1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron – Officially the Best Large Air Cadet Squadron in the UK
An Air Cadet Squadron from the East Midlands has been crowned the best in the Country and has been awarded the Freedom of the District of South Derbyshire and has said farewell to their Squadron Commander after 33 years in Command, all within the space of a week.
The historic week for 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron started with a presentation evening where Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty CBE, Commandant of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets (RAFAC) presented the Morris Trophy to the 1211 Squadron, thereby officially recognising them as the best large Squadron in the UK.
The Morris Trophy Presentation
(L-R) Cadet Joshua Roberts, Flight Lieutenant Ruth Morgan, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty CBE, Squadron Leader Alyn Thompson, Cadet Lorena Dawes
The Morris Trophy is awarded annually to the Squadron (with 46 cadets and over) that is judged to be the best in the UK, in delivering the “Cadet Experience”. Competing against 949 other Air Training Corps Squadrons from across the country, the 100 Air Cadet strong Swadlincote Unit soared through local, Regional and National inspection rounds to lift the title.
Air Commodore McCafferty said;
“Winning the Morris Trophy is a big deal and it is privilege to present it to 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron. When I visited you for your inspection, it was evident the breadth of experiences undertaken by the Cadets, the high level of Community involvement and the sense of inclusion and fun in all that you do - you set the bar exceptionally high. 1211 has had a year of incredible achievement and this award is richly deserved”.
1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron – the Best Large Squadron in the UK
Cadets Joshua Roberts and Lorena Dawes received the Morris Trophy on behalf of all of the Cadets, Staff and Support Team volunteers at 1211 Squadron. Cadet Roberts said;
“Being an Air Cadet is brilliant, I’ve learnt so many new skills including leadership and first aid and I’ve had so many awesome experiences including flying and living on a warship. It was an honour to be selected to collect the Trophy from the Commandant”.
In addition to holding the title of Best Large Squadron in the UK and receiving the Morris Trophy, the 1211 Squadron was also awarded a VIP visit to the British Airways flight simulators at London Heathrow Airport, courtesy of The Air League. Cadet Jack Crofts was one of the 10 cadets who took part in the visit and he said;
“Flying circuits in a Boeing 747 was amazing and the simulator graphics, sounds and movements were ++so realistic”.
Flying Officer Matt Leedham, the Squadrons Aviation Officer who accompanied the 10 cadets added;
“We have our own flight simulator that we use to train our cadets in basic flying skills, but to get the chance to fly in these state-of-the-art simulators has been a real privilege. From all at 1211 we would like to thank Andy Perkins from The Air League and all the Staff at British Airways for this unforgettable experience”.
Cadet Jack Crofts fly’s the 747 Simulator
1211 Squadron VIP visit to Heathrow Airport
Having received the highest accolade that any Squadron can be bestowed within the RAFAC, two days later the Squadron was to receive the highest honour that can be bestowed by the South Derbyshire District Council.
At a Civic ceremony held within the Council chamber, 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron was granted “The Freedom of the District of South Derbyshire”. It means the Cadets have freedom of entry into the District on ‘all ceremonial occasions with colours flying and bands playing’.
The Squadron has had a presence within Swadlincote since 1941 and the title of Honorary Freeman is recognition of 76 years of voluntary work done to help future generations to prosper, as well as the tireless work carried out to support the Council, local communities and charities.
Following what can only be described as the two most significant achievements in the Squadron’s 76 year history, the end of the week also saw the end of a significant era. Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Alyn Thompson who has been the Officer Commanding (OC) 1211 (Swadlincote) Squadron for the past 33 years, relinquished his Command of the unit, to take on a new Staff post as Sector 2 Commander within South & East Midlands Wing. In his new role, Alyn will oversee the running of 7 Squadrons in Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
Alyn Thompson first joined 1211 (Swadlincote) Sqn as an Air Cadet in 1970 and became the squadron’s first ever Cadet Warrant Officer in 1975. Alyn was appointed a commission in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1980 and took command of 1211 back in September 1984, aged 27, becoming the youngest Sqn Commander in the ATC at that time.
Through the Swadlincote Squadron’s 76 year existence it has only had seven commanding officers (COs). Sqn Ldr Thompson has been the longest serving of them all, surpassing Flt Lt C.R. Poynton, who served for 23 years as Sqn Commander from 1947 to 1970. With 33 years in post, Alyn was one of the longest serving Commanding Officers in the history of the Air Training Corps.
At a formal ‘Dining Out’ event held at the Derby Conference Centre, Alyn was joined by friends, colleagues and cadets, past and present to celebrate his time as ‘OC1211’ and to wish him the very best in his new adventure on the Wing Staff team.