Leeds air cadets squadron flies high

In the dark days of the Second World War, the air cadets were formed to prepare young men to serve in the RAF.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 9th February 2011, 10:35 am

They were inspired by the heroes of the Battle of Britain who fought it out in the skies six months earlier.

Now the cadets of 208 (North Leeds) Squadron are celebrating 70 years of aviation history.

The squadron, based at Towerhurst, on Oakwood Lane, were one of hundreds of Air Training Corps set up on February 5, 1941, with King George VI as Air Commodore-in-Chief.

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Among the early recruits was Leeds’s own Sir Jimmy Savile.

To mark its special birthday, the squadron hosted a party, attended by Mike Fox, Deputy Lord Lieutenant, and the Lord Mayor Elect, Coun Brenda Lancaster.

It began with a drill parade of its young members, followed by presentations and an exhibition of archive material showing the history of the squadron.

In its early days, the squadron was supported by local aviator Robert Blackburn whose Blackburn Aircraft factory was based on the site of the present-day Tesco on Roundhay Road.

The squadron currently has 65 cadets, about a quarter of whom are female. Girls have been recruited since the 1980s.

Spokeswoman Ene Kitching said about a quarter of cadets go on to join the RAF but others volunteer for the Army or Marines.

“The ATC gives them life skills which are attractive to employers,” she said. “At our recent recruitment evening, we attracted 30 new cadets which shows that even after 70 years the ATC provides valuable service to young people.”

Teenagers aged 13 to 19 go flying and gliding and take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

RAF funding pays for the building, uniforms and activities but each squadron is responsible for its own fundraising.

The cadets meet on Tuesdays and Fridays.