The Gala Concert organised by the RAF Charitable Trust at the Royal Albert Hall last evening was not only a true and very memorable reflection of the first 100 years history of the Royal Air Force but also one the resonated the message of commemoration, celebration and inspiration for those who serve in the RAF today and who will serve in the future.
To have been invited to attend this superb and brilliantly organised event was for my wife and I a pleasure and an honour. It was to be a night of music, comedy, ceremonial drill, screen footage and personal reflections of those who have served or are serving today defending our nation and from those who are deployed abroad. Special thanks go to BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin as main sponsors and to all the other industry sponsors that have supported the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust in making this such a very special and memorable event.
And while there was surprisingly no member of the Royal Family in attendance last evening, it was good to be able to see the last surviving Dambuster, Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson in the audience along with many senior serving officers of the RAF today. Also, reflections on camera from ‘one of the few’ in the form of Wing Commander Paul Farnes, himself just short of his one-hundredth birthday in July this year, talking of his memories and role as a pilot in Battle of Britain. Also appearing on camera with some superb and very interesting reflections of war deployment was Air Commodore David Waddington, recently retired from the Royal Air Force and who I know personally and who had, at the age of just 24 in 1991, been shot down and captured by Saddam Hussein forces. Waddington was in fact the youngest RAF Tornado pilot shot to have been shot down in Gulf War 1. To say that we in the audience were humbled and honoured to see and listen would I feel be an understatement.
The RAF Charitable Trust and who are also organisers of the Royal International Air Tattoo to be held once again this year at RAF Fairford between July 13th to 15th are to be congratulated not just for what they achieved in the Gala concert and of how this important will be remembered by all those who attended but for the superb work that the RAF Charitable Trust (RAFCT) does in support of a wide range of projects and initiatives benefiting RAF serving personnel (both regulars and reserves), cadets and other young people. RAFCT offers flying scholarships, invest in STEM initiatives and look to offer support to RAF personnel at home and abroad. The Trustees award grants to people and projects that they assess to be most worthy of financial support and most closely aligned to the charity’s objectives of Promote, Support and Encourage.
While the Gala Concert last evening can be regarded as a spectacular once in a century event this was only the start of what will be a very busy year for the RAF Charitable Trust. Another important date for the diary and one that is similarly being organised by the RAF Charitable Trust is the RAF Cosford Air Show which will be held on the 10th June 2018.
Alongside the Gala Concert which also marked the official launch of the RAF 100 Campaign and of what will be several months of spectacular 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 but always to attempt to bring it closer to the people, the RAF will in May be embarking on an aircraft tour during which members of the public will be able to get up close to a range of aircraft covering the RAF’s history from the start during WW1, to and through WW2, the Cold War and right up to the current day.
RAF 100 commemoration aspects are hugely important not only for those that have served or do currently serve but also for those who will serve in the future. To hear, see and be reminded of what the RAF has achieved through times of war, how it was so rightly praised by Winston Churchill in one of his many famous wartime speeches and of how the RAF has been subsequently engaged and deployed right up to this day will, I hope, serve as a reminder to the present generation of the values and importance of air power.
Launched as a joint venture in October last year, the RAF 100 Appeal brings the Royal air Force together with all four of the main RAF charities that support its people, former people and those who would join the RAF in the future together to raise funds for what has been termed a lasting legacy. The four charities, The RAF Association, The RAF Benevolent Fund, The RAF Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum will together be the primary beneficiaries of the appeal.
Without doubt, all four of the charities associated with the Royal Air Force have done a spectacular job of work over the decades. Justifiably they have a proud tradition of supporting the whole RAF Family. In launching the RAF 100 Appeal, industry has been very 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.
Today, April 1st 2018 is the day that we recognise as being the formal 100th birthday of the founding of the Royal Air Force. We salute the founders of the Royal Air Force who worked so hard to create an independent air force that would always be worthy of its motto – Per Ardua Ad Astra (Through Adversity to the Stars’). In doing so we remember particularly the names of Sir David Henderson and Viscount Trenchard, founding fathers of the Royal Air Force and who shaped its future.
With important services being held in London and elsewhere and that reflect not only on the brilliant history of achievement and remember those who served that are no longer here to remember or that had given their lives in times of conflict in order that we can all be free, but I hope also on what the Royal Air Force is today, its people and of how they love of what they do.
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 today, but importantly, it will also be about what the RAF is today and what it wants to be tomorrow.
CHW (London – 1st April 2018)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785