History of 59
59 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps got its start in 1900 as a school cadet corps in Chatham Collegiate Institute. At the time, all cadet corps could be found in high schools. As the number suggests, it is one of the oldest Army Cadet units in the country. At the time, the cadet program was designed for boys to encourage leadership and military training. Most of the instructors were school teachers or ex-military personnel. In the late 1960s, many school cadet corps became “open cadet corps”, meaning anyone could join, not just the youth attending the school.
Led by Colonel R.D. West, CD OSTJ, the fight was on to establish 59 as an open cadet corps so that any teen-aged boy in the community could join. Col. West was successful in acquiring space in the Chatham Armoury on William St. and 59 became an open corps on 1 January 1968. The four founding fathers of the Corps that led the corps into success are Colonel R.D. West, Burt Langley, Bud Talbot and Major Dick Sanford.
There was very little in the way of supplies and material, but the corps thrived. At one point in the corps history, there were satellite companies in many of the smaller towns near Chatham. In 1972, some of the first females were present in the corps but not until 1975 were they acknowledged as members of the unit. One of the first females to join was Dottie Laurie, who years later became the first female CIC Commanding Officer of the corps.
The staff of 59 is made up of officers of the Cadet Instructors Cadre (CIC), a branch of the Canadian Forces Reserves, and by Civilian Instructors and volunteers. The Corps currently trains at the Ursuline College in Chatham on Tuesday evenings.