The Ditty Bag revival – Navy League Cadet Corps resurrects an oldtime naval pouch

Ditty Bags

Peter Mallett 
for RCN 
Staff Writer

The Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC) on the lower mainland has resurrected a Second World War era hand-made sailor drawstring pouch.

Dubbed the Ditty Bag, which in the olden days would have held toiletries and personal items, the modern day bag holds goodies and goodwill messages. 

The first set of bags made by Navy League officers and volunteers were handed out to HMCS Winnipeg sailors upon their return home just before Christmas on Dec. 16.

Inside the bag were puzzle books, Christmas socks, a Christmas stocking filled with edible treats, hand-signed Christmas cards, and personalized messages from sea cadets.

LCdr (NL) Cliff Mah, B.C. Mainland division area officer, Lt(NL) Ryan Moore, Commanding Officer of NLCC; and Hon Clarence Wallace from North Vancouver made the trip to be on the jetty and distribute the bags to sailors  returning from Operations Neon and Projection. They received assistance from the Military Family Resource Centre Esquimalt and volunteers from Naval Fleet School Pacific.

“This is all about boosting their morale because when sailors are at sea they don’t get to see their families, they miss their loved ones, and sometimes they feel underappreciated,” says LCdr (NL) Mah. “To see the ditty bags laid out on the table and then given to the sailors gave me a very emotional feeling. I am committed to this project, and with the assistance of officers, instructors, and cadets, we will see this project continue.”

Going forward, the bags will be distributed while sailors are at sea. First up is a delivery of Easter-themed Ditty Bags to sailors in HMCS Yellowknife and HMCS Saskatoon, and their embarked United States Coast Guard members.

Bags will arrive at CFB Esquimalt later this month. With the help of the MFRC, they will be sent to these ships currently deployed on Operation Carribe.

The Ditty Bag revival has attracted interest from an NLCC Corps in New Brunswick for Maritime Forces Atlantic sailors. 

LCdr (NL) Mah’s Ditty Bag idea took flight after it was taken to Lt(NL) Ester Barone, Commanding Officer of NLCC Cormorant, and Cdr (NL) Christopher Young, BC Mainland Division Commander, who helped recruit volunteers to make the bags and fill them.

Also essential in making it happen was Susie Chant, MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour. Chant is the former Coxswain of Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery and used her contacts in the navy to gauge the Pacific Fleet’s level of interest level in the bags.

“Next thing I knew, she asked if we could have 255 Ditty Bags for HMCS Winnipeg for Christmas,” says LCdr (NL)  Mah. “We said ‘yes’ and soon began the process of making the bags.”

Materials and the gifts inside were funded by the Richmond-Delta Navy League Cadet Corp branch, NLCC
parents from NLCC Cormorant in Surrey, and private donors.

With the additional help from NLCC
parent volunteers, Lt(N) Barone and Lt(NL) Georgina Munro cut the material and sewed the bag, adding a patch on the front.

Each bags costs $20 and LCdr (NL) Mah is looking for sponsors to help pay for future Ditty Bags. Anyone interested in supporting the project can contact him at

Ditty Bag Contents

The contents of HMCS Winnipeg’s Ditty Bag.

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