RAF College Cranwell
55 Years since 89 Entry arrived at the RAF College
The turnout for the 55th anniversary of our joining the Royal Air Force, and more particularly of our joining the ranks of that exclusive band of Flight cadets, was a somewhat muted affair with just 9 89er's attending. However, despite the annual "Old Cranwellians" re-union being small compared to previous years, just 98 old boys in total, it was well represented. The oldest was a 97 year old former Mosquito pilot, and the youngest being a 20 year old young lady whose ambition was to fly UAVs. Quite a range!
Despite the paucity in numbers the evening proved to be one of the best reunions so far with a good mix of Entrys. For the first time, at a significant anniversary, 89 was eclipsed in representation by another Entry - 88 - there were apparently 10 of them although we were only joined by one, Irfan, formerly of the Pakistan Air Force. We had heard that Erf had been killed in 1971, shot down in the last Pakistan/India war. But no, here he was appearing at Cranwell for the first time in 52 years. Apparently we had got the story wrong, it was he that did the shooting down!
The Cranwellian Association, the direct descendent of the Old Cranwellians, did a superb job with the organisation and with providing incredibly good value at a time when the RAF is struggling with it's finances. A weekend away for £125 including dinner, bed and breakfast with almost as much drink as one can cope with plus pre-dinner entertainment in the shape of a sunset display by the College Band with a Spitfire flypast has to be incredible value - even for some poor old bloke on an Air Marshal's pension! Our thanks go to the Trustees and volunteers of the Cranwell Association for a job well done.
Peter's Memorial Service
The memorial service for our departed friend and colleague Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire GCB DFC AFC DL FRAeS
was held at Saint Clement Danes Church, Strand, London, WC2R 1DH at 11:30 Hours on Friday 1st June
Latest Re-union News
"C" Squadron's 2017 reunion is a bit late - April 2018
89C's members are inveterate travelers so it is very difficult to pin down enough members for a re-union. As a result the 2017 89C reunion was held in 2018 and even then apologies were received from several members who were out of the country or otherwise committed. These were Dave Donnelly, John Liddell (in Australia), Duncan Swift & Ian Robertson. Nevertheless 7 members and their wives were able to make the RV at Barton Hall Kettering.
Needless to say 89C were a bit lively - so much so that someone suggested that they should all be behind bars - so that's exactly were we ended up -
Left to right - Chris Saunby, Les Quigley, Dave Harlow, Dick Shuster, Brian Synnott, Derek North, JC Newland
Uniquely amongst 89 Entry squadron re-unions, C Squadron have taken to inviting their wives to their annual Squadron get together since many of the wives have known each other since the boys were at Cranwell or from their early days in the RAF. For more pictures of the "boys" and their lovely wives go to the re-union page by clicking here.
19th February 2018 - EXTREMELY SAD NEWS
It is with the deepest regret that we have to announce the very sad news that Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire died suddenly on Monday 19th February 2018 aged just 72. Peter was the most senior former member of 89 Entry yet was one of our youngest members. His support, comradeship and leadership will be missed by all members of 89 Entry and especially those of 89 "A" Squadron of which he was a member and constant supporter.
Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go to Peter's wife Lady Carolyn and his 3 sons, Christopher, Richard and Edward.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire GCB DFC AFC DL FRAeS
Peter Squire - 89 Entry RAF College Cranwell
Obituary by Air Marshal 'Black' Robertson CBE (A fellow 89 "A" Squadron member)
Peter Squire was the archetypal RAF officer. He personified courage, tenacity, integrity, generosity, loyalty and an overriding sense of duty – all that’s best in the human spirit. Diligent, responsible, personable and utterly professional in all that he did, Peter related effortlessly to anyone and everyone he met. Above all, he was the epitome of a safe pair of hands, as befits a wicket-keeper and long-time MCC member. Indeed, he enjoyed nothing more than a day at Lord’s with family and friends, even spending part of his last day as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) in the members’ pavilion with the individual who stood beside him on the day they joined the RAF together.
