Royal Air Force Air Cadets from Nuneaton and Bedworth have been celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Air Training Corps.
Members of 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron joined representatives of the other local units from the Warwickshire & Birmingham Wing for a commemorative service at Coventry Cathedral on Sunday 7th February. The Cathedral service was held to mark the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Air Training Corps, which was established under royal warrant on the 5th February 1941.
The service led by Reverend Canon David Stone, Sub-Dean of Coventry Cathedral and the Warwickshire & Birmingham Wing Padre, Father Neil Bayliss began with the sounding of the Coventry Peace Bell. The bell rang out to herald the start of the colourful procession of Banners, each representing one the different Squadrons that form the Warwickshire & Birmingham Wing as they marched from the Queen’s Steps into the Cathedral.
The procession included the Banners of 1459 (Heart of England) and 2504 (Archbishop Grimshaw) Squadrons which were being paraded for the final time before the two Squadrons merge to become 2371 Squadron. As a mark of respect the Banners of 1459 and 2504 were received into the Cathedral and were given pride of place on the Drum Head Altar that had been constructed by cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron
During the wonderful service the Air Cadets all reaffirmed their Air Cadet promise and the Padre reflected on the comradeship and family spirit fostered within individual Squadrons and throughout the Corps during the last 75 years.
The service concluded as the Wing Banner party retrieved the Wing Banner from the Altar and proudly leading the procession of Squadron Banners from the Cathedral.
Following the service, Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks Officer Commanding 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron said, "The service was a huge success and a wonderful way to mark the start the 75th Anniversary year of the Air Training Corps. It was so good to see so many cadets and staff from all over the wing on parade to support what is undoubtedly one of the most important occasions in our 2016 calendar”.
The Air Cadet movement actually came to Nuneaton 77 years ago, 2 years before the formation of the Air Training Corps when 121 Squadron, was inaugurated on the 9th May 1939 at King Edward VI Grammar School as a unit of the Air Defence Cadet Corps. Within the borough, enthusiasm for the Corps grew and on 5th 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.
John Phillips, a former cadet of 411 (Borough of Nuneaton) Squadron said: "I remember being at the first recruiting meeting for 411 Squadron in 1941. It was several weeks before we got our uniforms.
"Like many other youngsters at that time I was mad about flying and keen to join up as aircrew. We all flew regularly at RAF Bramcote 5 OTU on Wellingtons often with Polish aircrew. We also flew in Ansons and Oxfords from 1941 onwards. Most of us went on to join the RAFVR."
In the early part of the war as pilots battled in the air, the War Office was desperate for airman, and as such the Air Training Corps was truly a pre-entry service training organisation. After the war in April 1946, the two Nuneaton based Squadrons were amalgamated to form 121 (Borough of Nuneaton) Squadron which set up its headquarters at the Pingles Fields now part of the Ribbonfields estate.
After the war, the ATC changed significantly, and although its links with the Royal Air Force are as strong as ever, it is no longer a recruitment organisation. Today 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron is part of a flourishing uniformed youth organisation which provides its young people with an extensive syllabus of citizenship, academic and adventurous training including nationally recognised BTEC and DofE Awards. The ATC is also unique in so much as it’s the only youth organisation which provides the opportunity to fly in RAF aircraft and undergo glider pilot training.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks Officer Commanding 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron added, “Since 1939 literally thousands of young people have passed through our door and then dispersed to all parts of the country or the world. We would especially like to hear from those who were members of the Nuneaton Squadrons between 1939 and 1945 and would also like to hear from anyone who may have any information, photographs or indeed memories of their time in either Squadron. Over the years the Squadron has contributed to the training and education of many young people and supported our local community. The uniform and objectives of the Air Cadet movement have changed but the enthusiasm and commitment of its members remains as strong as ever. “
View More Photographs from the 75th Anniversary Service in Coventry Cathedral