Swadlincote Air Cadets Honour “The Few” at Westminster Abbey


Members of 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron Air Cadets have paid their respects to “the few” pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, at the Royal Air Force’s 75th Anniversary Service at Westminster Abbey in London.
On a bright warm September morning, the contingent of 36 Cadets and Adult volunteers from Swadlincote made their way into the heart of London to be a part of this unique occasion.
On arrival, the Cadets formed up and marched to take their place in the queue, joining veterans, families and serving personal. The cadets found it amusing that Senior RAF officers, including Air Commodores and Air Vice Marshalls also had to queue.
Security was tight at the event and each person had their identity verified, passed through Airport style metal detectors and had their belongings x-rayed. Making their way into the splendour of the grand Abbey, the Cadets were to find out later that their entry through the Great West Door and into Westminster had been captured on the BBC1 television coverage of the event.
Once in the Abbey, the Cadets took their seats as the Central Band of the Royal Air Force played on. The group from the South Derbyshire Squadron then had the honour of witnessing the arrival of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, the RAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford and surviving RAF pilots from the 1940 conflict.
During the memorable Service, the Cadets watched with pride as the last few surviving Battle of Britain veterans, along with current serving RAF pilots, escorted the Battle’s Roll of Honour through the Abbey. During this time, thoughts also turned to former World War II Spitfire pilot and former Squadron Commander of 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron, Flight Lieutenant George Thompson, who had sadly passed away the week before on the actual Anniversary of the Battle of Britain (15th September).
After the Service, the Cadets made their way outside to witness a unique flypast of 6 World War II fighter aircraft, 4 Spitfires and 2 Hurricanes, which flew in formation over London, as part of the Anniversary event. As the Cadets from 1211 Squadron marched in formation away from the Abbey, crowds on onlookers broke into applause.
Following the morning in London, the group made their way to the RAF Museum at Hendon, to see some of the World War II aircraft up close and to read more about the Battle that took place in the skies. On what had turned out to be a most remarkable and unforgettable day, the Cadets were asked to reflect on the experience and why it is important to remember past events.
“We should never forget the sacrifice of the people who fought and lost their lives to defend our homeland and democracy in Europe” – Cadet Lewis Clamp
“Remembering past events is a vital tool in educating future generations. This serves as a memorial to sacrifices made and a prevention of past mistakes being repeated” – Cadet Warrant Officer Stuart Bagley
“Remembrance serves as a bridge between generations and by studying past events we can learn for the future” – Flight Sergeant Jasmine Sartain-Berry
“As in every battle, both sides suffer losses and all of this sacrifice must stand for something – we must remember that we live our lives like we do today because of them” – Sergeant Michael Husson