That Peter was destined for success was evident from his early days at Cranwell. As a cadet he excelled in so many spheres – flying, academics and sport – and forged numerous lifelong friendships. It was then that he also met his devoted wife, Carolyn; together they formed the perfect RAF couple. It is in no sense patronising to say that Carolyn’s unwavering support made a significant contribution to her husband’s success. If Peter was a Falklands hero, Carolyn performed an equally heroic task in caring for those No 1 Squadron family members left behind; her role in keeping up the spirits of those who ‘watch and pray’, was critically important at a time when communication was relatively difficult, certainly by today’s standards.
Two more examples of Peter’s interest in the welfare of others, possibly little known outside his immediate family, offer an insight into his character and indeed his humanity. Sadly, two of his closest Cranwell friends were killed in flying accidents early in their first operational tours. His lifelong friendship with the widow of the first, a family bond sustained beyond her remarriage to this very day, and the support he provided and connection he retained with the parents of the second, are a measure of the man. There can surely have been no more loyal a friend or more honourable a Cranwellian than this former CAS.
Both The Daily Telegraph and The Times published glowing tributes to Peter. Neither did full justice to the man and errors in both will grate with those who knew him well. The latter, available via the link below, was the result of efforts to have more said about the man himself rather than concentrate simply on his achievements, which are a matter of record. This brief tribute therefore represents an attempt to capture the essence of the man those of us came to know initially through our time together at Cranwell.
It was fitting that Peter’s funeral, on Thursday 2 March 2018, should take place in Gidleigh’s beautiful Holy Trinity church, where he had worshipped for the past 22 years. Together with his family, he was a much valued member of this small village community. Gathered there were those closest to him: Carolyn, sons Christopher, Richard and Edward together with their wives, and those mainly locals able to make the journey through snow and ice to the fringes of Dartmoor. Richard read the lesson while Christopher delivered a moving eulogy that captured perfectly a devoted husband, loved and respected father, and fun-loving grandfather. Christopher’s words speak for themselves and offer a fitting tribute to an officer and a true gentleman. Here are just some of the memorable phrases that touched so deeply those privileged to hear them:
‘There was still so much to do...so much to enjoy…his success was made all the greater by the manner in which it was achieved…Father was also an exceptional person…his strong sense of Christian faith informed clear values…duty was a core principle for him. Dad never lost his sense of fun or common touch. It was this outstanding humanity that was perhaps his greatest achievement…later in life he was also a constant source of strength. Our Father was truly special…a great friend to so many and universally popular wherever he went. He brought magic to our lives.’
We have lost a very special kind of man
For the detailed obituaries published by the Times click here, for the Telegraph do a Google search
Peter's funeral was a family one held at his local Parish Church in Gidleigh, Devon within Dartmoor National Park on Thursday 1st March. However, Black Robertson (89A), as a family friend and a member of 89 Entry represented all members of the Entry and by chance the Royal Air Force. The family requested that no wreaths or flowers be sent but a donation to Gidleigh church was in order. The Entry made an appropriate donation and sent a card to Lady Carolyn with their condolences.
Holy Trinity Church Gidleigh, Dartmoor, Devon
In the event the weather on Thursday was about as bad as it gets in the UK, but in true 89 style "Black" was determined to be at the funeral no matter what. The following is his brief report to members of 89 just after he managed to get back home to Cheltenham....
"I’ve just returned from Peter’s funeral – a simple but moving service in Gidleigh’s beautiful old church. Christopher, Peter’s eldest, gave a brilliant eulogy while second son, Richard, read the lesson. The vicar contributed splendidly too, in part a reflection of the fact that Peter had worshiped there for 22 years; it hardly needs saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that he was a hugely respected and immensely well liked member of the village community.
