at RAF Andover, RAF Benson and RAF Odiham
HQ JHC played host to distinguished and honourable guests at RAF Andover’s Officers Mess for one night only.
On 15 March 2018 the Officers Mess at RAF Andover was reborn in recognition of the RAF’s centennial birthday on 1 April 2018. The 100-year experiment was placed under fashionable scrutiny for guests to enjoy, mock and banter in true interservice spirit and humour. The occasion was graced and honoured to host two senior RAF guests; AM Atha and AVM Cooper.
RAF Andover was a former RFC unit and housed many RAF units between wars. During World War II it was used by several operational flying units as well as the first British Military unit to be equipped with helicopters. It was in 2009 the former airfield changed its name to Marlborough lines and became home to Army HQ.
With an abundance of parent Service guests in attendance the RAF 100 Dinner was both a privilege and fitting occasion to recognise the humble beginnings of the world’s first independent Air Force and acknowledge the combined effort and input from both the Royal Navy and the British Army to create the RAF as we know it today.
Three timely vignettes were interspersed throughout the evening to bring to life the RAF’s inception, notable operations, evolution through to what may have been, had the 100-year experiment played into the hands of the critics. All made possible with the insightful creativity of Flt Lt Rich Green and the enthusiastic tri-service actors and contributions within HQ JHC including the cameo role from DComd JHC.
Credit is due to the The Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers who seamlessly performed iconic RAF Anthems to accompany dinner and the kind generosity of the Old Sarum Aviation Museum for loaning several museum artefacts for the event to capture atmosphere and bring a marker in history alive.
2018 marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force, and in addition to the RAF’s comprehensive schedule of events to mark the occasion, RAF Benson has numerous plans to celebrate through several local programmes. All of which we plan to deliver as well as managing the operational demands we are faced with; as such, the RAF 100 team have worked hard to develop a programme of events that meets both intentions.
Many key events will mark Benson’s celebrations, including our already successful 100 Faces developed by our 3 very talented RAF Photographers. The project has aimed to highlight individuals, show diversity, inspire future generations, but more importantly, to celebrate the current Air Force and the quite professionalism shown by all who work here. 100 portraits were released over the 100 days leading up to the centenary on 1st April 2018, with the Station Commander’s portrait concluding the project. Gaining huge reach across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it has also been featured in the British Institute of Professional Photography magazine.
As well as our extensive School Engagement Programme, our Families’ Day, Youth Muster and a CO’s Cup Sports Day will all have a dedicated RAF100 theme.
The School Engagement Programme will involve visits to several schools to increase awareness of the RAF, setting a poem competition for Primary School Children and a Paint-a-Tile Competition for Secondary School Art Students. The winners of these 2 projects will win a visit to RAF Benson for the Day.
In addition to these main events we have hosted an RAF 100 inspired Cadet Easter Camp, a STEM Race for the Line competition, and will soon run a CAMO day with our local schools.
One of the most important things we can do for young children is to teach them how to think and not what to think. A competition that fits in seamlessly with the RAF 100 themes; Commemorate, Celebrate and Inspire, Race for the Line Season 3 was an opportunity for RAF Benson to encourage children to be imaginative, innovative and creative.
Volunteers from RAF Benson visited 7 schools in our local community to race the Rocket Cars the students had engineered from a block of foam, with some reaching speeds as high as 30.7 ms-1 (68.7 mph) and some as low as 7.6 ms-1 (17 mph).
With the Regional Final held at RAF Benson, students had the opportunity re-engineer new Rocket Cars based off the analysis of their previous cars performance. While it was clear that each car was unique and brilliant in its own way, more importantly, the students were ecstatic witnessing their creations speeding along the race track in the Hangar.
Ultimately, Race for Line encourages the next generation to pursue a career within Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM), whether it be in the military or industry. Foremost, the most essential part about Race for the Line is that it provided RAF Benson with an opportunity to give back and engage with our local community through such a historical year.
2018 has proven to be and still promises to be an eventful year so far, and RAF Benson is a unit worth celebrating – we look forward to your involvement, support and enjoyment over the next year!
With RAF100 fast approaching back in September 2017, many requests were being made for events in the local community. One of the most important came from the Mayor’s Office in Basingstoke. Basingstoke has lived with the Chinook Force on its doorstep for many years and has become extremely proud of their association with the Chinook Force and RAF Odiham as a whole.
So when they invited the station to celebrate RAF100 with them it was a wonderful opportunity to show the people of Basingstoke how much their support over the years has been appreciated and to fully involve them in the RAF100 occasion.
Along with the Basingstoke Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association, it quickly became clear that as far as the town was concerned, they were a blank canvas, willing to support our celebrations in any way that they could.
Plans were soon drawn up for a parade through London Road, ending at War Memorial Park for a ceremony to commemorate this grand occasion. A fly past was organised from 18 (B) Sqn and the icing on the cake was when we were told that the Central Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment would be able to attend – a really exciting addition considering their extremely busy schedule this particular year!
Parade practices were soon underway under the watchful eye of the Parade Marshal, FS Palmer, and Odiham’s two qualified Drill Instructors, Sgt Williams and Cpl Farrington. The final practice was observed by the Station Commander and the SWO, both of whom were impressed by the standard of drill achieved.
The one factor that caused everyone to hold their breath was, of course, the weather. Fortunately, the Met Office pulled a few strings and ensured a glorious sunny day for us. The parade consisted of RAF Odiham personnel, as well as a flight of veterans (showing that drill is a skill you never lose completely), as well as the Air Cadets to represent the future of the RAF. After setting off at 10:40 from the bottom end of London Road, the parade arrived in War Memorial Park precisely on time where they were greeted by a crowd of approximately 500 people. A wonderful turnout from Basingstoke to show their appreciation for the event. The ceremony started with a perfectly timed flypast and then the commemoration of RAF100 began under the proud and watchful eye of numerous dignitaries, including the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Air Marshal Sir Roger Austin (Rtd) and the Mayor of Basingstoke.
Once the parade and ceremony were complete, the public had the opportunity to then engage up close with some of our personnel by way of some demonstration stands that had been set up in the park itself. An early morning working party had toiled through the morning to setup the area before the ceremony began and gave the public the chance to see some of the equipment used in various areas of the modern RAF including the latest flying safety equipment and various weapons in use by the RAF Regiment.
Towards the end of the afternoon, the RAF Odiham Military Wives Choir provided their vocals to sing the occasion out and show that RAF100 is not only about celebrating those in uniform, but also the families who support us along the way.
The day was a great success, with the public showing their deep appreciation for RAF100 and for RAF Odiham in particular. It was a day that the station can look back on with immense pride.