A ceremony to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force has taken place in Huntingdon with servicemen and women on parade and veterans in the crowd which gathered to watch.
The celebration was set against the background of Castle Hill House - the wartime headquarters of the RAF’s Pathfinder Force, which Huntingdonshire District Council’s nearby headquarters Pathfinder House is named after.
Huntingdon has very close links to the RAF with both RAF Wyton and the former RAF Brampton being close to the town, and many service personnel have made their homes in the area.
Wing Commander Rachel Dixon, from RAF Wyton, and veteran Don Barltrop, from the RAF Association, made speeches marking the 100th anniversary and an RAF flag was blessed by Pastor Joyce from the International Prayer Palace Church. There was also a welcoming speech from Cllr Richard West, chairman of the district council.
Mr Barltrop, 84, a retired Squadron Leader who spent more than 40 years in the RAF, said: “To me marking this anniversary is important and, of course, it is a wonderful opportunity for the RAF to present itself to the public.”
He joined the RAF in 1952 and trained as a photographer, spending his last 10 years in the service at RAF Brampton.
“When I was born in 1934 the air force had just reached its 16th anniversary and I have been there for the 50th and 75th anniversaries and now the 100th,” Mr Barltrop said.
He said that man had been wanting to fly for centuries but it was only with the Wright brothers’ flight in 1903 that many of the technical problems had been ironed out and that he had been amazed at the speed of development since - including the recent first direct flight from Australia to the UK.
Mr Barltrop said: “My big regret since I left the service was that I was not going to see the next stage of technology.”
He said that although military flying had now ended at RAF Wyton, the station was still playing a key role as a high-tech intelligence centre.
Ceremonies have been taking place across the country to mark the RAF’s formation on April 1 1918 with the merger of the army’s Royal Flying Corps and the navy’s Royal Naval Air Service to create an independent air force.