With little over 60 days to go now until what I will describe as being a once in a lifetime event, today I will write in respect of the RAF 100 Centenary Gala, a truly important occasion to be held at the Royal Albert Hall on the 31st March 2018 – an event which will itself trigger the official start of the formal RAF 100 centenary celebration marking the founding of the Royal Air Force in April 1918.
Commemorating and celebrating the first 100 years of outstanding Royal Air Force service to the nation, the RAF Centenary Gala is being held the evening before Easter Sunday. It will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of what is today the world’s oldest independent Air Force and, as befits such an important historic occasion, the Centenary Gall has been planned to be a very significant and memorable event. Those wishing to attend that have not yet purchased tickets for this important occasion and companies that may also be considering booking hospitality packages and boxes are advised that they now need to move fast.
Organised by the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT), one of the four principle RAF charities and the one that has long been responsible for organising the annual Royal International Air Tattoo held at RAF Fairford in July, the RAF 100 Centenary Gala promises to be a very spectacular and not to be missed event.
Alongside this being also the official launch of the RAF 100 Campaign, the RAF Centenary Gala will mark the beginning of what will be approximately six months of exciting activities and events set to take place in various cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each of which has been designed not only to spread the message of the important history and present day work of the Royal Air Force and to bring it closer to the people, but also to provide opportunities for younger people to learn more and to engage with the present day RAF. Suffice to say that RAF 100 itself will not just be about celebration and commemoration of the fascinating history of the Royal Air Force and its official founding one hundred years ago, but importantly, it will also be about what the RAF is today and what it wants to be tomorrow.
Run as a joint venture and launched last October, the RAF 100 Appeal brought the present day Royal Air Force alongside all four of the important RAF charities that support its people, its former people and encourages those who it would wish to be its people in future years, together to raise funds for a lasting legacy. The four charities are The RAF Association, The RAF Benevolent Fund, The RAF Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum. Together these will be the appeals principle beneficiaries. The four charities associated with the Royal Air Force have done a spectacular job of work over past decades and they have a proud tradition of supporting the whole RAF Family. In launching the RAF 100 Appeal industry has been quick to provide support in the form of major sponsorship. As taken from the RAF 100 Appeal website, some of the companies sponsoring include BAE Systems, Babcock International, Fujitsu, Airbus, Boeing, L3, MBDA, DSEI, General Atomics, Marshall Group, Lockheed Martin, MOOG, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Thales NATA and Eurofighter Typhoon. Corporate donors to the RAF 100 Appeal have included BT, Martin Baker and Stagecoach.
Just as the legacy of the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force in 1968 had been the founding and eventual creation of the Royal Air Force Museum, so it is that RAF 100 has, as I have already mentioned, been designed to be a legacy event.
One of the key objectives of the RAF 100 Campaign (this will as previously mentioned be officially launched alongside the RAF Centenary Gala event on the 31st March) is to broaden and deepen the understanding of the RAF’s huge contribution to the security and prosperity of our nation. Another important aim is to better engage with those that might have had limited access and contact, especially young people. Not for anything other than good reason has RAF 100 has been built around three important keywords – Commemorate, Celebrate and Inspire.
RAF 100 is to me a unique opportunity for all of us, including those that have served and those that continue to serve, alongside those of us who either support, understand or benefit to commemorate one hundred years of extraordinary achievement, development, change, success and sacrifice. The bottom line for me is that during this centenary year we will all be able to celebrate the professionalism and dedication of what the RAF is today and better understand how, 24 x 7 x 365 days, it is there alongside the Royal Navy and the Army to protect us and defend us from would-be aggressors and adversaries. It will serve as a unique reminder of the importance and construct of airpower and that right now and at any point of any day in the year, the RAF is airborne somewhere either protecting our national interests or in supporting our NATO allies.
Helping those and providing an opportunity for those that have little or no knowledge of the Royal Air Force to better understand its role and of how it supports and protects the Nation’s interests at home and overseas, is surely vital in this increasingly more difficult age of uncertainty and when the level of threats that we face has increased. Taking what the RAF does to a higher level and in helping to educate, articulate and attract a more diverse workforce surely means that the ‘Next Generation Air Force’ should better reflect the society that it has been designed to serve and protect.
