National Service (RAF) Association
Get Some In
Where Are They
The RAF Mildenhall Register
XV, XC, 149, 218 (GC) and 622 with Friends of 75 (NZ)
Bomber Squadrons Association.
We are a veterans association that was begun some 30 odd years ago by a wartime armourer.
It continued to be run by veterans from both ground and air crews until about eight years ago, when the task became too onerous.
It has been continued by former post war RAF air crew and myself, the nephew of one who didn't survive to tell his tale.
Family membership has always been encouraged and today, three quarters of our membership are family of veterans and others with an interest in our squadrons, personnel and the history of Mildenhall and it's associated bases in 3 Group.
We would love to hear from and welcome as members, any National Service men and women who might have served at these bases post war.
Membership is free and we hold an annual reunion on base, hosted by the Americans in May, with a newsletter going out in January.
We run a Facebook page alongside some of the individual Squadron FB pages and have a website.
Mr John Magee came along to a reunion as 'escort' to one of our veterans and has since joined our ranks because he so enjoyed the event.
Contact: Mr Geoff Reynolds: 01775 841585.
Calling all ex 56 Fighter Squadron Veterans.
TONY KIDDLE would like to hear from you all regarding a possible future re union .
For further information Tel: 01945 466793 or e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW: RE: NHS Constitution.
This is a quick note to let you know that the updated NHS constitution and accompanying handbook were published yesterday by the Government, 27th July 2015, (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-nhs-constitution-for-england) and for the first time include reference to the Armed Forces Covenant. The constitution now outlines what the (ex-)Service community can expect when accessing treatment from the NHS.
The NHS constitution is not in itself a legal document but the principles that it outlines are based in existing legislation, and therefore is designed to act as a guide to the fundamental rights of patients in the NHS and the values that NHS is delivered by. As you can imagine therefore, to have the Armed forces covenant prominently in the guiding principles is great news and something that the Legion has called for.
One of seven guiding principles of the new constitution now states:
"4. The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does. It should support individuals to promote and manage their own health. NHS services must reflect, and should be coordinated around and tailored to, the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers.
As part of this, the NHS will ensure that in line with the Armed Forces Covenant, those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged in accessing health services in the area they reside. Patients, with their families and carers, where appropriate, will be involved in and consulted on all decisions about their care and treatment.
The NHS will actively encourage feedback from the public, patients and staff, welcome it and use it to improve its services."
This is then backed up in more detail by the accompanying handbook that outlines what the NHS will, in practical terms, provide to patients.
Not only is the principle of no-disadvantage now enshrined in the NHS, the handbook makes reference to the special treatment that the (ex-)Service community may be entitled to:
"As part of this principle and in line with the Armed Forces Covenant, the NHS will ensure that members of the Armed Forces Community (including those serving, reservists, their families and veterans) are supported, treated equally and receive the same standard of, and access to healthcare as any other UK citizen in the area they live.
For those with concerns about their mental health who may not present for some time after leaving Service, they should be able to access services with health professionals who have an understanding of Armed Forces culture.
Veterans who have lost a limb as a result of their service will be able to access prostheses that reflect their clinical need. Veterans receive their healthcare from the NHS and are encouraged to identify themselves to their GP as member of the Armed Forces Community. For families of serving personnel moving around the country, any time taken on an NHS treatment waiting list will be taken to account in their new location. For further information on what you can expect if in the Armed Forces Community see Section C.2 Scope of the Covenant, Healthcare"
As well as the specific examples outlined in the handbook, it also makes clear that the NHS should abide by the Healthcare commitments laid out in the Scope of the Covenant. This states that "Veterans...should receive priority treatment where it relates to a condition which results from their service in the Armed Forces, subject to clinical need."
These new documents bring much needed clarity to what Veterans can expect when accessing NHS services and I hope will prove valuable should any of our beneficiaries run into problems.
Alan Preece. The Royal British Legion. 3rd Floor Britannia House. 6-7 Eastgate Street
Stafford. ST16 2NQ. 0333 011 4202. email@example.com
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS !
"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end !
So now we know !
WELLESBOURNE Mountford AIRFIELD REDEVELOPMENT.
The airfield was formerly the RAF station RAF Wellesboume Mountford and is
located about 4 miles east of Stratford-Upon - Avon near Charlecote a National Trust property.
Today the airfield has a CAA Licence that allows flights for the public, flying training and has about 60 odd private aircraft based there.
