On 17th October 19, the Officers’ Mess at RAF Shawbury was the venue for a special Gala Dinner evening to celebrate the achievements of personnel at RAF Shawbury.
The evening formally recognised the Service Personnel, Civil Servants and contractors who have made a significant contribution to RAF Shawbury and the surrounding community. The evening also paid tribute to the achievements of the Aries Project and its tremendous impact on air navigation.
The Station Commander, Group Captain Chris Mullen was delighted to welcome a number of special guests to the event, including Mrs Anna Turner the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, Dr Josh Dixey the High Sheriff of Shropshire, Wg Cdr (rtd) Neil Sturtridge from the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, and our Defence Partners Mr Harry Palmer representing Ascent, and Mr Simon Heath representing Airbus. Air Vice-Marshal Warren ‘Bunny’ James, Air Officer Commanding 22 Group was also an honoured guest and presented the following awards:
Flying Officer Will Robinson – Station Commander’s Award
Mr Peter Van-Huysse, Defence Fire and Rescue Service – Team Award
Mrs Val Green -Unsung Hero Award
Sergeant Scott Hill - Sporting Achievement Award
Sergeant Phil Waterson - Most Outstanding Individual Award
Warrant Officer Keith Cross – Lifetime Achievement Award
Mr Phil Sowerby - Most Outstanding Contribution to RAF Shawbury (Civilian)
Flight Lieutenant George Mifsud - Most Outstanding Contribution to RAF Shawbury (Military)
Ex- Corporal Sherry Flanaghan - Fundraiser or Volunteer of the Year Award
The evening also paid tribute to the achievements of the servicemen involved in the Aries Project. Mr Mick Jones, a local aviation historian and former RAF Warrant Officer who has served at RAF Shawbury gave a fascinating talk detailing the history of the Aries flights.
In 1944, RAF navigation training was centred on Shawbury and the Empire Air Navigation School which trained RAF and allied navigators and carried out research, spreading navigation techniques throughout the Commonwealth. In late 1944 a Lancaster bomber PD 328 was offered to the School for research flying and was named Aries. In October 1944, Aries undertook the first RAF circumnavigation of the world under the command of Wing Commander McKinley with Squadron Leader Davis as 1st Navigator. The flight flew westwards with the intention of both passing on current navigation techniques to training establishments and operational squadrons, and collecting data, especially from the US and Pacific areas. Importantly, Aries also gathered information on Lancaster operations in tropical conditions, in light of possible raids against Japan; in addition, Aries was tasked with gathering data for future commercial routes, soon to be opened to commercial operators. The trip was successful, and the Aries returned after 53 days and over 200 flying hours, having made a series of ‘firsts’ and set a few records. These included a flight from Australia to the UK in 72 hours.
Group Captain Mullen said: “This has been a tremendous evening and I am delighted to see so many of our personnel recognised today. I was hugely impressed by the talent and motivation of the personnel who work at RAF Shawbury. Whilst all the nominees are worthy of recognition, my congratulations go to award winners this evening. Thank you also to our Defence partners Ascent Flight Training and Airbus UK and to the Drapers’ Company, London for their support in making the Aries Awards such a special occasion.”