Hundreds of air cadets joined in the celebrations marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force.
Against the backdrop of Durham Cathedral, the 350 young cadets stood shoulder to shoulder with serving RAF personnel, reservists, Air Training Corps’ staff and veterans.
The cadets were drawn from across the Durham/Northumberland Wind of the ATC including 346 (Tynemouth), 1151 (Wallsend), 1156 (Whitley Bay) and 2344 (Longbenton) squadrons.
Also among the specially invited guests was 100-year-old Gwen Weston, born the day after the RAF was formed and who served in the Women’s Auxillary Air Force throughout the SecondWorld War.
The parade culminated in an inspection, salute and march past observed by the VIP guests.
Among the cadets taking part were Rebecca Leitch, 15, from 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron, who gave a reading as part of the service of thanksgiving, and Wing Band member, Evie Panvalkar, 15, from 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron.
Cdt Leitch said: “It was an honour to be selected to perform and show our appreciation, as young people, for what the RAF does and has done. If you live in Britain or Europe, it has some sort of impact on your life.”
Cdt Panvalkar added: “It’s been really amazing to lead the parade and to help celebrate the 100th birthday of the RAF. It’s been an incredible experience and a real honour to march in front of the Air Vice-Marshall and VIPs.”
Wing Commander Dave Harris, Officer Commanding Durham/Northumberland Wing, said: “Young people often get a bad press, but our cadets show a very different and positive side to the youth of today. They are a credit to the ATC and the RAF, whose values, uniform, and commitment we share.
“It has been wonderful to be able to bring our air cadets together with serving personnel and veterans for what has been a once in a lifetime experience, and to see the pride on the faces of these young people.”
Group Captain Tim Wilbond RAF (Retired), who chairs the North East RAF100 Coordination Committee that sponsored the RAF100 celebrations in Durham, said: “The North East has a long association with the RAF, and today’s activities are as much about commemorating that linkage.”
“The RAF Air Cadets are the future and they are an amazing body of young people. We have been determined that they should feature prominently in all the RAF100 events in the region, and they can be justifiably proud of the contribution they are making to this year of celebration.”
Anyone interested in becoming a cadet or a volunteer civilian instructor, can find out more at www.dnwaircadets.org , or www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets/