Date: 21st March 2018
Venue: RAF Waddington
The Company is invited to Waddington by the Station Commander
In this very special year for the Royal Airforce, the centenary of its founding on April 1st 1918, 21 members of the Company were honoured and delighted to take up the Station Commander's invite to visit our affiliate station, RAF Waddington.
The RAF has chosen as the theme for its centenary three simple words - Commemorate, Celebrate, Inspire - and there were key parts of the day, that the RAF so kindly arranged for us, that captured perfectly all three elements of their theme.
Our day started early with a visit to 5 Squadron, one of the oldest squadron's in existence - pre-dating even the RAF itself - having been formed in 1913. Today 5 Squadron flies one of the most sophisticated and advanced aircraft in today's RAF - the Sentinel. The plane operates a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) function - a sort of high altitude, movement spotter, that provides invaluable information for ground troops and other aircraft.
The system fitted to the Sentinel is so sophisticated that only the RAF has it and so 5 Squadron is in high demand to support not just UK but NATO and US operations.
On the outside the aircraft is sleek and sophisticated - a converted business jet that, with the exception of a few very odd looking lumps and bumps, would look at home on the private runway of a film star. Inside couldn't be more different. A flying workroom, all practicality and purpose, packed with sophistication of a very different kind - with absolutely no frills at all.
It was inspiring to hear our guides talk with such conviction and passion about the role this amazing aircraft plays in many of today's most difficult and troubling conflicts. And it was impossible not to admire and celebrate the skill and dedication of the ground and aircrew who keep the squadron of four aircraft in constant action.
Commemoration was the theme of our next port of call, as we were taken on a short coach trip for a private tour of the amazing and little known museum at RAF Digby, one of the oldest airfields in the RAF. The centrepiece of the museum is a wonderfully preserved and evocative World War II, Operations Room. Amongst the smorgasbord of wonderfully preserved memorabilia that fills the bunker, the star exhibit it one of the last remaining, original messages announcing the declaration of war with Germany.
As we toured the bunker's various room and exhibits and took in the details of the operational activities of the airfield, its ground crew and airmen and their role in the defeat of the Luftwaffe in the 1940s, it was hard not to be affected by the bravery and commitment that was evident everywhere.
Following the visit to Digby our party was afforded an excellent lunch back in the Officer's Mess at RAF Waddington, at which the Master was able to recognise the efforts of one single member of the RAF, as a token, I felt, of our appreciation of everyone in the service, with the award of the Company's Silver Salver.
After lunch there was one final and very emotional opportunity to commemorate the heroics of the RAF with a inspiring and very emotional visit to the International Bomber Command Centre on Canwick Hill near Lincoln. A memorial spire, walls, peace gardens and visitor centre that mark the service and sacrifice of World War II aircrew, ground crew and support staff that lost their lives whilst serving with bomber command.