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Our
Squadron
History

211 (Newbury) Squadron is one of the oldest air cadet units in the country - tracing our history back to the 1940s.

Timeline:​

The 1940s

211 (Newbury) Squadron was formed on 5th February 1941 as the second non-Air Defence Cadet Corps unit in the Country.

 

It was under the Command of Major W J Tempest DSO, a First World War Officer who shot down a Zepplin.

The Squadron was based for many years in the Old Senior School, adjacent to Newbury railway station.

 

Many cadets recall trudging up and down from the top floor and parading in the schools playground.

 

 
The 1950s

The Squadron grew from strength to strength throughout the 1950s.

It undertook a series of changes of command, ending the decade with Flt Lt Bryan Philpott commanding the Squadron at the close of the decade.

211 Squadron also began specialising during this period - excelling in a number of areas including drill - something the Squadron took forward into the next decade.

 
The 1960s

In 1960, the Squadron triumphed for the 5th year running in the competition to find the best Squadron Drill Team in the Wing.

This was recreated on 25th September 2010, when the remaining members of the 211 (Newbury) Squadron Drill Team, 1960, joined the current Squadron Drill Team for a reunion and to practice their old moves.

On 18 September 1961 a unique ceremony took place when Wg Cdr W Norrie OBE, presented a flag to the Squadron. Wg Cdr Norrie, formerly Officer Commanding Aberdeen Wing in Scotland had served with 211 Squadron RAF in 1918 during World War I and the flag, which he had kept since, had originally been flown over the Squadron’s headquarters in France from 1918 to 1919.

Wg Cdr Norrie, who travelled from Scotland for the visit, was presented with a model SE5A in appreciation of his gift. The World War I flag still retains pride of place in the Squadrons office as a reminder to 211 Squadron's forefathers.

In 1968 the squadron moved to it's current site in St Michael's Road, Newbury - occupying a standard "ATC Spooner Hut" in the TA Centre. For many years the squadron had the full use of the TA Centres facilities, including Drill Hall, Range and additional classrooms.

 
The 1970s

In November 1970, the Squadron and the Detached Flight at Hungerford took part in an unusual event when cadets provided a Guard of Honour before the screening of the epic Battle of Britain film in Newbury.

 

They were inspected by The Mayor of Newbury and also present was Col RE Dunlap of the American Air Force from Greenham. In the foyer of the cinema the Squadron were able to set up a display of their activities.

Also in November 1970 the Squadron held its first ever Open Day. It had been thought during the previous year that the Squadron would have to close due to lack of numbers but these had gradually increased ensuring the Squadron’s future.

 

During the Open Day, which was attended by many parents and friends of cadets, displays of many of the activities were on show including a project to build a wind tunnel.

Much hard work and dedication began to pay off when the Squadron won the coveted Wing Drill Champions held at Slade Park, in 1978. The drill teams continued to be successful in following years and other successes included reaching the quarter-finals in the Regional five-a-side football competitions. Cadets also took part in the Nijmegen March in the Netherlands.

 

During training for this event five cadets completed a 100 mile walk over the Easter weekend on footpaths, highways and byways in the Newbury area, starting from Newbury Fire Station. The cadets gained sponsorship for the walk and donated the £800 raised towards the Scanner Appeal at the Hospital in Reading.

 
The 1980s

In 1981 an important parade was held at Shaw House School in Newbury to celebrate not only the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the ATC but also the anniversary of the Squadron’s own formation.

To mark the occasion the Squadron was presented with its Squadron Standard by the Newbury Branch of the Royal Air Force Association. Following the presentation by Wg Cdr Percy Burgess (Rtd), President of RAFA, the parade continued with a full ceremonial trooping of its Colour. The Squadron’s Band produced what was described as an energetic performance during the parade.

In April 1983, a milestone was reached when for the first time girls were officially enrolled into the Squadron strength. Nine girls were enrolled; they became part of the Detached Flight at Shaw House School. Newbury was the first Squadron in Berkshire to enrol girls and only the second in Thames Valley Wing.

 
The 1990s

In the 1990’s the Squadron continued to be based at the TA centre in Newbury, although this was now only used by the ACF and the Squadron. Numbers were maintained and cadets regularly took part in Wing Activities with good results.

Success on the sporting front was credible with many trophies won and some cadets representing the Wing, Region and National. Cadets also took part in Adventuring Training and trips to the Lake District, Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains & Snowdonia National Park were always highlights on the calendar, as was participation in visits to the National Adventure Training Centres at Llanbedr and Windermere.

Cadets also continued to take placements on Easter and summer camps and all enjoyed and benefited from the experience. Over recent years the Squadron has regularly organised exercises particularly using the Bramley Training Area, but also Salisbury Plain and Okehampton and these are usually well attended.

On a local front the Squadron saw victory in winning a section of the Crafty Craft Race in two consecutive years in a ‘craft’ made from a Canberra fuel tank. The race takes place every May, from Hungerford, along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Newbury in craft of various designs but all are ‘man-powered’.

One notable project in recent years was the rebuilding of a Ferret armoured car which was given to the Squadron. This was completely stripped and rebuilt to running order and was eventually taken back to RAF Odiham and displayed during a parade there.

