A Balham girls' school has launched one of the largest student Navy cadet units in London.
Pupils from La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School took part in their first unformed parade in front of hundreds of proud parents, teachers, local politicians and senior Naval officers on Wednesday.
Commodore Ellie Ablett MBE, one of the most senior women in the Royal Navy, launched the new unit.
She said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for these girls. They will learn skills that cannot be taught anywhere else.
"Everything from practical things, such as tying knots, to teamwork, listen and communication skills.”
“The cadet programme aims to champion and build the confidence of young women. I was so proud of them when they were out on parade. They have not had long to put this together and it was perfect."
Year 12 Ester Atunrase was awarded the position of leading hand, the highest rank in the junior Navy.
She said: "I'm very proud of myself. It's been a real commitment, coming every week. But it is amazing we have got so many young girls involved.
"We learn real life skills like communication and leadership. I think it is a fantastic opportunity the school and Navy have given us."
The girls drill every Wednesday and are given the opportunity to go on dozens of trips run by the Navy every year.
The group have recently returned from Portsmouth where they were able to stay on HMS Bristol - a Naval destroyer used in the Falklands War.
Sixty students are members of the unit, while dozens more are now on the waiting list. The school has also offered cadet places to girls from Streatham and Clapham High School. In exchange La Retraite students can go to the independent school for extra classes in certain subjects.
Headteacher Dominic Malins said: "It is a really important part of this school's development. The idea of having cadets started about two years ago.
"It was organised for four students to have a day out with the Navy. They came back with a real enthusiasm and drive for life. We really wanted to capture that enthusiasm and focus.
"We have worked really hard and quickly to get the cadet unit set up and a partnership with Streatham and Clapham High School is mutually beneficial to both our school. But if the girls had not been so focussed on wanting this, it never would have happened."