CRANWELLIAN ASSOCIATION REUNION 2021

August 7th and 8th 2021
Phil Bright

By  kind permission of the Commandant and Station Commander, the Royal Air Force College Cranwell was again the venue for the Annual Reunion of the Cranwellian Association on the weekend of 7/8 August 2021.

 
 

Sadly, for reasons we all recognise, we were not able to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2020.

The big question was could we do it in 2021 ?

It was heart in mouth for quite some time, but the eventual  answer was a resounding YES !!

The staff at Cranwell defied all odds to provide a most memorable occasion.

The Commandant, Air Commodore Suraya Marshall, chaired her first ( and we now know last ) AGM as Chairman of the Association.

Congratulations upon promotion as AOC No 2 Group RAF.

Air Marshal Andy Turner, DComCap, together with Sir Chris Coville, gave us a stimulating insight into the way forward for the Cranwellian Association under the umbrella of the putative Astra Trust. This is reported separately by Sir Chris.

It was heartening to hear both  AM Turner’s support for the work of the Association, and his view that, notwithstanding the pressures of future whole force training requirements, there should always be the opportunity for Cranwellians to meet and celebrate at Cranwell.


On Saturday evening members and guests gathered  to celebrate a magnificent cocktail of ceremonial and comradeship, with the newly unveiled statue of our founder , Lord Trenchard, looking out over the parade ground.


Warrant Officer Thorpe presented a stirring Sunset Ceremony. As the Ensign was lowered we looked skyward and were rewarded with the sight and sound of the BBMF Spitfire – there was no neck on which the hairs were not raised – a fitting tribute to those we remember.



With the trumpet call to dinner we moved into the superb setting of College Hall dining room for what many thought was the highlight of the weekend.

The magnificence of the place grows every time we gather in the place once taken for granted as cadets. The College staff were amazing, and the food superb.  Particularly so since this was their first formal dinner in over 18 months.

Members enjoyed the company of our guests at dinner, including OC XI (Fighter) Squadron from RAF Coningsby and members of University Air Squadrons.

Our Commandant in Chief, Her Majesty the Queen, sent us her best wishes for the occasion.

Air Marshal Turner presented the AVM Grey Award to Officer Cadet Esther Smith from UGSUAS

Esther overcame the “slight surprise” of being seated at the top table !

We ate what has become our traditional menu, with wine on the table enabling a good opportunity to keep an eye on our friends and top them up as required !

The brass quintet from the Sleaford Concert band delighted us throughout the evening, leaving us only to wonder whether…………….and yes,  the unique rendering of the Posthorn Gallop brought the house down !

After an introduction that had us laughing into our port, the guest of honour, Air Marshal Turner, gave us an intriguing insight into the means and methods by which the RAF of today and tomorrow is preparing for future conflict.

After dinner the bar was the venue for ever taller tales, with young and not so young enjoying the comradeship that we all cherish.



On Sunday we gathered at the church of Saint Michael and All Angels for the Cranwellian Sunday Service, where we once again celebrated our heritage and remembered those who serve and those no longer with us.


After the service members met together in College Hall to take refreshment prior to departure.


Cranwell will always be a special place for us – where better to enjoy the company of old friends and to learn of the Royal Air Force of the future.

Those who attended, and those who organised the event, enjoyed a superb weekend.

The organising team would like to thank you for your understanding and support in what has been a difficult year for all.  Thank you also for your messages of appreciation, and special thanks to the UAS Officer Cadets and Trent Wing Air Cadets who provided superb support on the day.


The Cranwellian Weekend really is a team effort, with invaluable support from the Commandant and Station Commander, the College Project Officer and her deputy, along with many others too numerous to mention. We thank them all sincerely.

 

What our members said

Feedback from our members who came along to the reunion this year

READ THIS DETAILED REFLECTION OF THE WEEKEND BY ONE OF OUR MEMBERS

Once again, you have spent an inordinate amount of effort organising a superb weekend in spite of all barriers.

What can I say but “brilliant” ,

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Just a quick note to thank you all for making Saturday such a memorable day for Nicholas and Jonathan. They were full of praise for the reception they were given, and the help from a friendly Squadron Leader.

They have come back exhausted, but with a wealth of photos which have been shared by the family, and with details of some of the 1966 entry chaps who were there and who remembered my year as Flight Commander of B Sqn.

I hope you can now have a well earned rest, with the satisfaction of knowing that you organised a very successful occasion which my son and grandson thoroughly enjoyed

Very many thanks again


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Thank you and all concerned with the Trenchard event and the Reunion. It was in such safe hands that even the weather behaved itself.

Our guest Air Marshal was certainly Ad Astra orientated but we wouldn’t have got there without you tackling the Per Ardua reality.

I very much enjoyed the weekend.

Thank you again.


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My congratulations to all of you in producing such a splendid event.


In one way or another, the College (especially CHOM) has been a major factor in my life and I was uplifted by the camaraderie shared with all involved over the 2 days.  Old friendships were renewed and reminiscing was the order of the day.  I loved it; I hope I stay fit enough to be on parade in 2022.


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Many thanks to you and to all those involved in last weekend’s events at the College. They were superbly organised and a lot of fun. I salute you all.


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 Just a note to say how very much I appreciated the hard work that enabled the reunion to go ahead last weekend.  The events were as ever most enjoyable, and run with traditional style and ambience despite the effects of covid, which made all organising more difficult than usual.  It was good to meet.


