Unveiling of the CENTENARY STATUE OF LORD TRENCHARD
August 7th 2021
On 7th August this year, Viscount Trenchard, Honorary Air Commodore in the Royal Air Force Reserve, unveiled the statue of his grandfather MRAF Lord Trenchard widely known as the Father of the Royal Air Force; the ceremony took place at the RAF College Cranwell, the first Air Academy in the world and founded by Lord Trenchard when he was Chief of Air Staff.
A Fitting Memorial
The first cadets arrived in 1920 at the Royal Air Force College. As the Centenary of this important date in RAF history approached, the Cranwellian Association deliberated on how best to record the event. After considering all options, it was concluded in 2017 that a statue of the College’s founder would be both a lasting memorial for future generations and also a fitting tribute to the man whose vision made it all possible.
That, of course was the easy bit! A team was set up in 2018 to turn the dream into a reality, and address the many complex issues associated with such a project: raising the substantial amount of money, selecting a sculptor, agreeing a design and overcoming the many bureaucratic hurdles of planning and getting approval from English Heritage and other interested agencies.
After a rigorous selection process, the team chose Vivien Mallock (here with our Chairman, Sir Christopher) a renowned sculptor, much respected in military circles. The direction to Vivien was simple: produce a statue of our founder, facing the College, and looking across the parade square. Vivi set to work in late 2018, firstly producing a small scale maquette to get the stance and overall representation right. After some minor adjustments, the project team were content that we had an agreed design, and work started on the mould that would be used to produce the eventual bronze statue.
Meanwhile, strenuous efforts were being made to raise the circa £140,000 needed to pay the sculptor, design and deliver a plinth recording Trenchard’s several founding achievements and, not least of the challenges, ensure that all aspects of the planning process were completed in good time. The plan was to celebrate the Centenary Year with a formal unveiling in June 2020 at the annual reunion of the Cranwellian Association. Progress was going well on all fronts, with the statue taking shape at Vivien’s studio in Quarley, near Andover. The project team made several visits to advise on minor points of detail, before in Spring 2020 it was decided that the mould was perfect, and the foundry took over to complete the transformation into the final bronze statue.
But of course there was one very big problem – Covid 19! In Spring of last year, a difficult decision was taken: to cancel our annual reunion, but complete the installation in the Centenary Year. Accordingly, at 0800 on 16th October 2020, after four years of hard work, a low loader arrived at the ceremonial gates of the RAF College. The plinth had been carefully sited a few weeks earlier, but would it all fit? Slowly, under the close supervision of Vivien Mallock and her husband, Ross, the statue was lifted by crane off the vehicle. Very slowly it was lowered onto the plinth; but something was wrong: the statue was leaning forward! Undeterred, Vivi and Ross had the statue lifted up again, made a few adjustments to the connecting dowels and lowered it ever so slowly. This time it was a perfect fit and the entire team breathed a sigh of relief.
A short time later, a small ceremony involving the Association President, Sir Michael Graydon, and the current Lord Hugh Trenchard, grandson of the great man, marked this significant event in the history of the RAF College and the RAF. There the statue waited, the founder patiently gazing across the parade square towards his College, until the formal unveiling on 7th August this year.
The next 8 months were a major challenge for our Association and the College. Preparation for the unveiling against the background of COVID and a College with many staff working from home, was beset with uncertainty. An unveiling event involving guests, descendants of key luminaries in the setting up of the College and its early years ( such as Churchill, Cecil, Salmond and Longmore), Cranwellians from countries around the globe, and the annual reunion of Cranwellians from many generations, presented the organisers with a constantly changing task.
It was just two weeks before the selected date of the 7th that we decided to go ahead. As the day approached the weather forecast grew more ominous, and preparations were made to minimise a soaking. Anyone want 120 ponchos?
We need not have worried, the 73% chance of rain and moderate wind turned out to be pretty calm and rainless. The ceremony was moving and the unveiling slick with the help of air cadets from Trent Wing, who graced the day along with members of East Midlands University Air Squadron and the Sleaford Concert Orchestra. In his address, Sir Michael Graydon referred to the Statue of the Founder looking across the parade square with pride; “I hope” he said “ that…his presence will promote some new traditions at the College, whereby the graduation reviewing officer will pay respects to the man whose vision and fortitude, against much challenge and ignorance, created both the Royal Air Force that has served this nation and the free world so well, and this magnificent College which over its 100 years has established a world- wide reputation and created a great heritage… that will be both inspirational and unforgettable to those who have the privilege of passing through its portals today. We forget heritage and its lessons at our peril.”