Royal Air Force turns 100… historic planes land at Manchester’s Albert Square for final anniversary event

Historians and British military enthusiasts flocked to Manchester last weekend for a rare glimpse of the aircraft that helped save the country in the 20th century.

The town hall backdrop provided a unique location for the display of several aircraft, including a replica of the Typhoon Euro Fighter, World War 2 Spitfire and a recently completed front section of the S for Sugar Lancaster Bomber that was built in Manchester by Martin Willoughby.

The original S for Sugar was built in Manchester and this replica was a fitting tribute to the famous aircraft.

Mr Willoughby said: “My late father was a ground engineer on the original S for Sugar and so I grew up working on this aircraft.

“I built this as an educational aircraft and I purchased parts for it all over the world.”

Those who experienced the war first-hand were given specially arranged tours by Flight Lieutenant Joe Marlowe (below right). 

Veterans visiting Manchester were clearly moved by seeing the aircraft and the current generation of pilots.

Flight Lieutenant Marlowe explained: “This is a very special year for the RAF, celebrating its 100th anniversary.

“What we want to do is get the Air Force in the public, while celebrating its history, but also celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.”

Flying Officer Damian Shorten, who has been with the RAF for six years, said the event was to expose the public to what they do.

During the day, visitors interacted with the aircraft on display and had the opportunity to sit in the cockpits while gaining knowledge of the RAF and the technology of the future. 

Officer Shorten added: “We had quite a few different events on the weekend which explained to the public what we do and how they can get involved.”

Several display stands introduced the public to the possible careers available as well as the history of the aircraft.  The RAF is more than just about flying, it is about developing skills and there are multiple skills used in everyday careers that can be transferred to the services. 

Officer Shorten explained: “In the RAF people could be caterers, technicians, plumbers and photographers. 

“A chef could want more adventure in the world and join the service and get deployed in another country and come back and get a job in a civilian job.”

The 146th Northwich Squadron Cadets were in attendance to promote youth involvement within the forces.

Lewis Heald, who was celebrating just turning 18, explained: “I’ve been in the cadets for just under three years.

“My Mum rang up the squadron leader and then I contacted him and took it from there.”

There are so many career options available with the armed forces that it can be difficult to choose which path to take.

Cadet Heald explained: “I may go into the RAF as a firefighter and then come out to get a pilot’s license.”

Having a career in the Cadets inspires youths to gain a career in the forces, such as the Royal Navy, Army and the RAF. 

Zak Warburton, who has been a Cadet for six years, said: “It offers so much in terms of going in to either of the other services.

“Being in the service gives you a lot of skills, so that really grasped me.”

Cadet Warburton has gained First Aid qualifications, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award while wanting to pursue a career in the Royal Air Force.

He added: “I want to go in to the RAF in a couple of years after studying a degree in Paramedic Science before taking that into service.”

Life skills is one of the key aspects of the RAF, which is clear throughout the different levels of employment.

Squadron Leader Tim Schofield said: “I’ve been in the RAF for 20 years and played at various levels in the football team.

“It is good for fitness, as well as personal resistance and mental wellbeing and we aim to drive that at people when they take part.”

The tour began life in Cardiff, in May, followed by celebrations in London with a 100 aircraft flyover past Buckingham Palace.  It then visited Birmingham, Northern Ireland and Glasgow before coming to an end in Manchester last weekend.

Throughout the UK there are many locations to see historic aircraft and items from World War I and II including Manchester’s Transport Museum and Burtonwood Heritage Centre in Warrington, which includes aircraft, jeeps, a control tower and artefacts which provide superb learning experiences about Britain’s history in conflict.

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