Chipping Norton RAF Air Cadets see record number of youth join during Covid-19 pandemic

The 136 Chipping Norton RAF Air Cadets has seen a record number of youth join the squadron after the Covid-19 lockdown.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 12:41 pm
Newly promoted corporals from the 136 Chipping Norton RAF Air Cadets squadron. (photo from SAC J. Thomas- RAF Brize Norton)

The squadron saw 33 youth join the squadron this year. An enrolment and awards ceremony was recently held by the squadron at the Chipping Norton Rugby Club. The event included an induction ceremony for their new 136 Squadron Padre, the Reverend John Coyne, who is a retired RAF chaplain.

Civilian Instructor (CI) Jeffrey Harrison said: "During the lockdown, which lasted from March 2020 until May of 2021, we did not have the ability to have face-to face meetings or any ceremonies. This 18 month backlog prompted us to officially enrol all new cadets.

"An average intake is less than 10. But 33 is huge for a squadron our size. I could not locate any intake numbers from years past that came close. So far as I can tell, the squadron has not seen an intake this large since its beginnings in World War II (1938-1941)."

The 136 Chipping Norton RAF Air Cadet Squadron and staff, including the newly enrolled cadets, a record-breaking intake. (photo from SAC J. Thomas- RAF Brize Norton)

The Chipping Norton squadron survived the lockdown by developing its own virtual training platform.

Mr Harrison added: "Chipping Norton was one of the first Squadrons to go fully virtual during lockdown. We were fully online and engaging the cadets twice weekly within one week of the lockdown taking effect. Currently one of our bespoke virtual training platforms that we pioneered in Chipping Norton are being implemented Corps-wide. Pilot Officer Russell Pitt, a current 136 Squadron staff member, single-handedly developed and implemented this system. Many other squadrons in the region did not have virtual parades at all, let alone twice weekly."

The squadron handed out a range of awards earned by the squadron cadets during lockdown. The awards consisted of radio badges, cyber badges, gliding and powered flight wings, first aid badges, presentation Skills awards, among others.

Any local area youth interested in joining the squadron must be at least 12 years old and in year eight of school.

Reverend (captain retired) John Coyne (left) being inducted as the new 136 Squadron Padre by the Reverend Charles Lewis, Thames Valley Wing Padre. (photo from SAC J. Thomas- RAF Brize Norton)

For more information about the Chipping Air Cadets squadron see their website here: https://136rafac.com/ and their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/ChippingNortonAirCadets/