A Buzz in Kettering as the Royal Navy Visit Local Air Cadet Squadron
On the afternoon of Wednesday 14th July, Kettering was met by an unfamiliar sight and sound for the town – the Royal Navy.
31 RAF Air Cadets from 1101 (Kettering), 1084 (Market Harborough), 378 (Mannock) and 422 (Corby) Squadrons were invited, along with their staff, to this visit from the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm’s 815 NAS to Kettering.
The Royal Navy and the Air Cadets’ parent unit, the Royal Air Force, believe fully in engaging with the communities in which they serve, to give insight to the next generation of aspiring service personnel about life in the military. Whilst visits like this are not the norm, wherever they can, the military are always willing to give back – as often many of the personnel are ex-cadets themselves.
With the 12 months previous to the return to face to face activities in April consisting of entirely remotely delivered training, and with the British Summer in full swing, the opportunity presented itself to remind the cadets and, indeed, the local population in Kettering of #WhatWeDo.
“It’s been a difficult 12-14 months of online training delivery” Said Flying Officer John Gore, Commanding Officer of 1101 Kettering Squadron RAF Air Cadets. “Not all of our cadets have engaged fully with this method of training and we have lost over half of our cadets as a result.
“But we were presented with an opportunity to give back to our cadets and reward them for their dedication, to induct our newest cadets with a flavour of the kinds of dynamic activities we can achieve and also to work together with our local units for the first time in over a year and a half.”
Planning for this event commenced many months ago – as well as the usual intricacies of bringing a piece of flying military hardware to a bustling town centre, the Air Cadets’ organising staff also had to ensure they could safeguard their cadets and the aircrew from the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
“Whenever you have the chance to plan an activity like this, you are always acutely aware of the importance of getting it ‘right’” added Gore. “We were so fortunate to have the unwavering support of North Northamptonshire Council – who own the land – and also that of our own chain-of-command, to ensure we could execute this activity without risking the safety of our cadets, staff, the aircrew and the general public.”
The helicopter arrived shortly before 13:30, landing on the field and powering down, enabling the cadets to meet the aircrew, who gave them a tour of the exterior and explained its role and capabilities. The aircrew also explained their roles in a multi-crew aircraft and the kind of training they went through.
As the crowds from the local school began to gather, the anticipation and excitement began to build. The crew sprang into life, preparing the helicopter for departure, and as the engines roared into life, many of the bystanding young children screamed with excitement.
The helicopter and crew commenced their return journey to Somerset just before 4pm, as a crowd of nearly 200 bystanders had gathered and traffic had stopped to witness the spectacle.
“There was a real buzz in the town, with schools and traffic grinding to a halt as a result of the departure of the helicopter.” Commented Gore. “It was an incredible feeling to see the cadets, staff and public enjoying this visit so much. I am incredibly grateful to the Navy for the effort they put in to make this event possible, despite large numbers of 815 Naval Air Squadron currently being embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth on her landmark Carrier Strike Group tour to the far-East.
“We are looking forward to an exciting summer of activities, with cadets having opportunities to get away to summer camp at RAF stations in the coming months. We have seen unprecedented demand from young people to join our Squadron and are looking forward to welcoming our second fully-subscribed intake in as many months, in just a few weeks time.”