Recently I have volunteered to help with the cadet organisation at work. The RAF section of the CCF needed some staff and I felt it was time to get involved. I will occasionally write about my experiences on these pages but joining and entering the world of cadets for a second time made me reminisce about my time as a teenager in the Air Training Corps.
I spent a few hours recently searching the crap in my loft trying to find my Record Of Service book. I kept it and it records everything I did in the Cadets. Having found it I will use it to create some communications within this site and then package it safely and store it somewhere. It’s a little A6 cardboard backed booklet that has seen some busy times. It is now falling apart and has to be handled with care. Within the pages I found my Sargent and Flight Sargent rank slides that I used to wear. In the same box I also found some memorabilia that I shall write about another time. The booklet is called a RAF Form 3822.
I can remember being about twelve years old and chatting to my best friend of the time, Nick. We decided we wanted something to do in the evenings. Something like a club or sport. Actually it probably wasn’t sport as I wasn’t a sporty child. We were already involved with an amateur dramatics society after all that’s how we knew each other, our parents were heavily involved with pantomimes and plays in Hatfield Heath.
One lovely sunny summer’s day [all the days of my youth are sunny, I don’t remember it raining before 1990] we were wandering around the village festival and saw a stand for the local Air Training Squadron. We chatted to them and Nick decided he would join. I had to wait until I was 13. A bit later when walking past the stand again they called me over [I’m making this bit up, I can’t remember what really happened] and asked me to join the band only [as I could play the clarinet] and then later, when I was old enough I could join the Squadron properly. This was the summer of 1984.
309 (Sawbridgeworth) Sqn Air Training Corps was formed at the end of January (I think) of 1984. Before that they had been a Detached Flight of 2317 (Harlow) Sqn.
On Friday evenings I now went to Church House in Sawbridgeworth and practised with the band of 309. I was given a uniform and I had to learn how to play a fife.
We didn’t wear uniform, we had a laugh and we learnt how to play our instruments and how to perform band drill. I remember my first real band engagement was a Wing Field day at Southend Airport. Nine hundred cadets on parade and the Commander of the ATC at the podium. I couldn’t march and I couldn’t play much. I just had to concentrate on marching and being in step. They placed me on the side furthest from the Commandant for the march past so I had less chance of being seen. It was probably the scariest experience of my cadet career. I was twelve and a half.
Once I passed 13 I had been involved with the cadets for about nine months and it was time to join up properly. The rest of the squadron paraded on Monday nights and so I attended twice a week. I was at a slight advantage within the squadron as I knew a lot of the cadets already and could, by now, march and understand the mechanics of marching and static drill.
My Record Of Service book is an RAF Form 3822. This one was kept in my back trouser pocket throughout my entire ATC career and so I am surely forgiven for it looking a little “worn”. The earliest date in my 3822 is 23 June 1985. That is the date signed by my commanding officer on the parental consent page. My parents had obviously signed form 3822A. My formal enrolment into the Air Traning Corps is dated the 17 Dec 1985. I think this is when I would have completed my basic training and have taken my Cadet’s Promise in front of the squadron and the squadron’s Padre. It would appear that I promised loyalty to my unit and the ATC and also:
I further promise to be a good citizen and to do my duty to God and the Queen, my country and my flag.
I left the cadets as a cadet in Sept 1991. This was when I went to university. I then spend a couple of years with 309 as a Civilian Instructor helping out with lessons and the musical aspects of the band. On a few occasions I put uniform back on and joined the ranks for a major band parade. I once marched down The Mall as part of 309 band which was an excellent experience.
I returned to 309 in 1999 as a CI while I worked at a school in Brentwood. I had been part of 25 (Parkwood) Sqn for a short while before that, helping out with lessons. I transferred back to 309 when I moved jobs. My loyalty in Essex Wing belongs to 309 Sqn, which is based in Hertfordshire. Another couple of years as CI and I eventually moved back down to Kent and left the Air Training Corps, maybe for the last time.
I am still in contact with my old squadron and I feel a massive sense of loyalty to them. I spent a great deal of time during my teenage years with the ATC and had an excellent time. I experienced many things of which I will write about over the next while using my 3822 as a guide.
I have returned to 309 recently to celebrate some anniversaries. I attended the 25th Squadron Anniversary dinner in 2009 held at Great Hadham Golf Club and this year, 2014, I attended the 30th celebrations held at the Cricket Club in Sawbridgeworth. To give you an idea of what 309 does have a watch of the video below.
I make appearances in the video at 3:54 [charity walk], 6:03 [RAF Coningsby], 6:08 [RAF Coltishall], 6:24 [Crowborough], 6:54 [The Mall], 7:06 [Hatfield Heath Festival], 7:40 [First Aid, Church House], 8:19 [A Rock, Snowdonia].
I have now joined Maidstone Grammar School Combined Cadet Force as a member of staff. I am a member of the Royal Air Force unit within the contingent. It is a little different to the ATC but the similarities are enough that all my knowledge and experience is coming back from the depths of my brain. I am looking forward to paying back to the system, again.