Herts & Bucks Wing

  Adventure Training Group


Royal International Air Tattoo 2001

When we returned from Canada we found a lot of interest in what we'd done, so we wondered how best to tell people about it. We wanted to use the experience to project a positive public image of what ordinary cadets can do, and also to encourage other Wings, Squadrons and cadets to have a go at similar ventures

Our first thoughts were to enter the ATC's prestigious Shackleton Trophy competition, but we quickly realised that we would be putting a lot of work into a report that would be seen by relatively few people within the ATC hierarchy.  Prestige was all very well, but our time would be better spent finding ways to make the details available to as wide an audience as possible. One result was this website

Another result was an exhibition that could be displayed at ATC and public events, starting with the Herts & Bucks Wing's AOC's banner parade and Wing Field day at RAF Halton in October 2000. The AOC was interested to hear how we had carried our canoes along portages of up to 2.5 km, and insisted on having a go at carrying one across the hanger...

Our next public appearance was at the Youth in Aviation day at Duxford in May 2001, but we really hit the big time when we were invited to display at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Cottesmore in August 2002. Just another display? We had forgotten that the ATC's 60th anniversary was to be one of the main themes at RIAT, so we were in for a few surprises

Our Saturday morning started at 0530. We found some breakfast, wangled a car pass, found our display area and set up our exhibition. Everything was set up before 0800, with the public already circulating, so we congratulated ourselves on our efficiency and sat down to see what the day would bring.

One of our first visitors came from HQ Air Cadets with the surprising news that the Chief of the Air Staff would be visiting us at 1030. Our cadets had just gone off to explore the show, but they returned just before the CAS appeared, in civilian clothes. Sadly he was running behind schedule, and only had time for a cursory greeting of “ Hi, I’m Peter Squires” before his staff whisked him back to his car and off to his next visit

With the excitement over, it was the cadets' turn to mind the stand while we went to look at the aeroplanes, but we hadn’t gone far when our CWO phoned to say that someone wanted to talk to us about the Royal Visit... Convinced it was a wind-up, we went back and found a tall gentleman in a pinstripe suit who immediately asked if we’d been briefed about the visit of Princess Alexandra and Mr Angus Ogilvy, scheduled for 1500 hours. Trying to look as though this sort of thing happens to us every day, we followed him to the RIAT organiser’s office, where we were fully briefed on what to do

Just before the visit, an ATC band appeared from nowhere and started marching up and down in front of our displays. Obviously word had got out that we were expecting some interesting visitors!  Then the RAF police arrived and started to clear the area by roping it off, but they somehow managed to arrange things so that people could get into the area but not out of it. We had to resort to stage whispers of "Go Away" to persuade one confused visitor to clear off just as the Royal party approached our stand

The royal party was a large one, which included the organiser of RIAT and many other VIPs. The Princess and her husband insisted on talking to every team, and we appreciated the way that they ignored all attempts by their staff to hurry them away

As other VIPs continued to drop in throughout the day, we realised that someone must have devised a VIP visit route and schedule for the day - we just wished someone could have told us!

Sunday morning is the main public day at RIAT, so we settled down after breakfast expecting a nice, quiet VIP-free day, and looking forward to watching the air show 

Then the AOC arrived. 

Air Commodore Kennedy spent half an hour with us before mentioning that he was waiting for the Right Honourable Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence to show up. Once again, the band appeared from nowhere just before the appointed time and started marching up and down (They must have had a mole in the RIAT organisation, leaking the contents of the secret VIP timetable). Mr Hoon and his wife seemed very interested in our display and, a few days later, we had a very nice note from the AOC confirming that the Secretary of State had been very impressed at everything he'd seen

As we packed our display back into the trailer, and started for home, we thought back over our surprising weekend. We had expected to spend it chatting to the public, and looking at aeroplanes; not mingling with service chiefs, members of the Government and Royalty...

      Web site by: Flt Lt Geoff Bowles RAFVR(T), ML(S), SPA                                                            This page last updated on 28 October 2003