More than 60 air cadets and veterans from across Sunderland and South Shields paraded in Mowbray Park to remember the bravery, sacrifice and triumph of the men Winston Churchill dubbed ‘The Few’.
It is 76 years since the Battle of Britain raged in the skies above England as the RAF fought to gain air supremacy against Hitler’s Luftwaffe and bring to an end the Fuhrer’s invasion plans.
Veterans and Air Training Corps cadets formed up at the bandstand marching for a special service of commemoration and laying of wreaths.
Spectators turned out in their droves to show their support and remember the 544 British and overseas air crew who died defending the nation between July 10 and October 31, 1940 – the period known as the Battle of Britain.
Flight lieutenant James Yeo of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Training branch organises the parade each year on behalf of the city.
He said: “Without the positive outcome of the Battle of Britain, the history of World War Two could have been very different. Some of the RAF pilots who fought were as young as 18 – the age today of our oldest air cadets. The average age of those killed was just 21. It is almost beyond our comprehension today that such young pilots were being sent into battle and that the hopes of the nation were resting on such inexperienced shoulders.”
The commemoration service was attended by, among others, Harry Truman, deputy council leader, and Armed Forces Champion for the city.
He said: “It is wonderful to be able to bring veterans and young air cadets together like this, and to see the pride the Battle of Britain even now instils in people of all ages. It’s important that this tradition is continued year on year and I would like to thank no 111 (Sunderland) Squadron for its role in organising the parade.”
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Air Training Corps. It was set up on February 5, 1941, initially to train young RAF pilots for the war, and is now one of the UK’s largest national voluntary youth organisations for 12-18 year olds.
The Air Training Corps has around 40,000 cadets who enjoy a range of exciting activities from flying and gliding to adventure training, sport, overseas visits, annual camps, and shooting, 111 Squadron is the Sunderland branch.
The joining age is 12 years old and subscriptions currently cost £14 per month.
The Squadron meets at the ATC Hq on Tay Road, Thorney Close every Tuesday and Friday evening from 6.45pm. More information can be found at www.111squadronATC.co.uk