Afterwards we all repaired to the village hall for refreshments. I was invited back to the house with the family but at almost the last minute was asked to return the vicar, organist and another lady to Chagford. Having previously offered to help in any way whatsoever I couldn’t refuse, but the journey was a nightmare, even in a Range Rover: packed snow on ice, single track, stone-lined roads, steep hills and as a consequence, other vehicles abandoned here and there. I had to steer into the offside stone wall once in order to slow down, despite audible prayers from the other occupants; more accurate to say that it steered me! We all thought that Peter would have been very amused! The vehicle was still driveable so we agreed it would be best if I abandoned my charges and turned off onto more level terrain reasonably close to Chagford, a road that would eventually take me back towards the A30. The others said they’d walk the rest of the way to Chagford (not sure how far, possibly half a mile or so, but a very difficult surface.). Having safely reached home myself, I immediately rang Carolyn to ask her to contact the vicar to confirm that he and his charges (ladies of a certain age) eventually found salvation. I felt bad about leaving them but it was the safest option.
Believe it or not I was the only RAF guy there! Carolyn and the family greatly appreciated the thoughts and prayers of Peter’s Cranwell contemporaries, so in concluding let me thank you all for the privilege of representing our Entry. It’s just a pity that I had to…he was a good man in every possible sense.
The thanks of the whole of 89 Entry have gone out to Black, together with numerous offers to contribute to the repair of his Range Rover! Naturally Black has refused any help since, in addition to wishing to say farewell to a friend, he considered it his duty.
55 Years since "joining up" in 1963
It's hard to believe that we were once a bunch of 18 year olds straight out of school and straight into the arms of Drill Sergeant's who reckoned "they could make more noise banging their balls on the side of the bath on a Saturday night than a bunch of 'green' cadets could when banging their rifles on the parade ground!"
Yes for 89 all this was 55 years ago and those fresh young men are now 72/73 years old and struggle to lift the rifles, never mind bang them! Our brains may think we're 18 but our bodies tell us something different. Not only that, but circumstances and recent happenings tell us that our time on this planet is not only limited but unpredictable. So let us make the best of our limited time, let's get together and relive the key element of our 3 years at Cranwell - the camaraderie!
This years "Old Cranwellians" weekend is on June 16/17. At our 2016 reunion we managed 34 of us, sadly we will be at least one down, but Peter will be with us in spirit as will the dozen or more 89ers who have not made it to date. We will remember them. So gentlemen reserve your dinner, bed, booze and breakfast today - let's have a wake for those can't make it - before we can't - let's have a party!
June will be a great occasion to meet up with some of our (tor)mentors from 88 as they are turning out in relative force for the first time. They include -
Bostock, Dinmore, Dixon, Dudgeon, Gawn, Irfan, Roberts, Rowe, Tomian, Williams - time to get revenge and at least extract a pint or two out of them for the heartache metered out in our first few months in 1963! (Gosh - Isn't that year now featured in history books and museums!)
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Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Hugh Trenchard's Memorial Statue
After much consideration regarding the celebration in 2020 of the 100 years since the RAF College was formed, it has been decided to erect a statue to Sir Hugh Trenchard, the man responsible for the College's being. Air Marshall Sir Chris Coville (91C) has been tasked with chairing a committee to select a sculptor and raise funds. He reports that they have made a good start with pledges from Air Officers and others, but would now like help from other old Cranwellians like ourselves.
Some of 89 have already pledged a donation, others are more reticent and over half of the 89 survivors have expressed various opinions (positive and negative) regarding the project. Those who expressed opinions are aware of the overall feelings of 89, as is Chris C. However, Chris is determined to make the project a success and has written to many 89ers. For those who have not received his email it is summarised as follows....
I understand that, as an Entry, you had some misgivings at the decision by the Cranwellian Trustees to mark the Centenary of the College with a statue of Lord Trenchard. I thought it might be helpful to update you on the project, and give you a little more background as to why we have chosen this particular way of recording such a significant event.
