In celebration of their formation 100 years ago, number 45 (Reserve) Squadron from Royal Air Force College Cranwell laid a wreath at a memorial outside HMS Sultan, the site where the Squadron was formed on 1st March 1916.
The ceremony at HMS Sultan saw the parading of the Squadron Standard, followed by the laying of a wreath by the Officer Commanding 45 (Reserve) Squadron, Wing Commander David Catlow and Officer Commanding 45(F) Squadron Air Training Corps, Flight Lieutenant Maria Muggridge and a one minute silence led by Padre (Squadron Leader) Colin O’Dell.
Whilst the airfield is now a housing estate, the technical site remains MOD property and a small memorial outside the main gate commemorates the many forms which early aviation took, and the inevitable obstacles which confronted the early pioneers.
Wing Commander Catlow said: “This has been a heart warming and truly humbling experience to take the time to look back on the frustrations and difficulties faced by our predecessors and to see how we now reap the rewards of their dedication to the Royal Flying Corps, military aviation and in particular the mobilisation of the fighting unit that, now as a flying training squadron, can proudly instil the ‘esprit de corps’ to the junior aviators of the Royal Air Force and British Army.”
Whilst the memorial was taking place a working party from the Squadron visited a cemetery in Blyth, to tend to the grave of Major John Charles Bradley Firth MC, a WW1 45 Squadron Ace with 11 victories to his name. Major Firth has no known living relatives and died in 1931 at the age of 37.
The team from 45 Sqn, Flight Lieutenant Tony Hall, Master Aircrew Jason Brewster, Master Aircrew Ian Marshall and Mr Alex Power were joined by the Head of Blyth Parish Council, Mr Martin Grocock representing the council and the Historical Society and Museum.
The service at the graveside was conducted by the Reverend Kate Bottley, the local parish vicar and well known television and radio personality from ‘Gogglebox’ and the Chris Evans Breakfast Show.
The members of the Squadron took pride in paying homage to the devoted aviator by clearing and cleaning his headstone, prior to laying a wreath and observing a one minute silence.
Flight Lieutenant Tony Hall said: ‘Today we had the honour of remembering the life of Major John Firth, and the heroic role he played in the history of 45 Squadron while serving as a fighter pilot in France & Italy during WW1. Following his RAF service he became a highly respected and active member of the local community in Blyth, and it was heartening to witness that same community actively supporting our commemorations today.’
Editor: Rosaleen King
Laying of the Wreath.
© MOD Crown Copyright 2016