North Tyneside air cadets celebrate 75th anniversary

Cadets and adult staff present 861 (Wideopen) Squadrons crest to St Columbas Church in Wideopen.
Cadets and adult staff present 861 (Wideopen) Squadrons crest to St Columbas Church in Wideopen.

Cadets in North Tyneside has made a gift of a badge of honour to mark the 75th anniversary of the Air Training Corps.

The 861 (Wideopen) Squadron, one of 1,000 nationwide, was set up in 1977.

As part of the organisation’s anniversary celebrations, cadets and staff from the Wideopen squadron held a parade at St Columba’s Church in the village and presented it with a painted squadron crest, to be hung up there in recognition of the close ties between the church and the cadets.

The Rev Geoffrey Short, vicar at St Columba’s Church Vicar and the squadron’s chaplain, said: “I was so delighted to see such a good turnout from the cadets and staff from 861 (Wideopen) Squadron to celebrate the formation of the ATC.”

“The ATC is a wonderful organisation that offers so much to the young people it serves, and I have had a fantastic time working as the squadron chaplain.

“We were absolutely thrilled to bless the squadron crest, and we will display it with pride at St Columba’s.”

Flight-Lieutenant James Elliott, officer commanding for the squadron, added: “The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy for 861 Squadron, and I am proud to see the unit continue to build on its success and grow both in numbers and capability.

“A lot has changed in the 75-year history of the ATC, but our fundamental aims have not.

“We are here to promote an interest in aviation and the Royal Air Force, provide training that will be useful to our young people whether they join the forces or not and develop future leaders and good citizens.

“I am also extremely proud to continue our close relationship with our local church at St Columba’s, where the squadron’s crest will now be on display for all to see.”

Cadet Tom Waters, 15, of Ponteland, said: “The ATC has been absolutely brilliant fun for me, and I have learnt so much since I have joined.

“I have flown in aircraft, fired target rifles and competed in loads of different competitions. It’s fantastic fun, and I encourage all of my friends to join.”

The ATC, formed in February 1941, is now made up of 43,000 cadets aged 12 to 19 and 11,000 volunteer adult staff.

The squadron meets every Monday and Thursday from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at its headquarters opposite Wideopen Library. For further details, go to www.861sqn.org