The Air Training Corps
is made up of Squadrons and was in existence to provide manpower for the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy Air Service (later to become the RN Fleet Air Arm) and the Army Glider Pilot Regiment (later the Army Air Corps). The training cadets received in the ATC prior to reaching the minimum age for military service ensured that they could be effective far more quickly in the country’s war effort. Where a cadet was accepted as aircrew to one of the flying services, he was awarded for the remaining period of this cadet service, a white flash to wear on his field service cap (side cap) in the case of the RAF or a red RNY (RN Youth Service) badge to wear on his right shoulder in the case of the Royal Navy.
The 1475 Squadron was founded on the 12th June 1941 as No 1475 (3rd Lewisham) Squadron by the London Borough of Lewisham and commanded by Flt Lt Percy Rees. Flt Lt Rees was in the Royal Navy during the First World War (1914 to 1918) and was too old to serve in the forces during the Second World War and so he remained in his prewar job as school master at Colfe’s School teaching Mathematics. He was also a keen rugger player and coached his school’s teams. The Squadron formed part of the London Area ATC and had its headquarters situated on the Phoenix Insurance sports ground in Catford on the junction of Perry Hill and Rutland Walk SE6.
Every borough considered it their duty to raise as many ATC squadrons as possible and Lewisham managed nine units. They were six squadrons, plus three school flights (which were actually raised by the schools but was sponsored by Lewisham). The flights were formed during the evacuation period of WWII and became school squadrons after the war with St Dunston’s Flight becoming a detachment of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). The Lewisham units were:
21F (1st Lewisham) formerly an Air Defence Cadet Corps Squadron.
619 (St Dunston’s College) Flight
665 (Colfe’s Grammar School) Flight
768 (Brockley County School) Flight
1229 (2nd Lewisham) Squadron
1475 (3rd Lewisham) Squadron
1887 (4th Lewisham) Squadron
1921 (5th Lewisham) Squadron
2035 (6th Lewisham) Squadron
These units were commanded and staffed by ex-regular officers and SNCOs who for one reason or another eg age were not serving in the RAF at the time.
During the war years 1475 Squadron’s strength was around 150 to 200 cadets. As demand for squadrons increased, new ones were formed. At the end of 1941, the 4th Lewisham squadron grew out directly from 1475 Squadron and was given the number 1887. The new 1887 Squadron was commanded by Flt Lt G C Duncan-Wiggins and was given headquarters in an adjacent sports ground, the Commercial Union’s, in Elm Lane, SE6.
The need for airman was reduced considerably after D-Day (June 1944) and by November of that year, recruiting into the RAF ceased. ATC cadets now found themselves being drafted into the army in addition for service down the coal mines (the "Beavan Boys"); the latter by a lottery system. As a result the numbers of young men joining the ATC declined. Some Squadrons as a result had to close and No 1887 was one of those. In 1945 Number 1887 Squadron was amalgamated with 1475 and because the latter was the senior as 3rd Lewisham the former lost its number and became part of 1475 Squadron. When the war ended, the need for manpower was not so great and thus the strength of the ATC began to decline and squadrons started to close. Of the six Lewisham squadrons only two remain; Nos 1475 and 1921. 665 Squadron is still part of Colfe’s School, but became a Combined Cadet Force (CCF) unit on 1st January 1996.
After the war, in 1946, the insurance company reclaimed its land from military requisition. Therefore, 1475 Squadron was moved from the Phoenix Insurance sports ground to Stanstead Lodge on the junction of Stanstead Road and Blythe Vale SE6. A year later in 1947 the Squadron moved again to West Depot, the site of an old brewery (later to become a United Dairies milk depot), situated in Perry Vale, Forest Hill SE23 and was then known as 1475 (Lewisham West Depot) Squadron.
The Squadron remained at West Depot until 1955. After a short six months spell, at sharing a HQ with 1921 Squadron in Bromley Road, Catford, the Squadron moved once more in 1956 to its present home at High Wood Barracks and having completed 25 years of distinguished service to the Corps and community adopted its badge in 1969. West Depot was dropped from its title to become 1475 (3rd Lewisham) Squadron. In 1973 when the two London wings, City and County, were amalgamated to form the London Wing, the Squadron dropped 3rd from its title becoming simply 1475 (Lewisham) Squadron. With the badge, the Squadron adopted Certamus Vincere (pronounced: Kert-a-mus Win-ker-e), Latin for Strive to Win as its motto which reflects the unit’s spirit and character.
