Sir Dusty Miller’s Speech
Lord Trenchard, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of all former Brats and their guests, I would like to thank Lord Trenchard for being with us on this important occasion, and for reminding us of some of the many and diverse achievements of the Halton Apprentice Scheme. Indeed, our Patron, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Armitage of the 56th Entry, who is unable to be with us, has sent the following message which I think encapsulates succinctly, the theme of Lord Trenchard’s speech.
“First my sincere apologies for not joining you today, in the year that marks our 90th birthday. It is an occasion for celebration of course, and we shall be raising a glass or three. But I think it is also a time for reflection on the enormous contribution to the Royal Air Force that we and our predecessors have made, and continue to make. One wonders what Trenchard would have thought if he could have looked forward 90 years and seen what a huge success his scheme turned out to be”
I hope you will all agree we have marked our 90th birthday in fine style. This much improved Grove together with the innovative information board will be a huge attraction to the general public, whilst providing them with historical details of one of the pillars on which our Service was founded.
It remains for me now to thank some of the people and agencies who have made all this possible. First, I would like to thank Bill Kelly (55th) whose initiative it was that led to our acquiring this magnificent site, and Jack Neville and Bill Woodward both 40th Entry, who in 2000, took on the very difficult task of turning a rough brown field site into an attractive Grove.
More recently, the late Ian Sloss of the 105th (see photo left)
accepted the challenge of upgrading the Grove and what we see today is a result of his imaginative ideas for regenerating it to reflect more fully the achievements of the Halton Apprentice Scheme. His tragic death was a great loss to the project, but the team of ex brats he formed to implement it, Ron Priest (207th), Bob Honey (70th), and Richard Cook (97th) latterly under the direction of Duncan Grant of the 99th, continued his work applying all the skills learnt at Halton, to produce this magnificent new Grove. We cannot thank them enough for devoting a great deal of their free time over the past two years to bring this project to a successful conclusion. Gentlemen, Ian would have been very proud of you; you are a credit to his memory.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help and support of the National Arboretum, LSC Ltd, Ian’s former employers who made a large donation in his memory, the Lottery Heritage Fund and Red Kite, the contractors, who designed and built our interactive information board, the first of such amenities to be installed at the National Memorial Arboretum. We thank the ladies and gentlemen of these organisations who are here today, and ask they pass on our thanks to their respective staffs who worked on the project.
I would also like to thank the office team at Halton under office manager Denis O’Brien of the 99th, who made the administrative arrangements for this ceremony and, of course, our own band, the Golden Oldies, who will shortly pipe us to lunch.
It is a great Honour to have the Colour of No 1 School of Technical Training on parade, and we are grateful to Group Captain Jamie Johnson, Commandant of the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering at Cosford for permitting the Colour, not only to be with us today, but also for it to be carried by an NCO, thus following the precedent set when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II presented the Colour to a Halton apprentice in 1952. We thank the RAF students and Staff from Cosford, and the members of the Air Training Corps, who have given us such valuable support throughout these proceedings.
Our Halton experience is indelibly recorded in our memories since it was at Halton, that our personalities and characters developed and matured. In a nutshell, it was where we grew up; Halton made us what we are today.
Fortunately, our memories, customs and traditions are preserved by the RAF Halton Apprentices’ Association – Old Haltonians – and we are deeply grateful to our President, Group Captain Christina Elliot, station commander RAF Halton for the support that she personally gives us, and the tremendous help we receive from station personnel. Halton was our life blood when we started on our journeys in the RAF, and it still sustains us today. Long may that last.
Finally, it is my pleasant duty to read a message received from Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall.
A Special Message from HRH The Duchess of Cornwall
As Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Halton, I am delighted to send this message to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Apprentice Scheme.
You should feel proud of the commitment and sacrifices which Halton Apprentices have made over the decades. From Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine; Don Finlay, the Olympic medallist; and Thomas Gray, awarded the Victoria Cross in 1940; to the many apprentices who served and fell in World War II, you have left a mark for good in the annals of both the Royal Air Force and the nation.
I am particularly pleased that the National Memorial Arboretum will now provide a more public recognition of the contribution made by the 40,000 Trenchard’s ‘Brats’ who were trained at RAF Halton. I look forward to celebrating the Apprentice Scheme’s centenary!
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall