I’ve just got back from a wonderful week away with the RAF Air Cadets at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire. It might not be in Bedfordshire but Bedford was the nearest largest town/city. It was a very busy week and lots got done. I had a great time and I’m pretty sure the cadets did too. We didn’t get any flying [in aircraft] but there was plenty of shooting and fun.
As is usual we arrived on the Saturday and got settled in. Then Sunday was a day at a country pursuits experience. We went to the English School Of Falconry quite close to the Cardington Hangars. There were planes from Old Warden flying around showing off including a Percival, Lysander, Hurricane and Spitfire.
We all had a go at landing birds of prey and then some archery, air rifles and laser clay pigeon shooting. It was a baking day, really hot.
Monday was filled with some camp admin, getting the right forms delivered to the right people while the cadets visited the RAF’s Centre for Aviation Medicine. I found this particularly interesting as I’m currently reading a book about the development of the pressure suit and it has a lot of medicine development in it. The camp photo infront of the Hawker Hunter gate guardian and then a church service for the RAF100 Baton. I, somehow, didn’t make it to the service but I did get there just in time for another selfie with the baton. My first was at Amport House.
Later that day the cadets had a brief for a Rocketeers challenge they were going to take part in and then in the evening I ran a DCCT range over the other side of the Henlow base. We nearly got stuck in the base as they locked the gate at 21:30 and we finished at 21:25.
Tuesday we visited the RAF Museum at Hendon and in the evening the cadets watched the football match. I went for a run.
Wednesday morning the RAF Outreach team came to run the cadets through a disaster response planning exercise. After that we headed to Twinwoods Adventure for indoor sky diving. Twinwoods was based on the old Royal Aeronautical Establishment site and actually used the vertical wind tunnel that was developed for investigating flat spin aerodynamics.
The skydiving experience was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. It was such a high to finish and contemplate the second flight.
I don’t think you can explain just what it’s like to do this. Such an exhilarating time. Wednesday evening I ran another DCCT range practice with the cadets doing the shoot to qualify for their “trained shot” badge.
Thursday was my big day. I had spent hours since arriving at Henlow preparing to run my first outdoor 25m 5.56 full bore range. For whatever reason the CC couldn’t do it and so it fell to me to run the thing. There were range orders to read and a RAM to write along with all the briefings etc. I planned the day so that cadets could qualify for their “marksman” badge. To give you an idea of what it’s like, imagine having six lanes of semi-automatic weapons and 900 rounds to be shot. Then put the rifles in the hands of teenagers. Now, we follow the safe system of operation but it is still an intimidating amount of responsibility.
The day went very smoothly and I was happy with the number of cadets who qualified for the marksman badge.
Thursday evening we dined out at a pub near the base, The Airman. The company was great and the food was ok. The next day one of the schools had to leave for a school event because normally we would hold this meal on the last night.
The hangars at Henlow were designed and built before the end of the first world war and they have a beautiful look about them.
Friday I judged the drill competition, went for a run and helped supervise the block clean up. In the evening we watched the Battle Of Britain on the large screen and essentially just chilled. It was a fantastic week and I am really looking forward to next year’s trip.