RAF 100: Cadets to play key role in anniversary events
PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:26 10 July 2018
The RAF's next generation are playing a vital role in the service's 100th anniversary celebrations.
RAF air cadet Billie James of Woodford Green’s 241 Squadron, in Finchingfield Lane, has already marked the historic occasion.
The 18-year-old cadet warrant officer carried the flaming RAF 100 torch as it passed through Biggin Hill airport in Kent on its UK tour.
On meeting World War Two veterans Martin Grudgeon and Tom Rosser at Biggin Hill, Billie said: “It was surreal because you don’t realise how recent it was in history.”
Retired squadron leader Martin piloted a Spitfire IX during the D-Day landings. He was only 17.
Billie added: “When in school, you feel like it was really far away. Then you meet someone who actually served in the war and realise, ‘Wow, that happened’.”
Woodfords Green’s 241 Squadron is brimming with history with Sir Winston Churchill being the squadron’s first president after it was founded in 1941.
For one of the first units, 6F Squadron Romford, there are two good reasons to celebrate this year as it marks its 80th year.
Pilot officer Myles Harris said: “It’s a massive milestone. Everybody is really proud the RAF has been in service for a hundred years and Romford has been in the community for 80. It goes to show the valuable work the RAF and ATC do.”
Cadet Lewis Scott, 17, will continue that tradition after beating hundreds to get onto a team trekking the Himalayas.
The adventure coincides with August’s attempt on the summit of an unclimbed mountain by RAF regulars.
A delighted Lewis, the youngest cadet on the expedition, said: “I can’t wait. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
RAF cadets from 31 Squadron Tower Hamlets will take part in the celebrations too.
Darrell Kovac, the squadron’s cadet warrant officer, has already enjoyed a special evening as guest of the RAF meeting Johnny Johnson – who flew in the Dambusters raid – at a Royal Albert Hall concert.
Darrell said: “The highlight was speaking to squadron leader Johnson. It was humbling to meet him.”
Eight of Darrell’s fellow cadets from the Mile End Road based squadron will take part in the RAF 100 parade through central London on July 10.
Corp Louie Sacarello is to perform with the London and south east region Air Cadets band as fellow cadets form a guard of honour for a service at St Clement Danes, the RAF’s central church.
Flt Lt Vik Singh Taak from 282 East Ham Squadron based in Vicarage Lane, Newham, said his cadets were looking forward to joining thousands of RAF personnel in the July 10 parade.
For the unit – whose motto “que je surmoune” translates as “I overcome” – making a difference to people is a top priority with youngsters having rebuilt a library in a village in Ghana and redecorated a school in India’s Thar desert.
Squadron adjutant and Kingsord Community School teaching assistant Michael Shirley, who went to Ghana, said: “We have a rich history in trying to help not only in the city but elsewhere.”
Flt Lt Taak said: “If anyone wants to make a difference, they should get in touch with their air cadets unit and take it from there.
“The RAF is the youngest service compared to the army and navy. It has gone from strength to strength,” he added.
Cadets from 2048 Dagenham Squadron, based in Wood Lane, will be representing the borough as a baton relay reaches its final stop in Horse Guards Parade on July 10. Personnel, cadets and veterans will have carried it to 100 sites across the country linked to the RAF over 100 days.
Flt Lt Neil Richards said: “The anniversary is a fantastic way for the RAF Air Cadets to celebrate the long lasting heritage of the organisation its part of.
“The Air Cadet organisation celebrated its 75th anniversary only two years back and it’s great to be involved in historic celebrations once again.”