Air Cadets from across Devon and Somerset were joined by the Commanding Officer of the Air Training Corps, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty, at a church service and a parade through Exeter at the weekend to mark the 76th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Battle of Britain Day is the 15 September, but parades are usually held on the closest Sunday. Some 250 air cadets led by the Wing band paraded through the town with their Squadron banners proudly on display.
Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty is usually stationed at Headquarters Air Cadets at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. She made a special visit to Devon & Somerset Wing to mark this year’s commemoration.
Air Commodore McCafferty had a 23 year career with the RAF serving in many roles including setting up and leading the RAF Families Federation which launched in 2007 supporting serving RAF personnel and their families. She now has the role of Commandant Air Cadets responsible for the Air Cadet Organisation which consists of 900 squadrons and approximately 40,000 cadets led by volunteer staff.
The Battle of Britain was fought by the RAF in the skies over Great Britain with heavy losses on both sides. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, later described that time as “Their Finest Hour”.
During World War 2, the Air Training Corps provided large numbers of recruits for the RAF, but is now one of the country’s largest national youth organisations.
Marching through Exeter city centre following the Devon and Somerset Wing band is a yearly act of remembrance for the cadets and their staff.
Squadron Leader Dave Rolfe said, “The Air Training Corps has close links to the Royal Air Force. We will always remember the sacrifices made by the RAF, Commonwealth Air Forces and Allied Nations in the defence of our country.”
This year marks the 75th Anniversary of one of the country’s largest youth organisations. Formed in 1941, the Air Training Corps is now more commonly known as the Air Cadets.
To mark the 75th Anniversary, Air Cadets carried out an epic torch relay from John O’Groats to Land’s End. The torch is a symbol of enlightenment towards training and today’s Air Cadets are provided with aviation based training which is not only fun, but will be of benefit to them in military or civilian life.
Devon and Somerset Air Cadets participated in the relay, receiving the torch at a presentation held on the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. The torch was passed from Bristol and Gloucester Wing to Devon and Somerset Wing by Air Cadets Ambassador, Honorary Group Captain, Carol Vorderman MBE RAFVR(T), a keen aviator herself.
The torch was relayed to various locations with the first stop being Wells Cathedral. Next stop was Wookey Hole Caves, where a bewitching experience took place for both the Cadets and staff when they were met by the Witch of Wookey.
The next stops in the relay were Norton Manor Camp, Taunton, home of 40 Commando Royal Marines; North Hill Gliding School near Dunkerswell; Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth; and a canoe trip from Exeter along the River Exe.
The final stage of the journey was a handover of the torch to Plymouth and Cornwall Wing which was carried out at Okehampton Camp on Dartmoor – an appropriate venue as Air Cadets use this area for hiking and adventure training. The Air Training Corps’ motto is ‘Venture Adventure’.
Media Communications Officer, Sqn Ldr Dave Rolfe, said “We were proud to be part of the Air Cadets national torch relay and would like to thank all those that hosted us and made our anniversary such a success”.
The Air Cadets 75th Anniversary torch relay neared the end of its journey through Devon and Somerset on route to its final destination at Land’s End.
On Wednesday 3rd August I travelled to Normandy, France, with 33 other Cadets and 4 Staff from Devon & Somerset Wing, Air Training Corps.
We caught the overnight Ferry and arrived in Caen early Thursday morning. We left our luggage and bags at our accommodation and went straight to ‘Deadman’s Corner’ to learn about the flights that took place on D-Day in order to drop the Parachutists in to Normandy. There was a Dakota simulator so we experienced what it might have been like for the troops. We then travelled to Utah beach to have a look at the vast scale of the beach and memorials.
I found Friday very interesting, we got up early to go to the German War Memorial, whilst here we saw how they paid respect to their deceased and we saw Michael Wittmann, a German Tank Commanders, grave. Next we went to Point Du Hoc where we saw the close up remains of the German bunkers and the gun positions which were astounding to see in person. We travelled from the blown up beaches to the immaculate American War Cemetery where we saw the difference between the German Cemetery and the American Cemetery, the German being very Gothic. Whilst here we saw the resting place of Theodore Roosevelt Jr’s grave and the Niland brothers’ graves; their story was used to base the film ‘Saving Private Ryan’ on and was very interesting to hear about. To finish the day, we went to St Mere Eglise where the 101st Airborne Division landed in an attempt to take over the crossroads which lead to the major places like Omaha beach and Carentan. My favourite part was hearing about the soldier that landed on the Church, was stuck hanging off the tower for two days, was shot through the foot and eventually captured by the Germans.
After Fridays Cemetery visits, we went to our own British Cemetery on Saturday morning to pay our respects to the fallen and lay a wreath as its imperative that we understand why so many gave their lives and that their deaths led to a greater cause. Although the Cemeteries were different, all buried in them died for the same reason and that was for their country, friends and family. We then travelled to Pegasus Bridge and the museum there where we saw the damage from the light infantry and how the environment was affected. After this visit we thought it fitting to lay a wreath at Lieutenant Den Brotheridge’s grave; he was the first allied soldier killed in combat on D-Day and formed part of the attack on Pegasus Bridge. We then went to the 360-degree cinema where we saw how Normandy had changed during and after the war. Following this we walked down to Arromanches and saw the remains of the floating harbour and looked around the local area. To finish the trip, we all went to the Longues-sur-Mer battery where we saw the anti-ship weaponry and an untouched bunker left during the war.
Cdt Sethi – 1064 (Honiton) Sqn