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This is just a short and inadequate ‘Thank You’ to all who organised the

Cranwellians Reunion 2021 in the most trying circumstances and pulled off

 a mighty fine weekend, the highlight of which was the splendid dinner in College Hall. The magnificence of the Hall grows every time we gather in the place once taken for granted as Cadets, being simply 'where we lived’ constantly under the spectre of ‘The Chop’ until that magic moment when half of us who arrived three years earlier actually graduated.

 

A Reflection by Flt Lt Matt Stubbs

I currently serve as B Flt Cdr, C Sqn Royal Air Force Officer Training Academy (RAF OTA) and have the privilege of mentoring and developing Officer Cadets over their 24-week Modular Initial Officer Training Course (MIOTC).  I am cognisant of the fact that that the reader may well have fond memories of their time marching through the hallowed halls of newly named Officer Training Academy and will remember how frenetic and exacting officer training was in their day.  


I am honoured to have held the position of Deputy ProjO to Mrs Mandy Surtridge and Mr Phillip Bright for the recent Cranwellian Association Weekend in August-last.  During the event, I had the pleasure of gaining greater exposure to The Association, the name of which  was familiar,  but the purpose and raison d’etre remained somewhat unknown.  


Prior to my recent encounter, other than a brief about the Cranwellian Association that I 

received during my own Initial Officer Training some years ago, my first experience of the 

Cranwellians since that time was the rather sudden arrival of a magnificent bronze statue of Lord Trenchard on the East Wing of the College Hall Officer’s Mess (CHOM) Parade Square. Other than it being a splendid tribute to the Father of the RAF, I confess that I, and a good number of the Officer Cadets that I was instructing at the time, knew little about it, let alone fully understood why it was sited there. 


On the day a senior member of the Association posed a question to that effect, to which I was encouraged to give an honest answer.  Quite candidly, my understanding was that Officer Cadets consider the statue to be impressive, yet it has limited impact on their movement through MIOTC.  This is because it neither seems to influence, not affect directly their lived-experience on an extremely compressed course.  Consensus is that they don’t always have the time to gaze and reflect upon those aspects of their heritage beyond matters concerning an Air and Space Power Essay.  Whilst it is completely understood that Lord Trenchard is the very foundation of the RAF and CHOM, trainees are often more

concerned with more day-to-day matters regarding the fabric of CHOM


Having then discussed the matter and related considerations for a brief time, I continued with my hosting duties and had the absolute pleasure of meeting and sharing a few words, memories, and experiences of Association members from their time at RAFC Cranwell in CHOM.  My observations pertaining to the significance of the statue was contrasted by the heartfelt reflections of The Viscount Trenchard during the unveiling of his grandfather’s statue. These sentiments and keen observation on the progress of the RAF, its sense of union and connections were later contextualized by both the College Commandant and The College Chaplain in their speeches prior to the unveiling. 


6. I also had the honour of spending part of the evening with members of The Association and I was grateful to be party to the Guest of Honour’s speech.  Here, Air Marshal Turner, Deputy Commander Capability RAF, spoke candidly and passionately about the future of the RAF, making reference to our heritage and subsequent progression into the rapidly developing operating environment of data and information.  It was somewhat surreal and paradoxical to hear considerations for future conflict in Cyberspace set and delivered in the very real and heritage-rich setting of CHOM. 

The audience found themselves sat very much in the paradigm-shift from past to present, as an Air Power evolution through a 5th to 6th  Generation Air Force was outlined.


Sat in the dining hall, I had the epiphany of what the Cranwellian Association offers, what it means and why it matters to the RAF.  Moreover, I realised why new members of the RAF family should be encouraged, and do well to share in this, our collective heritage.  College Hall and the RAFC Cranwell is our mutual focal point to coalesce our shared experiences and record our mutual history to help in the future direction of those that follow us up the steps to the Rotunda. The Association Members with whom I was sharing a table that evening each served 3 years at the College and that cemented a connection to CHOM and each other. This bond extended through their service into civilian life and it pulls them back together decades after leaving the Service. To that end the fabric of the RAF is, and will continue to be a part of their lives.  For Junior Officers that had a relatively short residence at RAFC Cranwell (32 weeks in my case), and those training on the new 24-

weeks MIOTC, the intrinsic link to RAFC Cranwell and CHOM is often developed some years after graduation.  In some cases, it could be argued that, for some at least, that connection and link to the fabric of the RAF is missed and for some, never fully develops. This is truly a shame as every officer that passed through here shares an equal part in Cranwellian history.


College Hall and The RAFC Cranwell is the underpinning of commissioned service, it is the anchor to the RAFs past and present.  It’s a place where we set, and shape the personnel who can and will determine elements of the RAFs future and culture. It is the cornerstone of our careers, the foundation upon which we build our future and, for most, the spiritual home of the RAF and its officers. A place where we can serve, move on having contributed something of ourselves to it, safe in the knowledge that because CHOM and RAFC Cranwell endures, we can return to it and call it home.


The Cranwellian Association demonstrates the value of this.  Something for officers currently serving at the College to  consider is how to inculcate the new officers with these traditional values. 

Does the new officer cohort have sufficient time or opportunity to experience and feel that connection to their spiritual home, and therein the service?  Perhaps, a wider perspective would see that it’s not so much a matter of time and exposure to the College that matters.  Perhaps the more astute would recognise that the statue of Lord Trenchard on the West Wing represents more than simply the likeness of Trenchard.  It serves as a prompt towards our place in Cranwell’s history.  


After the short time I spent with the Cranwellian Association, I’ve realised that Trenchard’s image is a reminder to us all of our RAF heritage, an anchor to our glorious past and, in an ever-changing world, a gateway to an exciting future.