Scampton: From France to the West End via tea in World War Two as Airplay programme celebrates a memorable 12 months

Airplay participants lay a wreath at the grave of Leonard Beechey in France
Airplay participants lay a wreath at the grave of Leonard Beechey in France

The last 12 months will be remembered as an exciting year for the RAF Scampton Airplay programme.

The scheme has taken its participants on a journey through time, from the World War One battlefields of France, to a World War Two-era tea dance at RAF Kirton in Lindsey and to the present day, visiting the recent poppy installation at the Tower of London and seeing a West End show.

The ambitious plans for the year were developed by the RAF Scampton Airplay Youth Council in January 2014, when the youth leaders decided to learn more about the First World War through a tour of the battlefields and cemeteries of France.

Airplay is a youth support programme for the families of service personnel, run for the Royal Air Force.

The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund pays for Airplay youth workers, trained by national children and families charity 4Children, to help RAF community support teams provide a range of activities for young people living on and around stations.

“The Airplay programme at RAF Scampton really is driven by the participants,” said Lisa Bailey, station youth worker at RAF Scampton.

“The children set the agenda and we help them realise their goals.”

“They were very excited to learn more about World War One and we were fortunate to secure funding for the trip to France from the Red Arrows, RAF Scampton, the national Airplay programme, and several other organisations.”

The France trip included 11 young people from Airplay at Scampton plus two young people from Airplay at Coningsby who were invited to join in.

During the week, young people visited a number of museums and memorial parks pertaining to the work that they had carried out in the Youth Club.

They also followed the Battlefield Tour along the Western Front.

One of the Airplay participants, Amber Barnicoat, 14, said: “The best bit about France for me was laying the wreath at the grave of Leonard Beechey, who we researched.”

“After all the effort we put into researching this local serviceman, this made it all feel real.”

Polly Swann, 11, who also travelled to France, added: “The experience is something that will stay with me for a long time to come.”

“Thank you, Airplay, for making it all happen.”

Prior to the France trip, the Airplay participants had turned their hands to fund-raising and sought inspiration from the 1940s.

They planned and hosted a World War Two-era tea dance in the Mess at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey.

More than 120 veterans, joined the Airplay children in period costume for war-time food and dancing.

The event raised more than £600, with half of the funds going towards future projects and the other half donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Finally, the Airplay programme celebrated their fantastic year with a thoroughly modern trip to London, visiting the poppy installation at the Tower of London and seeing the Lion King in the West End.

“The Airplay programme was developed to help children and young people through the challenges that come with military life, such as frequent moves and long deployments,” commented Gill Angel, Community Development Officer.

“In the past year, the RAF Benevolent Fund, as the RAF’s leading welfare charity, spent more than £18 million helping over 60,000 members of the RAF family with a range of services.”

“These ranged from childcare centres and youth workers on each station, to relationship counselling, and assistance with financial, housing, and medical needs.”