As you know, at last year’s reunion, and at the AGM, Sir Mike Graydon asked for ideas on how we should mark 2020, and we received several useful suggestions, including heritage programmes, scholarships and a statue. After discussions with the Commandant, it became clear that most of the heritage and scholarship options were either underway or were impractical, and a clear favourite emerged of the statue, which was deemed not only as fitting in the context of the College grounds, but also was seen as a permanent rather than temporary symbol of the contribution that Trenchard and Cranwell had made to the glorious history of the RAF. Whilst much needs to be done on siting, as the College is a listed building, the selection committee favoured most a position close to the corner of the Orange, at the point where the Reviewing Officers start their march to the saluting base.
But to the important bit, where I know many of you had reservations: the cost. Whilst our initial planning figure was indeed circa £160K, including plinth, planning and maintenance, I am pleased to report that we have identified an excellent sculptor, Vivien Mallock, who will shortly be under contract to deliver the statue at about £70K plus VAT. Moreover, we now believe our estimate for the plinth and planning was excessive, and I shall shortly be able to trim the expected costs down significantly. In short, as a result of the selection committees efforts, and some sensible financial management, we should be able to achieve our objective of a fitting tribute to our beloved Alma Mater at about £100K, including all ancillary costs.
So how are we doing? In a relatively short period, we have received donations which, with pledges and Gift Aid, should have exceeded £50K before the end of March, when we intend to finalise the contract. Once we believe we have secured the maximum possible internal contributions, Ali McKay will make a start on gaining support from Cranwell's suppliers!
I do hope you will support our choice of a statue in light of the above. Of the supportive Entries to the Association, 89 have always been in the top tier. I entreat you to continue that spirit by joining with the many others who, having reflected on the impact that Cranwell has had on our lives, have donated generously to what I believe will be a fitting tribute to a historic man, a great College and a wonderful cadetship experience.
Sir Christopher Coville, Chairman, Cranwell Centenary Committee"
Editor's Comment - Is it worth donating?
I understand the feelings of all who indicated that their limited charity money may best be used in what appear to be more positive and productive endeavours, and empathise with them. I have thought long and hard about the effect of a statue on the edge of the orange. It's impact may be limited to RAF personnel, but it may inspire some to seek more knowledge of how ambitions can be fulfilled. It may inspire youngsters to seek the higher things that we in 89 Entry sought when joining the RAF in 1963. If it inspires just a few youngsters to be the best, it is worth doing. It may cost each of us a couple of hundred pounds (the price of an 'Egon Ronay' dinner for two), but our 'investment' may inspire youngsters to become proactive leaders - just like an 89er - honorable, caring, and professional! On that basis I think it worth investing!
I know many were opposed to the idea, but in the absence of a better one it is worth a donation no matter how small. After all we did benefit from 3 years of "booze, birds, bangers, bravado, bull and brotherhood " (to quote Dick Slogrove)! And that lot alone is worth at least couple of hundred quid!
Please send your donations PDQ to Chris Coville - For details click here
A year of informal "get togethers" and not a lot of action!
With all surviving 89ers now being 72 and 73 years young it is not surprising that most have slowed down a little having lived incredibly full and fast lives. Despite their ages (collectively with over 3,000 years experience of life between them) it is unsurprising that most are still actively contributing much of their time to public, charitable and business organisations as well as to their ever growing families. In addition they all still find time to enjoy life's social activities both at home and abroad. At any one time you can guarantee to find an 89er in a bar in some corner of the world. We even manage to get together at regular intervals to swop old and new stories.
89 Entry Squadron Reunions in 2017
2017 saw 3 squadrons have reunions, "A", "B" & "D" - some in "C" had a get together at Chris Saunby's 50th wedding anniversary but because of commitments they planned a re-union in early 2018. For full details and photographs of the re-unions click here
During 2017, in addition to informal re-unions, the range of "get togethers" included special anniversaries!
50 years ago, pre-mobile phones and internet, after being locked away for 3 years in the barren wastes of Lincolnshire, far away from one's loved one, it was not surprising that many a young Officer wanted to secure his bride before an exciting posting to some equally barren part of the world. Many did and were married even before they qualified for a married quarter - so post 2016 50th wedding anniversaries abound! Go to the "reunions" page for details.
