Eighty years on and Falkirk air cadets still soaring despite COVID-19

Falkirk 470 Squadron air cadets were forced to mark the unit’s 80th anniversary online but officers say youngsters continue to be a credit to themselves and the long history of the organisation as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 10:08 am

While the Air Training Crops squadrons in the area – including Denny and the famous Grangemouth Spitfire squadron – are all celebrating the milestone, it is perhaps even more special for 470 Squadron because this is their 80th year of continuous operation.

Flight Lieutenant Colin Gray, 470 Squadron commanding officer, said: “This is an amazing milestone for what has and continues to be one of the front runner squadrons in the corps. It’s a nice feeling to think of all the thousands of cadets and hundreds of staff we have had through the doors in 80 years and I like to think we have had a positive impact on their lives.

“Times have not always been easy for us and today we are facing another unique challenge. We have had to adapt to virtual training and unfortunately, we are unable to celebrate our 80th birthday the way we had planned.

Members of Falkirk's 470 Squadron air cadets are now celebrating the unit's 80th anniversary

"We are, however, looking forward to normality, where we can open the doors and get back to flying, adventure training, shooting and all the other exciting activities we offer our cadets.”

The Air Training Corps became operational on February 5, 1941 and a few days later – on February 21 of that year – 470 Squadron’s long and happy relationship with the town and surrounding area of Falkirk began.

Under the stewardship of Flight Lieutenant AC MacKenzie, rector of Woodlands High, the unit quickly grew to over 120 cadets and four dedicated flights.

By 1942 the unit had moved into 16 Melville Street and created the The ATC Club Rooms on the upper floors of what is now recognised as the Behind the Wall and Leckie’s building.

Falkirk 470 Squadron air cadets have remained on target with their training throughout the decades

470 Squadon has maintained its strong link with the town centre community over the decades, having operated at Elgin Place and Bellsmeadow and continuing to train from their current headquarters within the Falkirk Cadet Centre.

Recognised as one of the most successful shooting squadrons in the UK, the 470 was also one of the first units to welcome female cadets.

Over the years literally hundreds of staff members have helped train thousands of cadets and allowed them to enjoy their first taste of flying, target shooting

and adventure training with the organisation.

In fact many former 470 Squadron cadets have gone on to successful military and civilian careers using the skills they learned and the experience they gained with the unit.

The 470 Squadron continues to operate – even during COVID-19 times.

Like everyone else in the world, the past 12 months have been a significant challenge for the squadron operating and has led to it operating remotely.

An 80th anniversary dinner had been planned for February 21, however COVID-19 restrictions made that impossible.

The squadron hopes to mark the occasion in fine style in 2022 at a high profile dinner event in the Inchyra Hotel with representatives from RAF Air Cadets throughout Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Falkirk 470 Squadron look forward to inviting a new generation of young people and adult volunteers to join up and continue its proud history.

Visit www.470aircadets.org.uk for more information.