Cadets regularly visit Bisley to Butt mark and have been rewarded with demonstrations by the Historic Small Arms Association. On the shooting front the Squadron has continued to uphold its previous successes, with a number of Squadron, Wing & Regional marksman’s over recent years. With the recent reintroduction of the L81A2, the Squadron is again looking at returning to Bisley in a shooting capacity – rather than just marking the targets!

The Squadron has an active roll in the community is always invited to assist at the Mayor Making Ceremony each year, as well as local Battle of Britain & Remembrance Parades where they regularly outnumber the other cadet forces, as well as the Regular & Territorial Army. They have assisted local charities in fund raising, particularly a Hungerford charity supporting a children’s hospice in Romania. Their skills for fence building are also sort after each year by a local Horse Trials.

 
The 2000s

In 2000, the Squadron Padre, Rev John Cartwright organised the inaugural visit to the Commonwealth War Graves in Belgium and visits have continued each year since. Cadets have visited not only the Ypres Salient but also the Somme the Normandy Beaches and the area of Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. In 2001 and again in 2005, the cadets and staff were given permission to parade in uniform and lay wreaths at the Menin Gate in Ypres. This is always a moving and very proud experience. On the last occasion they were all congratulated on their turnout and marching by a senior officer from Sandhurst who was also present for the ceremony.

In 2004, the Commanding Officer, Flight Lieutenant Grant Rogers left Newbury Squadron, to be replaced by the Squadron's former Warrant Officer, now Commissioned Officer, Flight Lieutenant Simon Cragg.

Sadly, in 2005, the Squadron's long standing Padre, Reverend John Cartwright died. He left a great void in the squadron, having been involved with the cadets in Newbury for many years. His passing left Newbury Squadron without a Padre for some time, until Rev Dr David Stone took on the challenge of taking care of the squadron's spiritual needs.

The recruitment campaign in 2005 was very successful for the Squadron with the addition of several new members of staff; with cadet numbers now increased to around 60 the Squadron goes from strength to strength.

From 2005-2010, the squadron was awarded the best squadron in Thames Valley Wing on 4 occasions. With this, it was also nominated for the Lees Trophy (a competition to find the best ATC Squadron in the UK). The Squadron also won many wing wide competitions, gained several new members of staff and of course continued to offer out fantastic opportunities to our cadets.

Unfortunately early in 2006 the Squadron's old ‘Spooner’ hut – part of the squadron's history since 1968 - was demolished. This has been replaced by with a modern building, shared with the Army Cadet Force.

211's target shooting grew and the unit became one of the most successful units in the country, competing each summer against other units from the Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force, Sea Cadet Corps and Royal Marine Cadet Corps. 

In 2009 the Squadron attended a Service of Remembrance at the grave of Cpl SJ Bence 211 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Cpl Bence was serving as an Observer with the 211 RAF but was tragically killed in action in 1918 in Belgium. Three cadets and two staff members travelled to Belgium to the Hoogstade Cemetry on behalf of 211 (Newbury) Squadron to lay a realth at his grave.

 
The 2010s

2010 saw the Squadron parading at a strength of 60 cadets and nearly 20 staff members, making it one of the largest squadrons in Thames Valley. It continued to prove it's worth, winning a number of accolades throughout the year including the Wing Field Weekend - which covered Adventurous Training, Fieldcraft, Drill and Leadership.

As part of their ongoing support for charities, the Squadron undertook a challenging Coast to Coast expedition across North England, covering the route of Wainwright's Coast to Coast in 8 days. In doing this, the Squadron raised nearly £2000 for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

In 2011 Flt Lt Simon Cragg was, following his success at Newbury Squadron, promoted to Wing Staff as an Sector Commanding Officer - taking a leading role of Newbury, Wantage, Didcot and Abingdon Squadrons. In his place, Fg Off Alex Pye, a former cadet, and latterly Training Officer and Adjutant at 211 (Newbury) Squadron took Command - leading the Squadron into it's 70th year.

Whilst having time off for his second child, Flight Lieutenant Cragg returned to be officer commanding (OC) the squadron taking over from Flying Officer Pye. A number of new staff joined in this time, such as Flight Sergeant (ATC) Keith Robinson, an ex-RAF serviceman of over 20 years.

The squadron was yet again awarded the Marshall Trophy for being the best squadron in the Wing for the year 2012, which was collected by outgoing OC Flt Lt Cragg, who was replaced by Pilot Officer Luke Pepperell in early 2013. Plt Off Pepperell is an ex-cadet of the squadron and rejoined as a Civilian Instructor back in 2010.

2013 saw Newbury host a very successful archery course for squadrons in Thames Valley and further away, making us one of the few squadrons in the area able to offer this sport to cadets. It has also seen cadets from the squadron represent their Wing and Region at sports such as cross-country and swimming, a great achievement.

From 211 (Newbury) Squadron, many cadets have gone on to careers in the armed forces, including Royal Marines, Army and RAF, all in varied and different roles from Pilot and Navigator, through to Vehicle Mechanic, Signals Officer, Avionics Technician and Engineering Officer!