The airfield is also home to the Wellesbourne Wartime Museum including an Avro
I would also have to mention Touchdown cafe very popular with the pilots and the public and from where you are able to watch all the flying.
The airfield is under threat as Stratford Council has received a proposal from a
developer to cease all aviation and market operations and build 1600 homes on
RAF Wellesboume during WW11 was a bomber station and from 1950 to 1964 was a training station to ~ School of Photography, RAF School of Education and the Depot for 5003 Sqd Airfield Construction Branch.
I am appealing on behalf of Wellesboume Matters Association who need support to fight the proposed development.
So if any of my fellow National Service recruits who served or attended any of the training courses would like to help, please contact for a joining form the address below. (Joining fee 0.5Op plus a contribution to the fund).
C/O Cherry Orchard Cottage.
It would be a great tragedy if another historical RAF airfield was lost to a building development.
The development will bring further employment but is counter balanced by the loss of personal working on the airfield.
I have to confess I have a sentimental interest in Wellesbou:rne as I served most of my National Service in the pay section there in 1956 /1957.
2772506 Ron North. Tel: 0121 7777424.
Blind Veterans UK
is a national charity that provides blind and vision-impaired ex National Service and Armed Forces personnel with lifelong support, including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.
The organisation is currently running a campaign to let vision-impaired National Service veterans and their families know that Blind Veterans UK can help them. The No One Alone campaign is being supported by a number of celebrity National Service veterans, including Strictly Come Dancing's Johnny Ball.
If you did National Service and are now experiencing sight problems, you could be eligible for
Blind Veterans UK's support. Call Blind Veterans UK on freephone 0800 389 7979 or visit www.blindveterans.org.uk for more information.
Boscombe Down Aviation collection - Open to visitors.
The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection has moved toOld Sarum airfield near Salisbury in Wiltshire.
We were based at Boscombe Down Flight Test Centre but we recently moved to a hangar on Old Sarum and we are now open to visitors .
If any ex RAF were stationed at the F.T.C. during their service or even if they are just interested in aircraft maybe they would like to visit us,
We always like talking about our collection and listening to the stories of those who once worked here.
All our details are on our website, www.boscombedownaviation collection with details of opening times, prices and how to get to us and there is always a cheery welcome.
I hope we are of interest to you and your organisation and look forward to hearing from you sometime.
Meaning of Flag Draped Coffin in the USA.
All Americans should be given this lesson.
Those who think that America is an arrogant nation should really reconsider that thought. Our founding fathers used GOD's word and teachings to establish our Great Nation and I think it's high time Americans get re-educated about this Nation's history.
Pass it along and be proud of the country we live in and even more proud of those who serve to protect our 'GOD GIVEN' rights and freedoms.
I hope you take the time to read this ... To understand what the flag draped coffin really means ... Here is how to understand the flag that laid upon it and is surrendered to so many widows and widowers.
Do you know that at military funerals, the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?
Have you ever noticed the Honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the United States of America Flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!
The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of the belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing the ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of the country to attain peace throughout the world.
The 4th fold represents the weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to the country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, 'Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.'
The 6th fold is for where people's hearts lie. It is with their heart that they pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America , and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to its Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that they protect their country and their flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of their republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of their country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding them of their Nations motto, 'In God We Trust.'
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for them the rights, privileges and freedoms they enjoy today.
There are some traditions and ways of doing things that have deep meaning.
In the future, you'll see flags folded and now you will know why.
Share this with the children you love and all others who love what is referred to, the symbol of ' Liberty and Freedom.'
MAYBE THE SUPREME COURT SHOULD READ THIS EXPLANATION BEFORE THEY RENDER THEIR DECISION ON THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. FORWARD IT; MAYBE SOMEONE WITH THE NECESSARY POWER, OR POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL INFLUENCE, WILL GET IT TO THEM.
IN THE MEANTIME, MAY GOD PROTECT US ALWAYS.
ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.
For more information regarding the United States Military Ceremonial etc the following is recommended:
If any members of NSRAFA are interested in this subject or any other United States Military Ceremonial, they should refer to the Arlington National Cemetery website for reference to the 21 Gun Salute, and The American Legion website (the equivalent of our own British Legion) for reference to The Pledge of Allegiance.
NS(RAF)A available merchandise
All in Stock at present.
Lapel Badge, clip on, 20mm dia. £3.00 each, New stock in.