The Squadron was now in Dulwich and yet a Lewisham Squadron. This led to a degree of confusion and did not truly reflect the units home or location, and so to remedy this, on the 1 April 1997, the Officer Commanding dropped Lewisham from the title and replaced it with Dulwich. The Squadron’s full title is now 1475 (Dulwich) Squadron ATC at High Wood Barracks.
In 1988, the Squadron was appointed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London as Heraldic Banner Bearers to the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and Aldermen of the City of London. This privilege indeed unique as in its 470 odd year history, it is the first time that the Pike and Musketmen of the Honourable Artillery Company, the Lord Mayor’s personal bodyguard has allowed anyone to come between them and the Lord Mayor in procession. In 2003 the then Lord Mayor, Alderman Robert Finch wrote: “….1475 Squadron is the only squadron which has the right to carry the heraldic banner to the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs and senior Aldermen of the City of London at the Lord Mayor’s Show….” In 1991, Commandant Air Cadets at RAF Cranwell awarded the Squadron the ATC Certificate of Merit for services to the Lord Mayor and the City of London.
1991 saw a land mark achievement when the Squadron was invited to be associated to Worshipful Company of Haberdashers on the grounds of its services to the local community and to the Lord Mayor of London. To mark the occasion, the Haberdashers Company presented a new Colour to the Squadron. The then Master of the Company, Colonel David Sime OBE MC TD presented the new Colour on 28 April 1991; in its Golden Jubilee year at High Wood Barracks. Cadet Flight Sergeant (later Cadet Warrant Officer) Leonard Wilson (a pupil from Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College) received the Colour on behalf of the Squadron.
Cadet Flight Sergeant Leonard Wilson (right) receiving the new Squadron Colour from Colonel David Sime with Flight Lieutenant Kevin Mehmet, the Commanding Officer, in the background.
In 2001 the Squadron embarked on a project which has led to the award of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund Poignard and the Air Training Corps Certificate of Merit
in 2007. To Mark its Diamond Jubilee the Squadron produced a Christmas charity concert
, dedicated to its patron, the late Jack D Lane DFC in aid of the RAF Benevolent fund. That concert raised in excess of £5000 and was so popular that the squadron was encouraged to produce another in 2003 and 2005. To date, the Squadron has raised just under £18000 for the RAFBF. In recognition of that effort, the RAF Benevolent Fund announced in October 2006 that it was going to present its Poignard (the Fund’s highest meritorious award) to 1475 Squadron. To put it in to context, since being founded in 1919, the RAF Benevolent Fund has only awarded eight such awards; we are the ninth recipient! In turn, the Air Training Corps to acknowledge our achievement has awarded us its own highest award, the ATC Certificate of Merit. There are 33 squadrons in London but only two holders of the Certificates of Merit, and we are already one of those units (presented in 1991 for services to the City of London). This will be the Squadron’s second! The presentations took place on a special parade reviewed by the Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy KCB CBE DSO ADC, Chief of the Air Staff at Dulwich College on Wednesday 30th May 2007.
2004 saw another mile stone in 1475 Squadron’s fortunes. The HQ the Squadron occupied at High Wood Barracks since 1956 was destined for development. Due to the reduction of Territorial Army (TA) Centres, High Wood Barracks, which was also once home to B Squadron 21 Regiment Special Air Service, B Troop 562 Squadron Royal Logistics Corps, and 78 Cadet Company Grenadier Guards Army Cadet Force, were to close and sold for redevelopment. Having relocated the SAS and RLC units, High Wood Barracks as a TA Centre was closed. A small plot of land to the south of the Barracks complex was retained for a purpose build cadet centre. The air and army cadets, being the two remaining units, were relocated to the cadet centre on 28 February 2004. The name “High Wood” was retained for the new cadet centre because of its historical significance to Dulwich. Both units, 78 Cadet Company Grenadier Guards ACF and 1475 (Dulwich) Squadron ATC, now share the cadet centre. Following a period of settling in, Major General The Duke of Westminster KG OBE TD DL, in his capacity as Assistant Chief of Staff Reserves and Cadets graciously accepted an invitation to officially open the cadet centre on Wednesday evening 15th September 2004. The 15th is poignant as it is the anniversary of the day the Battle of High Wood was fought by the men of Dulwich.
The three oak trees on the Squadron’s Badge depict its location at High Wood Barracks, Dulwich. The Barracks were named to commemorate the Battle of High Wood fought on the Somme, Northern France
by the men from the villages of Dulwich, Camberwell and Peckham who made up the two battalions of Dulwich's own regiment, the 21st County of London Regiment (The First Surreys).
