The Sunderland group which was flying high in 1997

Preparing for inspection by Cadet Warrant Officer Kristian Kirtley.
Preparing for inspection by Cadet Warrant Officer Kristian Kirtley.

Twenty-one years have passed since these air cadets found themselves in the Sunderland Echo headlines – for a Royal visit and for their own excellence.

The spotlight returns on them once more as we revisit the 607 Wearmouth Squadron from 1997.

Cadets prepare for a field trip to Nijmegen, Holland.

Cadets prepare for a field trip to Nijmegen, Holland.

What a thriving, bustling scene it was as 50 teenagers gathered twice weekly.

Our reporter at the time said: “To walk into a building filled with more than 50 teenagers is usually an unnerving experience.

“But walking into the headquarters of 607 Wearmouth Squadron is a completely different kettle of fish.

“I was met by ‘would you like a cup of coffee, ma’am?’.”

Being an air cadet has to be one of the most interesting pastimes for the teenager who likes a challenge

Echo reporter, 1997

The reporter praised the Air Training Corps for its aims of discipline and respect.

But there was much fun and activity to be had too.

Parade nights saw cadets doing around 30 minutes of drill as well as much more besides.

The reporter added: “As far as respect is concerned, there are no problems. Cadets young and old have a great deal of respect for all their seniors but in particular for their commanding officer Flt Lt Mick Carr.”

Falling in for a canteen snack.

Falling in for a canteen snack.

Flt Lt Carr, who worked full time as a fireman at the time, had been working with the ATC since 1988 and, as our story illustrated, devotes a lot of his spare time to the air corps.”

He was so devoted, he received the Lord Lieutenant’s certificate for his years of dedication to the service.

He said back in 1997: “Working here with the cadets is something I really enjoy. If I did not, I would not do it.

“I don’t get paid. It is completely voluntary.”

But it wasn’t just the excellent ethos of the squadron which won the headlines.

It got one of the biggest compliments that could be paid when its new headquarters in Douglas Road, Seaburn, was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh as part of a visit to the region.

Mick was rightly proud and said at the time: “It has to be the greatest honour that any squadron can have, being officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh.

“Weeks of hard work went into the preparation for the event and on the day everything went off without a hitch.”

But 30 minutes of drill was by far from being the only activity the air cadets got to enjoy.

There was flying, adventure training, summer and winter camps, and a chance to try out gliders, microlights and helicopters.

They could join the squadron band.

But what else was happening for people to enjoy in Sunderland at the time?

Keen cyclists could have a field day with lots of new routes appearing in the area, including the extension to the Stephenson Trail from Hetton to Durham.

Ashbrooke Carnival was a big hit with locals in 1997, at Ashbrooke Sports Ground.

And Burnmoor scouts were enjoying action-packed fun of their own. They had constructed a stall filled with old crockery at Lambton Park where the Durham County Show was held.

They were asking people to come along and have a smashing time breaking it up. Remember it?

The youth of Sunderland really was in the news that summer as the Young Achievers Award was on the lookout for worthy champions.

But if you preferred your entertainment a little more on the easy side, how about a day in front of the telly?

Bananaman, Run The Risk, and Casper were part of the children’s line-up on BBC1, while Blockbusters, The Moomins, and Get Your Own Back were all on BBC2.

On Tyne Tees, there was Caribou Kitchen, On Your Marks and Woof!

On Channel 4, you could enjoy Sesame Street and Bewitched while the Channel 5 highlights included Havakazoo and Adventures of the Bush Patrol.

Or you could go to the cinema where the latest attractions included Batman and Robin at the ABC, and The Lost World at the Robins Cinema in Durham.

Over at Southmoor School in Sunderland, students made their own entertainment after a visit to the railway museum in York.

They came home and created their own huge model of a train inside a day, complete with its own nameplate.

What are your memories of 1997?

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