of his dad and uncle. His grandfather was an instructor with the corps.

Brennan originally considered a corps closer to his home, too. His father asked him if he wanted to perform a drill in a school cafeteria, or on a regimental parade square where he could see the plaques bearing names of numerous Victoria Cross recipients. Brennan didn’t quite understand the difference when his father asked him, but today he is Black Watch through and through.

It has been a challenge to answer the multiple demands on his time from cadets, football and school, but Brennan has risen to the challenge. Peter is proud of his son’s accomplishments, and keenly aware how lucky Brennan is to be mentored by members of the regiment.

Victoria McCann found her way to the Black Watch cadet corps through a family friend who promised to teach her snare drumming through its Learners Program. At 15, she had completed her Silver Star level of training, been promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was made a platoon commander.

Doing well in cadets has not always been easy for Victoria, whose dyslexia means she has to work extra hard to pass her exams. Her efforts have been recognized by fellow cadets and officers alike.

In June, she was awarded the Lord Strathcona Medal – the highest performance award a Canadian cadet can earn. Her mother, Patty, who calls herself a “cheerleader” for the corps, says being a cadet has brought Victoria closer to her grandfather, a Second World War paratrooper with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Few youth today can say they have marched in the same Remembrance parade as a grandparent, or that they have lived even briefly the experiences of those we commemorate each November.

Our country may be slipping into forgetfulness and losing sight of what Remembrance Day is about, but not the young men and women of the Black Watch cadet corps. No matter what path they ultimately choose, today they wear their uniforms with pride – whether it’s combat boots and fatigues or a full Highland kit topped with a Balmoral and red hackle. They walk in soldiers’ shoes for just a few hours each week, and their close contact with the regiment helps them appreciate the sacrifices of those who have gone before.

The Canadian Cadet Movement is Canada’s largest federally funded youth organization, offering activities free of charge to everyone age 12 to 18. There are more than 1,000 cadet corps and squadrons across the country where youth can learn valuable life skills, grow into strong citizens, and make friendships that will last a lifetime. For more information about the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada Cadet Corps send an email to or call 514-496-1686 ext. 237.



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