The 2nd Battalion fought in Egypt while the 1st Battalion on the Somme. The Battle of High Wood began in the afternoon of 15 September 1916 when 550 men led by 19 officers of “The First Surreys” were
ordered to make a direct attack on a line of German fortifications which was separating two wings of a British force. When the battalion reached the ridge of High Wood, they came into full view of
the enemy guns. The leading platoons were wiped out by heavy German fire, but the survivors kept steadily on until they were able to make a final assault on the German trenches. The engagement had
lasted for one hour, during which time “The First Surreys” were virtually annihilated, and when they were ordered to withdraw the following morning, 60 men and two officers returned.
The ATC falcon hovering over the three trees represents the Squadron’s commemoration of the Battle of High Wood and honours the 1100 dead of Dulwich's own regiment.
The Squadron adopted its badge in the present form in 1969 some years after moving from Forest Hill to High Wood Barracks in Dulwich.
The Squadron motto is Latin for “Strive to Win” which reflects the Squadron’'s spirit and character.
The Dark Blue, Light Blue and Yellow, or Blue, Blue & Gold make up the colours of 1475 (Dulwich) Squadron Air training Corps. They represent the spirit and character of the Squadron. The Dark Blue is the traditional heraldic representation of “service” (from the service dress uniform colour of the British Army). The Yellow is for “loyalty” (in ancient times, a yellow sash or scarf was awarded to a trustworthy officer as recognition of his loyalty, to his King or Emperor, and eventually became a badge of rank). The Light or Sky Blue represents “day” (as in day by day). In short, Blue, Blue & Gold stands for “Loyalty and Service Always.” This is not to be confused with the Squadron motto: Certamus Vincere (Strive to Win).
The tradition of unit colours go back to the time when in the confusion of battle, (when fighting men had no recognisable uniforms) they would rally around a particular coloured/patterned flag. Later this became the flag of the Knight and his coat of arms; eventually developing into the unit colours of today. To be able to rally around the right flag soldiers had to know exactly what it looked like and so each evening at the end of a parade or end of training the troops would be assembled and the colour paraded before them. This ceremony eventually found itself into the Drill Manual and the tradition of parading the unit colours established. Today, colours are no longer carried in action or in a theatre of war. They continue to be, however, a visible symbol of pride, honour, and devotion to both the Sovereign and the country.
In the Forces, colours are consecrated by the Chaplains. This means, those entrusted with the custody of the colour, recognize a religious allegiance and are honour bound to revere and take pride in the ideals and traditions symbolized in the colour. Once, consecrated, colours are closely guarded and when uncased, are honoured by saluting. Colours are destroyed on threat of capture by hostile elements.
Colours are traditionally recognized as a unit's most prized possession and that is very much the case in 1475 Squadron also.
Normally the Squadron Colour (on certain occasions referred to as The Company Colour) is cased and kept in the officer's mess. However, when uncased, the colour is to be paid the highest compliments. Cadets, NCOs and Officers will salute if they see the uncased Colour pass them or they pass it. When on parade, the Colour is always given an armed escort. The Colour is not to be handled or touched except by duly authorised personnel who are normally: The Colour Bearer, the Colour Sergeant, and the Colour Orderly (appointed for parades and usually a newly enrolled cadet or best recruit approved by the CO), will wear clean white gloves for the purpose.
Colours represent loyalty and a focus of unity. They are the embodiment of all that a unit stands for, its past, its present, its successes and achievements, and the unit’s future. Everything that 1475 Squadron is, is symbolised by the Squadron Colour and that is why it is accorded so much respect. No greater privilege can be given to a cadet who is selected to carry the Squadron Colour.
The Colour is hand made in silk and gold wire and weighs over 16lbs (8kg). The present Colour is the third set in the history of 1475 Squadron and was presented to the unit in 1991 by the Worshipful Company Haberdashers to mark the Squadron’s 50th anniversary. For that reason, when the Squadron Colour is paraded where members of the Haberdashers’ Company are in attendance the Colour will be referred to as “The Company Colour.”
The greatest honour which can be given to a cadet in 1475 Squadron is the privilege of being appointed the Squadron Colour Bearer. An appointment he will hold until the end of his service with the Squadron. It is his duty to "keep, guard and protect the Squadron Colour." The appointment of a new Colour Bearer normally takes place on a formal parade.
Escort to the Colour
A Watercolour by the late John Burchill, father of the colour bearer, CWO Harry Burchill, depicted here.