History was respected at RAF Wittering last night as people from across the Station gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.
Women and men of all ranks, professions and trades assembled in the Officers’ Mess for a commemorative dinner. The occasion marked sacrifices made by the Service since its formation in 1918, but also celebrated its many outstanding achievements in the last 100 years.
An enthusiastic display of marching and music from the Air Cadets began the evening. After which, the Station Commander, Group Captain Tony Keeling addressed the guests and spoke of the relatively short time between the first ever powered flight in 1903 and the formation of the RAF in 1918.
By definition, centennials don’t come along often and so every detail demanded particular attention. Squadron Leader Jayne Mitchell was the project officer for the celebratory dinner, which had been six months in the planning.
Squadron Leader Mitchell said: “We’ve been so well supported for this event and our team; Warrant Officer Scott, Catering Flight and the Officers’ Mess have been amazing pulling this all together. It wasn’t just about us, we all wanted to create something that our RAF predecessors would have been happy to attend.”
The work and planning certainly showed, with the main dining room transformed into a sea of white and blue. The Lord Lieutenants from Rutland and Cambridgeshire, the Mayor and Mayoress of Stamford and several of the Royal Air Force’s senior figures were among the distinguished guests.
Leading Aircraftman Shane Harfield (29) is a newly qualified RAF chef and the 100th anniversary event was the first time he had cooked for a formal dinner at the Cambridgeshire station.
It was the future to which Honorary Group Captain Paul Beaver, the principal speaker, referred during his speech. He praised the people of the Royal Air Force and their can-do attitude. He then spoke of the RAF’s growing roles in cyber and space and how those challenges will inspire coming generations.
For group Captain Keeling, the occasion was deeply significant. He said: “Looking around me, I was so struck by how diverse an organisation the Royal Air Force has become in a hundred years. We are an evolving organisation, not just technologically, but actually in terms of our people and their skills, gender and backgrounds. That diversity is a source of tremendous strength.”
The Station Commander continued: “Tonight’s dinner has had its serious side, of course, because you cannot think of a century of history and not commemorate those sacrifices. But we can proudly celebrate a century of achievement and of courage, not just in conflict, but also in peacetime. The centenary is a very special moment, the Royal Air Force has served this country with honour so it’s right that we made the occasion count.”