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RAF Halton Marches Into Aylesbury

RAF Halton

12:08am 1st June 2014

RAF Halton will exercise its right to the Freedom of Aylesbury today (Sunday 1 June 2014) at 1.45pm.

Her Majesty the Queen's Colour for RAF Halton will be paraded and supported by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. The Parade will be reviewed by the Mayor of Aylesbury, and a Dakota from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will fly past at 2pm.

On completion of the Reviewing Ceremony, RAF Halton will 'exercise its right' and march through the Town with 'swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying'. The Parade will march from the County Court Building through Market Square to Market Street where it will halt, reform and return to Walton Street, paying compliments to the Reviewing Officer at the Dais at Market Square.

Freedom parades are an ancient honour granted to martial organisations, allowing them the privilege to march into the city. This honour dates back to ancient Rome which regarded the boundary of the city as sacred. Magistrates and generals were forbidden from entering it, and resigned their powers of command immediately upon crossing it. An exception was made for victory celebrations where soldiers also lost their status when entering, becoming citizens. Weapons were also banned inside the boundary of the city for religious and traditional reasons.

Similar laws were passed by other European cities throughout the Medieval era, to protect public security and civic rights, even against their own king's troops.  As a result, soldiers would be forced to camp outside the walls of the city during the winter months. The Freedom Parade was an honour granted only to troops which had earned the trust of the local populace, either through some valiant action or simply by being a familiar presence. Today, martial Freedom of the City is an entirely ceremonial honour, usually bestowed upon a unit with historic ties to the area, as a token of appreciation for their long and dedicated service. The awarding of the Freedom is often accompanied by a celebratory parade through the City.

  • A small pre-parade event will be held in Kingsbury between 11am - 1.30pm.

Join us for some music, and find out more about the RAF, Cadets and Scouts before heading to Market Square to watch the Parade.

History of RAF Halton

In the 1913 army manoeuvres, 3 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps deployed to Halton to support the Household Division. They landed on their temporary airfield which is now the Maitland Parade Square, RTS.  It was a pasture that belonged to Mr Alfred Rothschild.  From this site 3 Squadron launched a series of reconnaissance sorties and staged the first confrontation between aeroplane and airship.

In 1914, when Lord Kitchener called for his "first hundred thousand" Alfred Rothschild was one of the first to offer his estate as training grounds and some 20,000 troops descended on Halton.

Old Workshops were built in 1917, using German PoW labour, and the current airfield was established.

By Armistice Day there were some 6,000 British and Australian male mechanics, 2,000 female mechanics and 2,000 boys being trained by some 1,700 staff.  

With peace came major changes; Alfred Rothschild had died in 1918 and the newly formed Royal Air Force needed permanent bases and had invested considerable sums in the workshops and accommodation they had built on the estate.  The Air Council purchased the whole property, to house its new No 1 School of Technical Training, which moved in from Cranwell in 1919.

Lord Trenchard foresaw the need to produce a pool of skilled aircraft mechanics and Halton was selected as the home for the Aircraft Apprentice Scheme when this was introduced in 1920.  The three-year course he initiated was to train 155 Apprentice Entries between 1920 and 1923 and the training they received was to be thorough and broad-based.  Apart from the basic syllabus, which combined the academic and practical disciplines, sporting and spare-time activities were closely supervised and enthusiastically encouraged. From this came many top-class athletes and sportsmen, notably Don Finlay, who was to represent Great Britain in 3 Olympic Games, the last as team captain, and to return later as Chief Instructor.    

Princess Mary's RAF Hospital was opened in 1927 and with its younger partner, the Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine, provided an excellent specialist and general service, while training medical trades personnel and nurses; it closed in 1995.

Also the RAF Police, Supply, Catering, Secretarial and Dental personnel have all been trained here from time to time and form a major component of the station's task today.

Though the end of WW2 brought the usual service reductions and retrenchments these were not as drastic as those at the end of WW1.  Apprentice training continued and grew during the 1950s and 60s, in response to Cold War requirements and the career prospects offered by the award of an Ordinary National Certificate in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering at the end of the course. .

With the 1970s came the RAF's withdrawal from the East and the start of its contraction. Technical developments and changes in social aspiration made apprentice training less attractive and less necessary and eventually, with the "peace dividend", at the end of the Cold War, it was discontinued. All technical training was concentrated at RAF Cosford and, after brief fears of closure, Halton became the RAF's premier non-technical ground training station. Training organisations were moved in from around the country to provide the courses needed to prepare airmen and airwomen for each stage in their careers. Starting as basic recruits, many remain for trade training, while all may return for General Service Training when they are promoted through the ranks or require specialist qualifications. The motto: "Teach, Learn, Apply "is as appropriate to RAF Halton today as it was in 1918.

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