89's UNIQUE HISTORY?
The longest serving Entry ever to serve as cadets at Cranwell !
Derek North recently reminded us that, not only were we probably the best cadet Entry to pass through the RAF College Cranwell, (other Entries may argue, but just look at our charge sheets!), but also we were the longest serving Entry ever to serve as cadets at Cranwell. We "signed to serve Her Majesty" on 9th September 1963 in the exalted rank of AC2 (Aircraftsman 2nd class (AC2) - or "AC plonk" as it was known colloquially. Its members were collectively known as "erks").
In 1964 the rank of AC2 was abandoned so 89 Entry cadets were all promoted to "Aircraftsman" , a rank which we retained until graduation on 18th August 1966. Again we were probably the longest serving RAF personnel to hold the rank of Aircraftsman since it was a rank only used for airmen in training and no one in the RAF trained for 3 years, except Cranwell Cadets!
The last Entry at the RAF College to have to wear hats in civilian clothes!
Another unique feature of 89 Entry is the fact that we were the last entry to have to wear hats when in civilian clothes. This was a regulation set back in the founding days of the College. I guess it was to distinguish the cadets from others and to ensure that we were proper gentlemen, raising our hats in salute to officers and ladies. In the early 60's "Bowlers" (as worn by the actor playing Douglas Bader in the film "Reach for the Sky") and "Trilbies" went out of fashion. "Pork pie" hats were in. We must have looked like a bunch of "barrow boys from the East End" when in "civvies", especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays when visiting other sports teams, so I guess Air Commodore Lyne persuaded the Air Ministry, as it was then, to cancel the regulation! (The Air Ministry disappeared as an independent Ministry in 1964 and became part of the new Ministry of Defence.)
50 years since leaving "The RAF College"
On the 9th September 1963, 69 young men, all just 17 to 18 years old, joined the Royal Air Force. These young men had decided to dedicate themselves to Queen & Country by joining the Royal Air Force via the most difficult route possible - via the Royal Air Force College Cranwell. These young men had become "Flight Cadets" in 89 Entry!I
It was a time when young men didn't think about what they would earn or how you would earn it, they just wanted to serve in the RAF! - This was just as well as the starting pay was just 14 bob a day (70p in today's money). This would just about buy you 6 pints of beer. (Compare this with today's starting pay which buys around 20 pints!).
2017 a year of squadron get togethers
B Squadron have held annual re-unions for many years the first recorded on this website being 11 years ago in 2004. C Squadron, not to be outdone, commenced in 2005. C Squadron started their reunions with the standard all male affair but soon branched out, on a less regular basis than B Squadron, but on a more exotic basis travelling overseas with wives also being invited. In 2014 A Squadron, who needed to play catch up, also commenced holding annual re-unions. So we now had 3 of our 4 squadrons holding reunions.
50 Years on - How the RAF has changed
Comparing like with like is always difficult with historic data, as life, technology and political circumstance change, however, history is interesting and so are the statistics associated with history.
89 Entry is history, so let's examine some of the basics...
1945 - Most of 89 Entry were born in late 1944 and in 1945 when the Royal Air Force was at its peak with over a million men and women in uniform. At that time it had some 9,200 operational aircraft with over 1,000 UK bases and around 200 overseas bases. (Click here for details of operational aircraft. You can find a list of most, but not all, the wartime bases in Wikipedia by clicking here.)
1963 - When 89 Entry entered the RAF College, the RAF had about 140,000 personnel, around 2,000 operational aircraft, with 200 UK bases and 30 overseas bases (Click here for details of flying bases and squadrons) - (NOTE - All the aircraft were British designed & built)
2013 - 50 years on, from when 89 entry arrived at Cranwell, the Royal Air Force now has 37,000 personnel in uniform,. 760 aircraft*, 45 (35 manned) UK bases and 5 overseas bases. - (Note - 63% of the aircraft are British built, but only 13% are of sole British design - How times have changed!)