1404 (Chatham) Squadron

Air Training Corps

 

 

Squadron History

DATE OF FORMATION
16th April 1941

SQUADRON COMMANDERS
1941 Flt Lt Sleigh RAFVR(T)
1945 Flt Lt W H Linch RAFVR(T)
1947 Flt Lt W H B Lamb RAFVR(T)
1954 Flt Lt M H Botton RAFVR(T)
1964 Flt Lt V H S Marmara RAFVR(T)
1987 Flt Lt N Gunter RAFVR(T)
1989 Flt Lt A J Golding RAFVR(T)
1991 Flt Lt J Robson RAFVR(T)
1991 Flt Lt R Sucherzewski RAFVR(T)
1993 Flt Lt J Robson RAFVR(T)
1994 Flt Lt V R Beaney RAFVR(T)
2000 Flt Lt A J Padgham RAFVR(T)
2000 Flt Lt RF Palmer RAFVR(T)
2009 Flt Lt JC Ballard RAFVR(T)

SQUADRON CIVILIAN CHAIRMEN
Mr K Piddell
1984 Mr R J Beaney
1989 Mrs M Payne
1994 Mr K Simmons

HISTORY OF THE SQUADRON
1404 (Chatham) Squadron was formed on 16th April 1941 at Holcolme Technical School, Maidstone Road, Chatham (the present site of Chatham Grammar School). The Headquarters was a war time ambulance station. The recruitment age for cadets in 1941 was 15¼ years although it is reported that many lied about their age in order to be able to join early. At first the cadets paraded in one of the school buildings until 1944 when the squadron’s own hut was erected. This was built out of corrugated iron and was nowhere near the size of modern squadron buildings. Early lessons included much the same subjects as they do today such as aircraft recognition, an important subject during the period of war.

The first Officer Commanding was Flt Lt Dr Sleigh who commanded until 1945 when Flt Lt W H Lynch assumed command. Flt Lt W H B Lamb, the head master of Byron Road Junior school, assumed command in 1947 and served until 1954 when the Squadron was taken over by Flt Lt M H Botton, a consultant with Marconi Avionics. During Flt Lt Bottons' command the squadron moved to its present site at Boundary Road (14th December 1961).

In 1963 Flt Lt V Marmara, the Squadrons' present President, assumed command for a 23 year period. During his reign a second building was added to the Squadron. This was officially opened on 21st January 1972 by Mrs K Robertson, the sister of James McCudden VC, a First World War fighter ace after whom the building was named.

In 1980, following a letter to the Daily Telegraph, girls were admitted to the Corps. Initially only three squadrons in London and South East Region were allowed to recruit girls, 261 (Guildford) Squadron, 2530 (Uckfield) Squadron and 1404 (Chatham) Squadron. Initially 15 girl places were allocated to each Squadron. A recruiting drive at that time realised 30 candidates of whom 15 were selected, the remainder being put on a waiting list. Interviews started at the end of October, and the first two cadets were Susan Burgess and Nicola Piddell, who joined the Squadron on 28th October 1980 and all 15 were members by 4th November 1980

In 1982 Walderslade Detached Flight was formed at Walderslade Junior School. Despite its success as a detached flight it fell victim to a fire in 1990 believed to have been caused by vandals. The headmaster of the school, who had recently come into his position, decided that the cadets would no longer be able to parade at the school and so the detached flight shut down.

Two years later a Detached Flight was formed at Wainscott Junior School. Wainscott Detached Flight later became a Squadron in its own right and was designated 213 (City of Rochester) Squadron ATC, named after the original 213 Squadron which was formed with 1404 in 1941, but was disbanded in the late 1940s.

Past cadets who have achieved much fame are Cadet Sergeant Andrew White who joined the RAF as a fighter pilot in Hunter Jet fighters. He served in the Middle East, not only with the RAF but also as a pilot trainer with Middle Eastern countries. In 1972 he was a member of the Rothmans Aerobatic Team. Cadet Colin Douglas became a Lt Commander in the Royal Navy, in command of a minesweeper.

The Squadron has had successes in the past with Cadet Sergeant Sue Burgess being female cadet of the year and being nominated for the Dacre Broach Award, and the Drill Squad won the Kent Wing Drill Championship for four consecutive years.

In 1991, a party of ten from the Wainscott detached flight, under the command of Fg Off Vince Beaney climbed Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 50 hours to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ATC. The 1,400 mile round trip raised £500 for the Kent Air Ambulance appeal.

In 1999 the Squadron acquired a new banner to replace the previous one which was worn out. The banner was designed with assistance from experts from the Chatham Historic Dockyard Flag Loft.

In 2005 the Squadron faced closure when Kent County council wanted to sell the land. With the support of Medway Council and the local MP's, members of the public, local residents in Boundary Road, parents and cadets, Kent County Council agreed to sell the land to Medway Council, who guaranteed the Squadrons future on the site. Cadet Warant Officer Smith was successfully appointed Medway Mayors Cadet of the Year.

In 2006 following the signing of a lease with Medway Council the squadron was redecorated with funding from the MOD via SERFCA.

In 2011 the squadron reached its 70th year.


Some of this information is reprinted from Venture Invicta, A History of the Air Cadets in Kent 1941-2001 by Flt Lt Roger Starling RAFVR(T).