Photographs in the NS(RAF)A Gallery/Notice Board Pics
Staybrite RAF Buttons
23mm Jacket Buttons, sew on, £1.00 each
17mm Cuff Buttons, sew on, £1.00 each
Check availability with the Hon Sec: Mr Honey. 01782 516887.
Poppy Travel is the specialist travel division of The Royal British Legion, and we have been arranging visits to battlefields, war cemeteries and memorials since 1927. As a caring charity everyone is welcome to join our tours.
Our background in Remembrance gives us a unique insight into the historical significance of destinations, which we then blend with our proven travel and holiday expertise to provide a truly memorable experience.
In 2011 we have partnered with Leger Holidays to deliver our 'Journeys of Remembrance' programme and details of all the Remembrance and Battlefield tours on offer can be found at www.poppy-travel.com or call Leger on 0844 686 2281.
New Bursary Awards from The Royal British Legion are now available for our Journeys of Remembrance.
For more information on Poppy Travel, call 01622 716729 (Monday to Friday 9-5)
. St Dunstans Stamp collection.
If you work in an Office or get a lot of mail - please save all you stamps and send them to:
Mrs G Wheeler: 99 Birchmore, Brookside, Shropshire. TF3 1TL. Tel 01952 596860.
She ensures they are all used for the funding of St Dunstons (the support Agency for Blind ex Service Personnel). - a very worthy cause.
All contributions appreciated.
Royal Air Force Croydon Association,
is applying for to the College of Heralds for a Heraldic badge for the Association, as despite being an RAF station in World Wars 1 & 2, RAF Croydon never had a Station Badge.
Station Badges cannot be applied for after the closure of an RAF Station, but a badge, similar to a Station badge, can be issued to an RAF Station Association.
If anyone has served, or knows of anyone who has served at RAF Croydon during World War 2,Please be aware of the plan to set up the RAFCA.
Croydon Airport Society currently has some 600+ members, only one of whom served at RAF Croydon during World War 2. I should be grateful if you could help me.
Anyone who served at RAF Croydon, or would like to support the Association should contact: Dr Frank Anderson. Croydon Airport Society. Airport House
Purley Way,CROYDON. CR0 0XZ
or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Funds are still needed
RAF Bomber Command Appeal: Donate by cheque
To contribute now to the Bomber Command Memorial Fund please send a cheque, payable to Bomber Command Memorial Fund to:
Doug Radcliffe MBE.
Bomber Command Association
Grahame Park Way
Tel: 020 8358 4841
Website information links:
To anyone who served their time servicing
RAF MARHAM, CONINGSBY, WATTON and MU's in the UK.
There is an Organisation for you:
Quarterly newsletter and an annual re union.
Further info: Tel: 01460 281500 or e mail: email@example.com.
54 (Fighter) Squadron Association.
Based at RAF Odiham in the 50's.
54 (Fighter) Squadron was disbanded about 3/4 years ago at Coltishall and the colours laid up in Norwich Cathedral.
About 2 years ago, the Squadron was re-formed as a Training Squadron for AWAC's and is now at RAF Waddington.
The new Squadron Association welcomes any former 54 Squadron members.
Membership is free and there is a reunion at RAF Waddington each year. Secretary is Flight Sgt Jason Brewster, email; 54RSQN-WSU-ESM@mod.uk
British Forces Post Office is under threat !
Want to save the BFPO System ?
SIGN THIS PETITION PLEASE.
Please click on and sign the above petition. Though we all understand that defence cuts are to be made, this is an area which affects the families in particular.
The BFPO system is the mechanism whereby post is received by our serving soldiers, sailors and airmen and their families abroad at a postal address recognised as being part of this country, no matter where in the world they are serving, even in war zones.
Amongst other things the loss of the BFPO service will disenfranchise them if they are postal voters; some credit card providers will not send cards abroad (M&S for example) whereas they will to a BFPO address; it may affect their ability to let their house whilst posted abroad, or away from home; it may take away their tax advantages such as being able to have an ISA whilst posted abroad. It will affect Open University students who have a BFPO address as they will be charged higher fees; it will potentially effect children of serving soldiers when they go to University, as they may not be eligible for student loans/fees to be paid, and will be charged higher fees as they live abroad. They will also be charged different rates for subscriptions etc as they will now have to come via local mail, and not the UK mail.
Please access a computer and sign the petition and please make as many of your friends aware as best you can, you will get the thanks of all our serving servicemen and women together with their families by doing so. PGH.
Member John Mitchell is seeking:
1 RAF Tunic button to complete his collection:
Small type (Breast pocket size) and MUST be STAYBRIGHT with the KINGS CROWN.
