Chairman of the Executive Committee
Air Marshal Sir Christopher Coville KCB FRAeS
Two years ago, I gave a presentation to the Sixth Form at Sherborne School, titled ‘The Major Challenges Facing Mankind in the 21st Century.’ I covered Regional Wars, Cyber, Shortages of Water and other Critical Resources, Mass Migration and a host of other things. But guess what I didn’t predict? You’ve got it, a viral pandemic! The last twenty months or so have tested us nationally, locally and individually. Despite some social unrest, and of course the Refuseniks who thrive on conspiracy theories, the UK has emerged at the ‘beginning of the end’ with credit and a strong international reputation. But it has been at times painful, extremely restrictive and frustrating to those whose plans involved foreign travel, large gatherings or close personal interaction. Our Association has not been unscathed, as you are all only too aware. We were not able to celebrate the Centenary of the first cadets arriving at the College in 1920; and although we did install the Trenchard statue last year, we were only able to do so with a handful of Cranwellians present.
But within all this gloom there have been some highlights. The Centenary Statue stands proudly outside the West Wing, and has received much acclaim. Our membership remains strong at over six hundred, and the statue unveiling alongside our Reunion in August was a resounding success. Additionally, we have a totally revamped website, which is brighter, easier to use and navigate, and makes possible direct links into the outstanding work done by Mike Smith and Ian Steward.
We reported the Reunion separately, but everyone appears to have enjoyed the whole weekend. Again, thanks to Phil Bright and his team of volunteers for all the preparation beforehand and the hard work for three days during the event. Next year’s Reunion is provisionally planned for 21/22 May, but with Halton moving to Cranwell, alongside ongoing possible CV19 restrictions, pressure on the station’s resources will be high. I hope all agree that the priority must be to secure the maximum on-base accommodation, to avoid extra expense and inconvenience. Phil is working with the College staff to get the best possible deal, and we shall keep you briefed as details emerge. On this point, we will be working up a Letter of Agreement with the College to ensure that staff changes don’t result in lost memories of accepted arrangements. We are fortunate to have most helpful friends there now, but the days of ‘Just do it!’ are long gone.
There has been little change on the Astra Alumni Trust project; all is pretty well as briefed elsewhere on the website. Gavin Mackay, Chris Saunby and Richard Slogrove remain on the Astra Working Group under the chairmanship of the Commandant, who reports to AMP, AM Andy Turner. I should mention at this stage the new Commandant, Air Cdre Andrew ‘Chas’ Dickens, who took over from now AVM Suraya Marshall, who is the first female to take command of an operational group – No 2 Group. The President and I have separately had discussions with Chas, and I can report him as being well-inclined towards us, and determined that we will continue to play a full part in the life of the College; no doubt Sir Mike will say more. We will keep you updated on Astra, and its implications for the CA, as the plans unfold. I need hardly add that the ExCom continue to address the possible options for the Association, but as I stressed at the AGM, our starting point is to be positive, to plan for a successful future CA and to ensure that the spirit of Cranwell lives on long after we are individually forgotten.
Which brings me to my last point! Mike Smith is doing a fantastic job digitising a mass of historic detail, especially the journals. But we still miss many, and if you have any in the trunk in the attic, do please dig them out and let me know. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warm Regards to you all,
Chairman CA ExCom