Members of 42F (King’s Lynn) Squadron and 47F (Grantham) Squadron RAF Air Cadets have just returned from an emotional five day Easter weekend trip to the WWI Battlefields and cemeteries of Belgium and France.
Organised by 42F Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Flight Lieutenant Pauline Petch, the trip had two main objectives. Firstly to learn about the
battles that took place around Ypres, Belgium, between 1914 and 1917 and secondly to gain knowledge about the conflict’s war in the air. This aspect of the trip also enabled the cadets to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Royal Air Force on April 1st 1918 by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.
Steve Roberts from the RAF Marham Heritage Centre accompanied the cadets as their battlefield historian and guide. His wealth of knowledge kept everyone, cadets and adults alike, captivated by the unfolding story as they visited the battle sites, their museums and the resulting cemeteries in turn.
At 8pm on Friday 30th March the cadets were privileged to take part in the nightly Menin Gate Ceremony in Ypres, and together with other organisations both military and civilian laid a poppy wreath in honour of the 55,000 names on the memorial that have No Known Grave.
On Monday 2nd April they visited the airfield at Saint Omer, France. This was an operational airfield in both WWI and WWII. Here again they laid a wreath in memory of the commonwealth airman of both conflicts who lost their lives.
The King’s Lynn squadron cadets have been undertaking a two year project to research the 100 year history of the RAF with specific reference to 40 airfields of their home county, Norfolk. Their Easter pilgrimage to Ypres and Flanders Fields has enabled them to put their knowledge into context with the founding of the RAF 100 years ago. 42F’s project has a website that can be visited at www.heritageartstrail.co.uk