1404 (Chatham) Squadron

Air Training Corps

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The Air Cadet Movement owes much of its existence to Air Commodore J A Chamier, known as the father of the air cadet movement.

The the son of a Major-General and himself originally an army officer, he learnt to fly and was loaned to the Royal Flying Corps (the predecessor of the Royal Air Force) during World War 1. Upon its formation he joined the Royal Air Force in 1919 and eventually retired from service in 1929.

Upon retirement, he became the Secretary-General of the Air League - an organisation made up of people who could see a strong future for aviation and who wanted to promote this still new area. With a rising interest in aviation and war again brewing in Europe, Air Commodore Chamier decided to start an aviation cadet corps.

In 1938 the Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC) was formed. The idea being to recruit and train young men from throughout the country in aviation skills. There was a big need for highly skilled aviators and support personnel if air combat /power was going to be used as a military resource. The ADCC was organised and run by local people in many towns and cities.

Air Commodore Chamier's idea seemed to capture the mood of the British people at the time. In their eagerness to help the nation in preparation for war, young men rushed to join the Corps in their thousands. The cadets were asked to paid a weekly subscription of 3d (old pennies) which today is equivalent to 1p. (Current 'subs' are around 50p per week).

Each Squadron's aim was to prepare cadets for joining the RAF or the Fleet Air Arm. They provided training in flying, military skills and instructed them in drill, dress and discipline. Physical fitness was also very actively promoted. Cadets undertook PT, team sports and athletics. Long Route Marches, Shooting Practice and Camping Skills all soon became standard squadron activities.

At this time ADCC activities were severely restricted because of the approach of World War II. Many ADCC instructors and Squadron Officers were called up into regular Service. Buildings were commandeered by either the Service or local government for war work and many joined up. Cadets were used to carry messages, they helped with clerical duties, in providing extra muscle in handling aircraft and in the movement of stores and equipment. They filled thousands of sandbags and loaded miles of belts of ammunition. Cadets in Cambridge also assisted with guarding the Cities airfield - then used as an RAF Station. This was repeated over the entire country.

During the early stages of war, the government realised the quality of the ADCC Cadets entering the RAF and Fleet Air Arm. It was so impressed that the ADCC was asked to begin training the young men who were waiting to be called into Service. The ADCC willingly took on this very responsible job and in a very short space of time produced thousands of well qualified individuals who went to pass quickly through basic training.

In 1940 the British Government took over control of the ADCC. This resulted in a number of changes to the Corps, and brought about the birth of a completely new organisation, called the Air Training Corps.

On 5th February 1941 the Air Training Corps (ATC) was officially established, with King George VI agreeing to be the Air Commodore-in-Chief, and issuing a Royal Warrant setting out the Corps' aims. The number of young men responding to this new ATC was spectacular. Within the first month the size of the old ADCC had virtually doubled to more than 400 squadrons and after 12 months it was about 8 times as big.

devised by Air Commodore Chamier, was incorporated into a new badge and was given approval by the King.

The new ATC squadrons adapted their training programmes to prepare young men for entry to the RAF. Squadrons arranged visits to RAF and Fleet Air Arm stations as part of the cadets' training and to let them fly as much as possible. Flights were made available in a wide assortment of aircraft, however, with so many Cadets wanting to fly many cadets were disappointed.

One solution designed to get cadets airborne was to introduce them to gliding. This gave cadets the chance to get the feel of an aircraft in flight and allow them to handle the controls. This obviously could not happen over night. It would be many years before this dream could be realised. Today the Air Cadet Organisation, through its Volunteer Gliding Schools, is the largest Gliding School in the World.

The Government did improve the flying situation and in 1943 set up a special ATC Flight of 10 aircraft, Oxfords and Dominies, for the sole purpose of giving Cadets air experience flights. They also allowed cadets to go flying in RAF aircraft on normal Service flying activities.

The Combined Cadet Forces' RAF sections and the Air Training Corps merged their HQ functions to form the Air Cadet Organisation as an umbrella organisation. Both still retain their individual identities and working practices at HQ and local level.