Largest parade in history as air cadets mark 75 years of the organisation

ATC parade in Ely with cadets from Sandy and Biggleswade
ATC parade in Ely with cadets from Sandy and Biggleswade

Air cadets from Sandy and Biggleswade were among squadrons at the biggest parade in their history at the weekend.

Cadets from 22 (Sandy) and 2065 (Biggleswade) Squadrons were joined by others from the Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire Wing to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Air Cadet organisation.

An unprecedented number of 750 cadets and 75 uniformed staff paraded through the City of Ely on Sunday, February 7, the largest in the wing’s history, which was led by cadets of the Wing Band on what is known as ATC Sunday.

Wing Commander Tony Kelly decided to gather cadets and staff for one parade as “an opportunity for the whole Wing to come together to start a year of celebration and pride in our achievements”.

Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire Wing Padre, Roger Cresswell, held a service which included an excerpt from the memories of Peter Price, an Air Cadet who lived in the south of England during the Battle of Britain. These nostalgic tales form part of the Corps’ history and helped today’s cadets understand what it was like to be an Air Cadet 75 years ago.

At such an auspicious occasion, it was the perfect time to dedicate the new Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire Wing Banner which was revealed for the first time at Ely Cathedral. Each Squadron also paraded their own banner. Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants for Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, Helen Nellis and Sir Hugh Duberly, took the salute and met with the cadets at a reception.

Helen Nellis is enthusiastic in her support of the cadet organisations. She said: “Ask the average teen what they did at the weekend, and they spent most of it playing video games. Ask an Air Cadet and they’ve been on an exercise, doing something for charity, shooting or flying. It helps them learn so many transferrable skills to take into adult life.”

They were supported by Her Majesty’s High Sheriffs for Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire as well over a dozen mayors or deputy mayors from across the Wing area. Also attending were two former Commandant Air Cadets - Air Commodores Jon Ford and Jon Chitty, Station Commanders from local Royal Air Force bases, Squadron Padres and members of many Squadron’s Civilian Committees.

The ATC ethos is to create good citizens and has a varied syllabus teaching leadership, radio and communications, aircraft recognition, drill, first aid and sports.

Many cadets also attend camps and expeditions and enjoy learning about aircraft and flying. Cadets also have the opportunity to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme which is delivered across the Air Cadet Organisation.

Over the past 75 years the ATC has expanded to 1,200 units in the UK and overseas. In Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire Wing there are 29 squadrons and over a thousand cadets.

The ATC is currently recruiting volunteer adult staff for a variety of roles. More details can be found at www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets or www.bedscambswing.co.uk