If you can help - willing to purchase and pay postage etc:
John Mitchell. 7 Hanbury Drive. Winchmore Hill. London N21 1SZ. Tel: 0208 3606671.
RAF Buttons and Badges.
Source of some of these items could be:
Stan Bass: Give him a call: Tel. 01785 760586 or e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Get Some In"
If members of the NSRAFA are interested, the acclaimed ITV comedy series
"Get Some In"
, based on National Service in the RAF in the 1950s, is now available for the first time on DVD.
The DVD of the first series has a running time of 3 hours 20 minutes.
It features the first seven episodes and costs £14.99. The order code is 131568, and orders can be phoned in, using a credit/debit card, on 0845 122 0315. Alternatively, the website for ordering from Simply Home Entertainment is: www.simplyhe.co.uk
Royal Air Force tartan.
Designed by Arthur Mackie who served as a pilot from 1942 to 1947 after which he moved into the textile industry in mill management and latterly into tartan design and is the founder member of a new business called MacTartan promoting the tartan on a worldwide basis.
The origin of the tartan is best described in the letter below that Arthur wrote some time back;-
The particular colours in the design can be interpreted in many of ways.
When I designed the tartan, I had in mind all those like me who had served in the Force in both peace and war and the colours which I chose were symbolic of the boys and girls in blue.
Bearing in mind the principle function of the RAF is to safeguard us all from the skies above, both at night and during the day; it was not difficult to choose blues to describe the changing moods of the skies above.
If you can visualise from the darkest night to the dawn and daylight beyond, you can get a variance of blues, with a red stripe to represent the blood of those who protected our skies, to the white of peace which we hope prevails. The only colour left is Royal Blue, my accolade to those who went before me and those who will continue to uphold the tradition of all who still serve.
Per Ardua ad Astra: "Through adversity to the stars".
We supply made to measure trousers, trews, kilts, skirts and ties , bow ties ,shawls, scarfs, cummerbunds and custom make a number of unusual items.
If you want to know more come visit us at www.mactartan.co.uk OR Tel:Arthur Mackie on 01307 463 870 or Brian Redwood at 01575 570081 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RAF Ensigns and RAF Table Flags.
7ft x 5ft RAF Ensign c/w eyelets: £7.50 ea plus p and p.
Midland Imports, Tel 01782 760507.
E mail: email@example.com
Website: www.midland-flags.com for full rang of available items including most of the worlds National Flags and other specialist items.
RAF Berets / badges: Suppliers are:
Sabre Sales of Poole:
Tel 023 9283 3394
RAF Berets, Side Hats and metal badges. Details: NU GLOBAL LTD, 27 LANCELOT DRIVE, STRETTON, BURTON-on-TRENT, DE13 0GJ. TELEPHONE: 01283 512475. E-MAIL Nick@waller44.freeserve.co.uk.
NS(RAF)A member Barry Rose would like to have the following back numbers of ASTRAL magazine.
2002 Winter volume 1 issue 1
2003 Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter volume 1 issues 2 - 5
2004 Autumn & Winter volume 1 issues 8 & 9
2005 Spring, Autumn & Winter volume 1 issues 10 &12 and volume 2 issue 1
2006 Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter volume 2 issues 2 - 5
If you can help him and have any spare - please contact him on: 01625 420018 to discuss..
Blazers www.chums.co.uk/offers price £ 39.99 and a free shirt thrown in.
Enquiries: 0871 911 0601. 24 Hour order Line: 0871 911 9999.
Try your local Charity Shop for a Blazer as well. PH.
THE GOLD WIRE BADGE Co.
11 Dalehead Drive.
Lancs. OL2 8JT.
Tel: 01706 846648. e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Specialists in Blazer pocket Badges - will make a one off, of any RAF Station / Unit / Squadron / Association / Branch etc as required.
Also have RAF Badges (Queens Crown) in stock.
Royal British Legion Wreaths.
NS(RAF)A roundel centre.
The large size wreath (for laying at Memorials) with the NS(RAF)A roundel and letters in the centre panel is available in 2 styles.
(Picture on the www.nsrafa.org website ).
The one made with Poppies costs £22.
The alternative of red / white and blue Chrysanthemums (for the RAF) costs £25.
Both prices include delivery to any UK address within 48 hours from ordering.
Orders can be placed with:
Royal British Legion Village. Hall Road. Aylesford. Kent. ME20 7NX. Tel 01622 717172.