Back to the present and the RAF Centenary Gala on the 31st March has been planned from the outset to be a very special and unique event. It will feature a star-studded programme of celebration, one that will commemorate poignant occasions and events of the first one hundred years of the Royal Air Force and importantly, one that will set out to inspire the next one hundred years through our young people. This then will be a night of outstanding music, comedy, ceremonial drill, screen footage and personal reflections by those that have served or indeed, continue to serve in the defence of our nation, the evening will feature many well-known and treasured artists, bands of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Air Force Squadronaires and Salon Orchestra alongside the Queens Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force Air Cadets.
RAF 100 planning has as I have suggested been built around three important words – commemorate, celebrate and inspire. The various events to be held will be a commemoration and reflection of not only the history and achievements of the first one hundred years of the Royal Air Force, but also celebration of the work that the RAF is doing today both at home and where its people and capability are deployed. Importantly, it will also be a look forward to the next 100 years.
Tickets for the RAF 100 Centenary Gala have not surprisingly been selling extremely well and I have included below the link for both public ticket sales and the various hospitality packages that are still
available to the corporate sector. The latter includes a variety of different packages including choices that include private hire of luxury Box seats in the Grand Tier, Loggia and 2nd Tier Box in 12, 8 and 4 seat categories, Premium Stall seat availability, Laurent-Perrier Champagne upon arrival, premium Champaign and half a bottle of wine per person being served in boxes by a waiter dedicated to each box, Canapes together with a selection of cold dishes, hot bowl food and desserts being served ahead of the performance and during the interval period, supply of official souvenir programmes for each person and importantly, availability of hospitality dining with the first two courses of a three course dinner inclusive of wine being served ahead of the performance in the Coda by Eric Chavot restaurant and final course served in the interval period. Details of pricing are available on the following link:
The RAF 100 Gala Concert on the evening of March 31st will undoubtedly be one of the most significant events to be held as part of the centenary celebrations. The following day, April 1st will see commencement of the Baton Relay and during mid-May, the first of what has been called the National Aircraft Tour and will see the RAF flying over various major cities in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland during the following months, will take place.
Readers should note that the annual RAF Cosford Airshow takes place on the 10th June. Not surprisingly, this years’ show is planned to be a quite exceptional and exciting event and one that should not be missed. Of equal importance is that on the 21st June the formal re-opening of the RAF Museum at Hendon which has undergone a very significant investment programme including extension and refurbishment over the past year. I have recently visited the very much improved facilities at Hendon and CEO Maggie Appleton and her team alongside the RAF Museum Trustees whose chair is Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy are to be heartily congratulated for what they have achieved.
Although I will no doubt write on other RAF 100 events as the process moves on, the RAF 100 Parade and Flypast will take place along The Mall in London on the 10th July and this years’ Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on July 13th to 15th can be expected to provide visitors with an absolutely spectacular show. Finally, the Battle of Britain Service to be held on the 16th September and this in turn will mark the formal end of RAF 100 events.
As I wrap this rather special and unusual ‘Commentary’ up, allow me to make a further mention of intended legacy. Here and by focussing on promotion of the science and engineering elements of STEM, the Royal Air Force aims to support activities that seeks to bridge the serious skills-gap that currently exists at national level and that has the potential to damage the UK economy. In particular, the aim is to work closely with a range of companies within the aerospace and technology sectors to stimulate interest in technically-based careers and promote the importance of our aerospace industries. The aim is to inspire a diverse and innovative future generation to consider careers in aviation, aerospace, space and cyberspace, at the cutting edge of technology.
RAF100 Inspire is about inviting the next generation to shape the second century of the Royal Air Force. Events have been being held all over the country over the past year including STEM events held in Universities and Schools, competitions and challenges, visits to RAF stations and other youth programme events at the RAF Museum in Cosford and elsewhere.
Finally in respect of legacy, building on Lord Trenchard’s founding principles of training and education excellence, the Commemorate, Celebrate and Inspire aspect of RAF 100 aims to enhance the learning offer that the RAF provides to its people through an integrated approach
to the delivery of Next Generation Training and Education. Grouped under the title ‘The Trenchard Group’, this innovative approach will span the conceptual, moral, physical and developmental elements that together, represent a unique development offer for the Next Generation of Service personnel.
So there we – a great year ahead and one that kicks off with what I am sure will be a truly fantastic RAF 100 Centenary Gala event at the Royal Albert Hall. How fitting that this should take place at the Royal Albert Hall, less than a mile away from Green Park, a place where Lord Trenchard would, during his long years of bachelorhood, seek solace and have time to read, to think and to plan the future of the Royal Air Force.
CHW (London – 29th January 2018)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785