Speech To The Droitwich Air Training Corps Awards Dinner

I see the four great aims of the Air Training Corps are summed up in about 50 words - and I know how well you fulfil them.

1) To promote and encourage among young men and women a practical interest in aviation and the Royal Air Force.

2) To provide training that will be useful in both the services and in civil life.

3) To foster the spirit of adventure.

4) To develop the qualities of leadership and good citizenship.

What important aims those are. So I’ve got three basic messages tonight –

• The first is a big thank you to the adults who as officers make this whole corps possible,
• The second is warm congratulations to the cadets who are such a great team and
• The third is an invitation to the wider community to celebrate your success too.


Let’s do the adults first. The ATC nationally is on a recruitment campaign – this is the year of the volunteer and we do need adults to volunteer to help with youth organisations like the ATC, the guides, the scouts and even, dare I mention it the Sea Cadets!

I have a fine sea cadet unit in Evesham of which I am also very proud! I even got to inspect their Trafalgar day parade last year, which was quite an honour. Of course I know the Navy has history and the RAF …… No, only teasing

Your officers and all those who work with them to make your ventures and your adventures happen deserve a big round of applause.

I hope more adults with a sense of adventure and few spare hours to challenge themselves might be persuaded to offer their services too – I’m sure there’s always room for another pair of hands!

I know the Droitwich ATC Squadron is a vibrant, challenging voluntary youth organisation which prides itself on offering opportunities for all.

Air Commodore Jon Chitty, the Commandant of the Air Cadets, has said: “Quite simply, we give our cadets the opportunity to gain self-confidence and develop strong personal qualities, whilst taking part in exciting and challenging activities.

“We aim to develop enthusiastic and responsible members of society who strive to succeed in whatever occupation they choose and the results prove we are successful.”

And what could be more rewarding than that?

So a big “thank you” to all of you who make this squadron possible – and here’s hoping there are people out there in the Droitwich area who could join in and help you.

And it’s important to remember that while, for the cadets membership brings additional skills within their training and extra qualifications on their CV, the same is true of the adult volunteers who learn and develop valuable skills too - which look pretty good on their CVs as well.


And now, what of the cadets? First many congratulations to all of you who received awards tonight.

The ATC offers a host of opportunities to young people from all walks of life and regardless of gender, race or background - opportunities such as flying and gliding, sport, adventure training, citizenship and teamwork. It’s good to see you taking such advantage of these opportunities.

You, and the thousands of cadets like you around the country, are a great bunch and I know it's very rewarding for your senior officers to you see you achieving success in your early adult life - the kind of success that is hard earned – and to know that they had a hand in getting you there.

The list of former Air Cadets who went on to make it big is pretty impressive. Just some of the best known include David Blakey – our very own Chief Constable here in West Mercia until quite recently and now HM Inspector of Constabulary.

The late Richard Burton – an actor your parents will remember with admiration, even if you don’t! – was a cadet.

So too was Timothy Dalton – another actor, this time one who played a famous naval commander - James Bond.
Geoff Capes - Olympic Shotputter, Weightlifter and "Strongest Man in the World", Linford Christie - World Champion athlete and John Conteh - Champion boxer, were all air cadets. So too was Rory Underwood – an England rugby player and an RAF pilot

You may have thought that Len Deighton’s closest link with the air was the books he sells at airports, or that Patrick Moore was more likely to have preferred to have been an astronaut rather than an air cadet – but the author and the astronomer were both air cadets.

I wonder which of you will go on to make it big and join the roll call of the stars!
And what is it that makes you so successful?

We had an outrageous school prize giving once. The guest of honour was invited by the Chairman of Governors, but who he was now I just don’t remember.

He nearly finished off several of the prize winners, including me, with a big slap on the shoulders at the top of a steep flight of stairs to the stage.

His speech was a hymn of praise to the days of Empire in India delivered in a really posh barrack room shout throughout – he thought the ecstatic applause was an endorsement of what he was saying – actually it covered our growing hysteria at his outrageous performance.
But I do remember one thing he said – he said the most important qualities were loyalty, duty and service – and then got us to shout out these three key words at the top of our voices like a pantomime.

But those three words stuck – loyalty, duty and service. And they’re not bad words to hang on to and to live by. Loyalty. Duty. Service.
And they are an important part of what you learn in the Air cadets. Being loyal, doing your duty and serving others.

Does this sound old fashioned? I don’t think so. No one says you can’t be loyal, dutiful and serve others and not have fun.


But too many people today think the only way to have fun is to be thoroughly selfish. That’s what lies behind the anti-social behaviour that scars Droitwich and too many of our cities, towns and villages.
Wouldn’t it be good if the values you are being learnt to develop were more widely shared – and celebrated too?
When I see you on parade at Remembrance Day in Droitwich, I feel very proud of you.

You are learning to be active, involved citizens, and we ought to congratulate you and thank you a bit more.
We need to hear about the problem kids who make other people’s lives a misery. It’s right that local papers should report ASBOs when they are issued. I support naming and shaming.

But I also support naming and celebrating. Naming and congratulating. Naming and thanking.

And that’s what I want to do tonight – to name the Droitwich 2516 Squadron Air Training Corps as one of the very finest youth organisations in the county, and to celebrate, to congratulate and to thank all of you.

Actually Kev H was right –
“I think the air cadets kick ass and I also think the officers are sound!”

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