Want a copy of your Service Record.
RAF Form 543R = Record of Service Airmen.
Service records of RAF Officers that served prior to 1922 and Airmen that served prior to 1924 are held at the National Archive.
Service records for Officers and Airmen that served after these dates are retained by the Royal Air Force. RAF service records are retained by Service Number, Rank and Full Name, and will also contain the Date of Birth. It is important that as much of this information as possible is provided to assist in locating the correct record.
Enquiries about RAF held records should be made as follows:
From Current/Former RAF Personnel.
A Subject Access Request (SAR) form needs to be completed and sent to:RAF DPA SAR Section
From Family Members and Other Authorised Individuals
A Certificate of Kinship form needs to be completed and sent to:
RAF Disclosures Section
Ext 8161/8159 (Officers)
Ext 8163/8168/8170 (Other ranks)
Enclose details of your service number, and possibly, address at that time.
One of our members told me they also need proof of identity, such as
of either, passport, utility bills or driving licence.
We have also been advised that a charge may now be made in certain circumstances. PGH
Site plans of RAF Stations
Some are now available and if required apply to:
Office Administrator. Dept of Information Services. RAF Museum. Grahame Park Way. Hendon. London. NW9 5LL (Stating years of Service).
(NOTE: I have requested maps of RAF Church Lawford and RAF Wellesbourne Mountford where I served. Both came within 2 weeks at a cost to me of �7.50. PGH)
Air Historical Branch.
This has now moved from RAF Bentley Priory to RAF Northolt. West End Road. Ruislip. Midx. HA4 6NG. Tel No: 0208 833 8163.
RAF El Firdan (9MTBD and 751 MU).
This Group has about 200 members and holds an annual re union.
Contact: John Leatherbarrow on 01257 462554.
RAF TRANSPORT COMMAND.
If you were stationed at any RAF Transport Command Station - anywhere in the world - then this is the Association for you !
The Associations main aim is to put old Mates back in touch and wherever possible to meet up again.
We publish 2 magazines a year and have an annual re union.
To date we have members from the following Stations:
Abingdon / Akrotiri / Benson / Binbrook / Brize Norton / Bushey Park / Colerne / Croydon / Dishforth / Down Ampney / Eastleigh / Fayid / Habbanyia / Hendon / Holmesley South / Ismailia / Kharyoum / Khormaksar / Luqa / Lyneham / Manston / Merryfield / Nassau / Northolt / Steamer Point / Stoney Cross / Syerston / Topcliffe / Upper Heyford / Uphaven / and Wellesbourne Mountford etc.
Check out our website: www.raf-transport-command-veterans-association.com
Other details: contact: Jim Semple Sec T.C.V.A. 187 Severn Avenue. Swindon. Wilts. SN25 3NB
(SAE appreciated please)
Tel: 01793 727206 or e mail: email@example.com
RAF (Egypt) Memorial commemoration Service:
took place on Sunday 14th May 2006 at the St Clements Dane RAF Church in London.
For further information regarding this memorial contact:
John Mitchell, 7 Hanbury Drive. Winchmore Hill, London N21 1SZ.
RAF WEST KIRBY ASSOCIATION.
If any ex West Kirby personnel want further information please contact: Clifford East, 82 Sileby Road, Barrow on Soar, Loughborough, Leics. LE12 8RL.
Tel: 01509 414303.
RAF Melksham re union.
Attention all ex RAF Melksham Staff and ex Trainees.
Anyone interested in possible re unions please contact:
Mr Derek Lord.
Exeter. EX6 8RW.
Tel: 01626 890207.
RAF Bridgnorth Association.
This active Association is run by Mick and Su Briggs.
To contact them: Tel: 01952 216733. or e mail: Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org
RAF SWINDERBY Association.
Mr L Wall. 34 Freshfields Lea. Preston. PR2 1TJ. Tel:01772 722702
RAF LYNEHAM Association.
Mr Jim Semple: Tel: 01793 728206.
THE ROYAL AIR FORCE'S MUSICAL VOLUNTEERS
The Royal Navy has traditions, Army regiments cherish customs, but the Royal Air Force merely has habits! This cheeky, oft-heard, but affectionate allusion to the comparative youth of the RAF reflects the reality that military man's mastery of the air has yet to achieve its first century. However, the Junior Service has come a long way since 1918 and most of our so-called 'habits' reflect the characteristic strengths, skills and qualities for which the RAF is renowned and respected.
