On Friday 6th February 2009 Air Cadets from Nuneaton and Bedworth turned back the clock to 1939 to mark the 70th Anniversary of the formation of their Squadron.
The Bedworth Ex-Servicemen’s club was decked out in genuine wartime style banners and bunting with music and realistic wartime sound effects provided by Woody’s War Department all helping to take the 180 guests and Squadron members back in time to the early war years when the Air Cadet movement was formed.
The evening’s formal proceedings began in a rousing fashion as Sergeant Brian Ferris a piper from the band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers led the 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron Banner and the Union Flag into the hall. Flight Lieutenant Ian Crewe Officer commanding 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron then gave a short introduction outlining the history of the Squadron before inviting the principal guests the Mayor of Nuneaton and Bedworth, Councillor Gerald Smith and Central and East Regional Commandant, Group Captain Brett Morrell to speak.
The Air Cadet organisation became established in Nuneaton on 9th May 1939 with the founding of No. 121 (King Edward VI School) Squadron, Air Defence Cadet Corps. In February 1941, 121 (King Edward VI School) Squadron became part of the newly formed Air Training Corps and a second unit No. 411 (Borough of Nuneaton) Squadron was formed.
During the war years as battles raged in the skies over Britain the Royal Air Force were faced with a desperate need for suitable young men to serve as Aircrew and ground crew. The Air Training Corps main objective at was to foster an interest in aviation and provide pre-entry service training for prospective RAF recruits.
On the 14 September 1942 an article in the Midland Daily Tribune covering a parade of both 121 and 411 Squadrons outside the Nuneaton Council House, recalls how the former Mayor of the Borough of Nuneaton, Alderman Bates said, “The ATC were doing wonderful work in training the towns young men to become efficient and to be able to man and pilot an aircraft”. He went on to say how the training given by the ATC would help them in the RAF and would also be recognised by their future employers.
During his address the current Mayor of Nuneaton and Bedworth, Councillor Gerald Smith described how in the Nuneaton Squadron’s 70th Anniversary year the uniforms and objectives of the Air Cadets have changed significantly over the years but that the spirit and enthusiasm of its members remains unchanged. That the ATC is no longer a recruiting organisation for the RAF and is now part of a thriving national youth organisation which continues to provide academic and citizenship training the value of which is increasingly recognised in both service and civilian life.
He went on to say how the Air Cadets are well known for their work within the local community and how the Squadrons Band has become a familiar site at public events such as; Remembrance Sunday, the Armistice Day in Bedworth, the Nuneaton Carnival and many other events in aid of charitable organisations. The Mayor concluded his address by expressing his appreciation for the valuable contribution the Squadron makes to life in the town.
Air Cadet Regional Commandant Group Captain Brett Morrell, congratulated the Squadron on its 70th Anniversary and highlighted many recent successes in competitive events. He went on to say how the range of training opportunities being given to the cadets in the ATC is constantly being improved and that in 2008 three cadets gained (BTEC) vocational qualifications, which earned them the equivalent of six additional GCSE’s.
Group Captain Morrell was then invited to present BTEC Certificates in Aviation Studies (equivalent to two additional GCSE’s) to Cadet Sergeant Robert Allan and Cadet Flight Sergeant Jonathan Kendall.
The Squadron’s cadets then formed up in three ranks on the dance floor, the guests no doubt expecting a demonstration of formation drill. What they got was something quite different for as the music started the cadets began their version of the Charleston Stroll a formation dance they had spent several weeks learning. The whole room was taken aback with surprise as the cadets put their all into the performance which culminated in a standing ovation from many of the guests.
Woody’s War Department then provided 1940's dance music by Glenn Miller and many other wartime classics. Original sound effects including an air-raid siren together with searchlights helped to set the mood.
Flight Lieutenant Ian Crewe Officer Commanding 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron said, "We all had an absolutely fantastic evening. It was a wonderful opportunity for young and old alike to step back into the past and bring their friends and family to celebrate the Squadrons anniversary. We were particularly pleased to see so many former cadets from both 121 and 411 Squadrons in attendance and it was nice to be able to chat to them about their experiences and look back at many of the old photographs that we had out on display. When organising this event we were a bit concerned that the cadets wouldn’t get up and join in with the dancing, after all, the 1940’s music isn’t really their thing, but after their opening Charleston Stroll performance there was no stopping them.”
View more photographs in our Squadrons
70 th Anniversary Calibrations Gallery