An Exbrat is anyone that attended an RAF Apprenticeship at any of the RAF’s Technical Colleges.
HRH the Duchess of Cornwall is the Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Halton.
The first recorded military aviation at Halton took place in 1913 when the then owner of the Halton estate, Alfred de Rothschild invited No 3 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps to conduct manoeuvres on his land. Following a gentleman’s agreement between Rothschild and Lord Kitchener, the estate was used by the British Army throughout the First World War. In 1916 the Royal Flying Corps moved its air mechanics school from Farnborough, Hampshire to Halton, and in 1917, the school was permanently accommodated in workshops built by German PoWs.
The whole estate was purchased by the British Government for the Royal Air Force at the end of the First World War for £112,000.
In 1919 Lord Trenchard established the No. 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton for RAF aircraft apprentices, which remained at the station until it moved to RAF Cosford in the early 1990s. Also in 1919, Halton House — a French-style mansion built for Lionel de Rothschild — was re-opened as the station’s Officers’ Mess. Halton House continues to be used as the station’s Officers’ Mess.
Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital Halton was opened in 1927 as a large military hospital. Unfortuntely it was closed in 1995 due to the Government defence cuts. The buildings remained derelict until 2007-08 when they were demolished for new housing in a development called Princess Mary Gate.
During the Second World War RAF Halton continued its training role. Additionally No 112 Squadron and No 402 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force were located at Halton for part of the war.
In July 1952 the uncrowned Queen Elizabeth II performed one of her first duties as Sovereign by presenting a colour to Number 1 School of Technical Training No 1 S of TT); the first to be awarded to an apprentice school, and the first ever to be presented to an ‘other rank’ when Sergeant Apprentice Hines, of the 63rd Entry, received the colour from Her Majesty.
When Number 1 School of Technical Training moved to RAF Cosford in 1993, they took over guardianship of the Queen’s Colour and on 31 October 1997, Her Majesty presented RAF Halton with its second colour. RAF Halton was the only station to be granted the dignity of two Queen’s colours.
The history of the RAF station and specifically apprenticeship training over the years is preserved by the Trenchard Museum located at RAF Halton, and managed by the RAF Halton Apprentices Association. In 2010 a major project by members of the station re-excavated the training trenches used during the First World War and made them available as an educational exhibit.
It is estimated that as many as forty percent of the “Trenchard Brats” or the “Poacher’s Brats” (as the Cranwell Apprentices were called because of their Lincolnshire connection), achieved commissioned rank, and a considerable number achieved Air rank.
Graduates of this scheme include several former officers of Air rank, including Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, father of the jet engine, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Keith Williamson, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Armitage, Air Marshal Sir Graham Miller, and Air Marshal Cliff Spink
The Brats’ alumni association, a registered charity, is called the RAF Halton Aircraft Apprentices Association (RAFHAAA), or Old Haltonians. It publishes a magazine called The Haltonian three times a year. A triennial reunion for Brats is organised by the association.
RAF Halton has its own memorial to the brats opposite Kermode Hall, very close to St George’s Church, which contains stained glass windows commemorating the 40,000 or so apprentices who were trained there. Brats are also remembered at the Halton Grove, which is part of the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire.