Pride as Second Son Graduates


Flight Sergeant Andy Cairns from the Force Development Flight at RAF Halton attended the Graduation Parade of 539 Thompson Intake to watch his son, Tom, graduate.

This is the second time he has watched a son graduate from Recruit Training Squadron as his eldest son, Sam, graduated in December 2013 and his third son Daniel, plans to join up as soon as he is 18.

Andy said: “I am extremely proud that both Sam and Tom have followed in my footsteps in joining the RAF and to hear that Tom was to receive the RAF Benevolent Trophy reinforced my great pride in him completing the course. As the Reviewing Officer said to the recruits on the Parade Square, ‘this is just the start for them’ and obviously I will be keeping a close eye on their progress, and their younger brother if he follows them. As they are both Movers, (I am Personnel Support) I’m hoping I’ll get good seats and a late check-in when travelling around the world on RAF Adventure Training in the future!

One of the guests at the Graduation Parade of Thompson Flight was Mrs Sally Wooding and her husband Kevin. Sally’s father was on the same crew as Flight Sergeant George Thompson, the airman that the flight was named after.

Sally explained that both she and Kevin had joined the RAF Club (which her father had been a member for 60 years). At the new members lunch she sat next to Group Captain Townsend who had acted as the Reviewing Officer at a Recruit Training Squadron Graduation Parade and she explained about her connection to the Flight. By the time she got home, the Station Commander emailed to invite her along to the Thompson Flight Graduation Parade.

Sally’s father was Flight Sergeant Ron Goebel who crewed for Thompson. On the 1st January 1945 they were shot down over Holland and all were injured except for Harry Denton. Ron was hit by shrapnel which also blew a hole in the aircraft which Thompson climbed across to rescue the Rear Gunner, Hayden Price. Thompson won his Victoria Cross for gallantry, saving their lives. The aircraft limped home and was spotted by a Squadron of Canadian Mosquitos who watched and noted where the aircraft had gone down meaning that the crew were rescued 36 hours later. All suffered terrible injuries and Ron spent a lot of time having his fingers rebuilt due to dreadful burns he received after he gave his gloves to Thompson to go and rescue the others.

Sally said: “I got chatting with Group Captain Townsend who asked if we could make it to the parade the next day and immediately on getting home I received an invite from the Station Commander. We had a marvellous lunch meeting with  the Group Captain Burns and AVM Niven and his wife. After the parade we met some of the Graduating Trainees who were all so friendly and interested in my story, I explained to them that Thompson was an ordinary man, just like them, he was a grocer’s son who delivered groceries on his bike but he went on to do something that saved two people from certain death.”