Delivery of air power is the raison d'�tre and abiding core business of our Service, but there are also many supporting roles where professionalism and commitment are no less apparent: one of these is Royal Air Force Music. RAF Music Services and the three established bands - Central, College and Regiment - are not only important sustainers of the Service ethos, esprit de corps and public image, but they are second to none in the delivery of first-rate military music. The similarity with front-line capabilities does not end there: in common with all other forms of military output, the RAF's professional musicians are expected to deliver value for money from finite resources. So, just as there are shortfalls in ISTAR and helicopter support - to name but two operational pinch-points - the supply of military music is invariably stretched to meet demand; the frequency, breadth and geographical spread of events needing Light Blue music are simply too great.
Enter the RAF's voluntary bands! Back in 1918, along with the traditions and customs of our sister Services - many of which we subsequently eschewed in favour of our own aforementioned 'habits' - the fledgling RAF inherited voluntary bandsmen from the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps. This welcome musical legacy - a range of semi-official, part-time corps of drums, brass bands, military bands and pipe bands - not only facilitated, in due course, the formation of prestigious professional organisations like the Central Band, but immediately instilled in the new Service a tradition of voluntary music which has endured and continues to drive RAF Voluntary (brass, woodwind and percussion) Bands and Pipe Bands to this day.
Now, 90 years on, there are eight RAF voluntary bands and four RAF pipe bands1, each helping to fulfil the excess demand for military music, mostly, but not exclusively, at local level. Guided by the RAF Ceremonial Office and HQ Music Services, inspired by the high standard of their professional counterparts and co-ordinated by the RAF Voluntary Band Association (RAFVBA), RAF voluntary bands operate at stations throughout the United Kingdom - at Cosford, Halton, Honington, Kinloss, St Athan, Waddington and Wyton - and in Cyprus at Akrotiri. Their underlying aim is to provide an outlet for amateur musical talent among serving personnel, but in practice their primary task is to support Service events at their home base and at other stations in the immediate area. Voluntary bands range in size from 20 to over 40 musicians and comprise serving men and women of all ranks (including RN and Army personnel working with the RAF), and civilians (civil servants, families and friends) who play regularly under Voluntary Band Instructors (VBIs). Each VBI fulfils the crucial role of musical director, bandmaster and administrator, and is the only professional post in each band. Our current VBIs - the majority are permanently appointed to Civil Service posts funded by their units - are much respected for their musical talent, dedication and (most importantly) enthusiasm; every one has years of professional experience in a top military band or as an instrumentalist and conductor.
Voluntary bands undertake routine engagements in uniform at military parades and mess dinners, and also help to keep the Service in touch with the community by performing concerts in schools and town halls, often in aid of local or national charities. Engagements are many and varied. For example, the RAF Halton and Wyton Bands play regularly in London parks during the summer and the RAF St Athan Band appears frequently before matches at the National Stadium in Cardiff. Most recently, the Halton Band became the first RAF voluntary band in living memory to play at the Cenotaph in London. Engagements are not confined to the United Kingdom: Cosford, Halton and Waddington have recently supported British military events in the Falkland Islands, Germany and the USA, respectively. In spring 2007, RAF Halton's Clarinet Quintet was even called upon to accompany an Air Force Board Dinner in Admiralty House! When larger public events require pooling of resources, the RAFVBA acts as co-ordinator: examples are the Royal Star and Garter Homes' Tattoo at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth, and the Asian Tsunami Disaster Relief fund-raising concert in Ministry of Defence Main Building. With the encouragement of its President, Air Vice-Marshal Nigel Baldwin, the Association has also previously organised massed band concerts at Colston Hall, Bristol and in Peterborough Cathedral.
If you would like to find out more about RAF voluntary bands, or the RAFVBA, please go to
Although the bands often have full diaries - the larger bands average an engagement every week throughout the year - they are always keen to support military events and local communities. If you would like to book a voluntary band, or a smaller ensemble, please make contact direct or call one of the RAFVBA representatives listed on the website. Also, with frequent postings and overseas deployments, voluntary bands are invariably on the look out for new members. Although some trades - including those responsible for tuning the rigging wires on biplanes - were barred from belonging to voluntary bands during the First World War for fear of damaging their hearing, this restriction no longer applies and all standards of brass, woodwind and percussion players are welcomed!
RAF voluntary bands are here to serve, but they need your continued support too.
[by Wing Commander Trevor Kirkin, Chairman RAF Voluntary Band Association]