Twenty-nine RAF Air Cadets from nine different squadrons across Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing completed a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition last weekend. Fifteen cadets from 181 (City of … Continue Reading
It was the turn of Bristol & Gloucestershire Wing on the 25th August 2016 to receive the National Air Cadet Torch that represents 75 year of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. It had been travelling from John O’ Groats since 12th July 2016 through the other wings and was delivered at Hullavington, the home of 621 VGS (Volunteer Gliding Squadron), by Dorset & Wiltshire Wing. After a short photo call it was handed over to Alumni Mr Tony Eve, a retired Flt Lt and OC, and Cdt Dimond from 1446 (Clevedon) Sqn. It was due to be flown to Colerne and 3 AEF (Air Experience Flying) and then to Gloucester Airport but the weather was not favourable, so plan “B” took it by minibus.
The journey around the Wing took the Torch to all 29 units over a tight schedule of 24 hours, and it was met with enthusiasm and in many different ways including a cake and street party. Alumni also turned out to meet the Torch and cement the importance of the celebration.
The journey from 621 VGS, through 3 AEF and the Jet Age Museum took just over 18 hours. Five members of the Wing including the Wing Commander were involved in delivering the Torch so spending that amount of time together was not without its events – look out for the paperback; not sure what to call it yet, perhaps “5 Men in a Minibus”, “5 Go Insane” or “The Infamous 5”. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be a “Murder Mystery”.
The 24 hour event took months of planning and all came to fruition on 25th August. The mood on arrival at the units was fantastic as the rest of the Wing actively supported the quest. Units turned out at all hours in order to be part of this memorable occasion that the cadets, staff, alumni, committee and parents will remember. From 621 VGS (Hullavington), 3 AEF (Colerne), to all the squadrons/detached flights the attitude was jovial and positive.
The SS Great Britain was particularly helpful by offering their time and staff the mark the occasion. Photos on the ship were taken with Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Chris Davies, Deputy Lieutenant for Bristol Richard Pendlebury and even an “Isambard Kingdom Brunel” attended. The Torch was strapped to a cadet in a special holster and climbed to the top of the rigging.
Canoes were moored alongside the SS Great Britain in order to start the next part of the journey, Fg Off Alec Small of 2146 (South Bristol) Squadron was the carrier of the Torch in the canoe, (he had also met the Torch at 2146 Squadron at 04:00 that morning). Escorted by cadet canoeists and the party leader Flt Lt Martin Neate of 2124 (Bristol Airport) Squadron they made their way through the docks to the Sea Cadet HQ at TS Adventure. Here the Torch was given to the Nijmegen Road Marching Team to move to the foot of the Avon Gorge where it was climbed by the cadets and staff supervised by the Wing Adventure Training Officer Sqn Ldr David Morgan.
At the top of the Gorge the Bristol & Gloucestershire Drill & Ceremonial team march the Torch to the Clifton Suspension Bridge where a large crowd had gathered to take part in and watch the event. The television, press, and radio were jockeying for position in order to get the best coverage. 30 banners from Bristol & Gloucestershire & Devon & Somerset lined the bridge at intervals to receive the Torch. Guests included the Ambassador to the Air Cadets Honorary Group Captain Carol Vorderman RAFVR(T), The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Bristol Councillor Jeff Lovell and Lady Mayoress of Bristol Mrs Bridget Lovell, as well as Sqn Ldr (Ret) “Johnny” Johnson. The party were led across the bridge by the Drill & Ceremonial Flight who carried the Torch. On the South side of the bridge it was handed to an alumni, Flt Lt (Ret) Doug Crew and Cdt Daniel Moss of 2152 (North Bristol) Squadron who in turn handed it to our ambassador. After a few words it was passed on to the receiving cadet of Devon & Somerset Wing.
A fitting end to this part of the Torch’s journey as it represents not just the serving members of our organisation but those who had been there before us and built the organisation that we have inherited. We are so fortunate that our forefathers entered the Air Training Corps with such passion, it is our duty to honour them with our enthusiasm and dedication for the future of the Air Cadets so that in 25 years we would have continued in the same tradition.