Islington sea cadet volunteer of 40 years to receive British Citizen Award
- Credit: Archant
A navy veteran who has supported more than 3,000 youngsters during 40 years as a sea cadet volunteer is to be honoured with a prestigious national award.
Bevan Johns, 80, will pick up a British Citizen Award at the Palace of Westminster later this month for his services to volunteering and charitable giving.
"I'm excited," said Bevan. "Between us, me, my wife and our two children have 100 years of service. My wife and daughter will be coming so it'll be a nice day."
Bevan joined Stoke Newington corps aged 15, and returned as an instructor after his national service in the navy.
After a career with the London Fire Brigade, he then became involved with the Islington corps, and was instrumental in keeping it afloat.
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"We were in a school and were governed by whether the caretaker was there to let us in or not," he said. "I thought it would be good to have our own building."
Bevan discovered a disused electricity substation in Canonbury Road and managed to raise £17,000 to renovate it - in the design of a ship.
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When cash ran out, Bevan taught the cadets carpentry and brick laying to get it over the line. The finished product had a marine barracks, 10 bunks, a bridge, a sick bay and a quartermaster lobby.
Even after retiring from Islington in 2002 he couldn't keep away.
"I suffered a cardiac arrest about 10 years ago and while recovering at home in Chingford I was getting on my wife's nerves," Bevan said. "She said: 'For goodness sake why don't you go around the corner [to the Waltham Forest corps] and see if you can be of assistance?'."
He had only been there volunteering as a "lieutenant commander teaboy" for a month when the management left, and the group faced closure. That was until Bevan took over.
He has now finally retired, but as president still attends meetings.
"I got an awful lot from the cadets," he said. "The training they gave me was important. I used to go on seamanship courses with the Royal Navy. They taught me everything about engineering.
"It's still so important. Kids today haven't got many practical skills apart from using a finger on a computer. They don't get their hands dirty and look at the mechanical or electrical sides of things.
"The corps' have seen that and they still teach these things."