Flying high with ATC

The Air Training Corps is a bit of a family affair for the Grays.

Dad Steven, 54, is the Commmanding Officer of 203 Gainsborough Squadron and his daughter Rebecca, 18, is a Warrant Officer cadet.

But it all started when son Richard, now 23, decided to join as a cadet ten years ago.

The healthcare support worker said: “I went along just before my 13th birthday. Some of my friends had joined and I decided it would be a good thing to do.”

Richard stayed until he was 20 and rose through the ranks to Flight Sergeant.

He left when he went off to Hull University to study biomedical sciences but after gaining his degree has returned home to Glentworth, and to the cadets.

“I’ve been back at the cadets as a civilian instructor, helping with whatever activities they are doing,” he said.

It was after Richard joined the cadets that Steven decided to offer his services.

Now Flight Lieutenant, Steven has been involved with the ATC for more than 40 years, since joining as a cadet himself.

He said: “I joined in 1970 in Doncaster and then four years later I joined the RAF.”

“I got involved with the Gainsborough Squadron in 2002 after Richard had joined and I was commissioned in 2004 and became Commanding Officer in 2005.”

Steven, who was a policeman in the RAF, specialises in teaching shooting to the cadets, both small bore and full bore rifles.

Richard said he is still considering a military career. “One of my cadet friends went to Sandhurst and is now a Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards,” he said.

“Leadership training is part of what we did with the ATC. We both took part in an international exchange, he went to Israel and I was part of the hosting party in the UK. Things like that are good for your CV.”

“The Gainsborough Squadron is such a small close-knit group that you make new friends straightaway. You form really close bonds and I’m still friends with other cadets and whenever we meet up we regale each other with tales of what we did, we have lots of fond memories.”

All cadets are encouraged to do the bronze Duke of Edinburgh award with many, like Richard, continuing on to do silver and gold as well.

They also go on camp in the UK and overseas to Gibraltar, Cyprus and Germany, and at age 18 can apply to go on international exchanges.

The ATC began in 1941 during the Second World War and is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Nationwide there are 40,000 cadets and 10,000 adults involved, suggesting that the idea of uniform and discipline is still as popular today as ever.

Steven said: “It’s about comradeship and giving the cadets experiences that motivate them. If you set them boundaries they seem to thrive. They know the rules and regulations and stick to them.”

Cadets get the chance to go flying and gliding at RAF stations and are also able to study aviation through Cadet Vocational Qualifications.

The Gainsborough Squadron is part of the Trent Wing and meets at the Drill Hall, on Ropery Road, on Tuesdays and Fridays from 7pm to 9pm.

For more information about joining call 01526 327580.