FDTF staff ride to London
On Thursday 11 July FDTF took part in a Staff Ride to London focusing on Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s leadership and contribution to both the War effort and the RAF.
We also focused on the impact that the civil service had during this period, how the RAF Regiment came to be and its involvement in the Second World War.
The journey began nice and early from Wendover train station and armed with our coffees (and healthy bacon butties!) we embarked on our Staff Ride to London arriving at our first stand, the Bomber Command monument. Here, Flt Lt Matt Popple delivered extracts from various sources to give us a feel of what it was like for a pilot, bomber and the aircrew that were tasked to deliver such devastating payloads over Germany. He posed the question to the group:
“Were we right to build a monument to those who, in a sense, had carried out mass bombings on a civilian population?”
The question stirred some heated debate amongst the group with some believing we were morally right and others believing that we were simply following orders. We concluded that the monument was not about the bombing raids themselves but rather the brave men who had to carry out these orders. A nice start to the staff ride that set the tone for the other stands. Natalie, our work experience student, gave a brief overview about the history and development of the Air Training Corps and how this organisation contributed to the war effort at RAF Stations on home soil. We then moved on to the Churchill War rooms.
Here, we toured around the various rooms which are situated underground under a 6ft layer of concrete aptly named the “slab”. These rooms are perfectly preserved from when they turned out the lights after the War to their most recent refurbishment. It is a strange feeling walking down the very corridors that one of Great Britain’s most inspirational leaders had walked all those years ago. Looking through the glass walls into rooms where some of our biggest wartime decisions were made really gave you the feeling that you were walking in the footsteps of history. Sgt ‘Franky’ Boole delivered his presentation about the leadership style and qualities of the great man. We concluded that Churchill was the perfect man for the time but did not fit post war Britain, a natural war time leader that led Britain through some of her darkest days.
Next came the Battle of Britain monument where FS Mark Lawton stepped up to deliver his presentation on one of the most historical and inspiring moments in RAF history. He explained how the few were actually a few hundred men, women and aircraft; what made this achievement so monumental was how the odds were stacked against our heavily depleted Royal Air Force fighting the might of the German Luftwaffe. Despite these odds we fought hard, bravely and tirelessly to win the battle.
Next we moved to the Ministry of Defence building to sit in the sun as Miss Kerry Bennett-King and Mrs Pat Vincent delivered their presentations on the Civil Service. It was interesting to learn how much of an impact the Civil Service has had on today’s military and that the service has done this from the early 19th century. The unflinching support they give sometimes can go unrecognised but without this valuable assistance the military would struggle to achieve its aims. It was also interesting to learn that these individuals must go through a strict selection process to become part of the Civil Service thus showing the major difference between Civil Servants and contractors. Our Serco representative Mrs Nikki Redpath explained what contractors do and how they contribute to the functioning and development of our Royal Air Force and how much of a valuable asset they are.
Talking of valuable assets, it was now the turn of Cpls Ross Elder, Pete Ashmore and Mark Shoring to deliver their presentations on the RAF Regiment. We were posed with three questions;
“What role did the Regiment play in the Battle of Britain?”
“What is the history of the RAF Regiment?”
“What was Churchill’s role in the formation of the Corps?”
Ross went first delivering a presentation that showed that the “Regiment” played no part in the Battle of Britain but how Ground Defence Squadrons or “Ground Gunners”, recognised by a distinctive “GG” armband contributed to the protection of RAF assets. These Squadrons paved the way for the RAF Regiment as we know it today. Following Ross it was Pete’s turn, who talked about the history of the RAF Regiment from the formation following the Crete disaster, the landings at Juno Beach on D-Day and the Battle of Meiktila in the Far East, to our more recent exploits in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali and Libya. Mark delivered his presentation on Churchill’s involvement in the formation of the RAF Regiment. This consisted of extracts from a minute that was written by Churchill to Parliament stating that the RAF should be protected by an elite body of fighting men and not “an abode of civilians in uniform protected by a detachment of soldiers”. The proposal was passed through the House and in February 1942 the RAF Regiment was formed and has, to this day, been the only UK military asset to be involved in every conflict where an Airframe has been deployed.
All in all, it was a cracking day and a great opportunity for the Flight, with its many different departments, to come together and learn how we all make a valuable contribution to the output of today’s Royal Air Force.