News Section

Leicestershire Cadets are "The Few"

Article posted: Sep 20, 2015 by Sqn Ldr Mayoh-Smith

South and East Midlands Wing staff and cadets from squadrons across Leicestershire joined members of The Royal Air Force Association for the Battle of Britain parade on Sunday 20th September which took place at Victoria Park Cenotaph where the laying of the wreaths took place.

A service of thanksgiving and rededication to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain was held at St James the Greater London Road, Leicester – when RAF Heroes immortalised by Winston Churchill as “ The Few “ decisively fought off the German Luftwaffe’s largest bombing offensive of the war against Southern England.
The Parade was led by 1F City of Leicester Squadron band and the cadets proudly marched through Leicester, with all the Squadron banners being paraded and even cadets assisted by carrying and escorting banners and laying wreaths for some of the local RAFA Branches.

After the parade, cadets from 1947 ( Birstall) Squadron escorted the members of the RAFA to the grave of Mr John Hannah VC at St James the Great Church in Birstall to lay a wreath.
John Hannah VC (27 November 1921 – 7 June 1947) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Born in Paisley and educated at Bankhead Primary School and Victoria Drive Secondary School, Glasgow, Hannah joined the Royal Air Force in 1939. After training as a wireless operator he was promoted to sergeant in 1940. He was attached to No. 83 Squadron, flying Handley Page Hampden bombers as a wireless operator/gunner. He was 18 years old, making him the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross for aerial operations (and the youngest for World War II), and a sergeant in No. 83 Squadron, Royal Air Force during the Second World War. On 15 September 1940 over Antwerp, Belgium, after a successful attack on German barges, the Handley Page Hampden bomber (serial P1355) in which Sergeant Hannah was wireless operator/air gunner, was subjected to intense anti-aircraft fire, starting a fire which spread quickly. The rear gunner and navigator had to bail out and Sergeant Hannah could have acted likewise, but instead he remained to fight the fire, first with two extinguishers and then with his bare hands. He sustained terrible injuries, but succeeded in putting out the fire and the pilot was able to bring the almost wrecked aircraft back safely.

Squadron Leader Sarah Mayoh-Smith Wing Staff Officer said “The cadets were outstanding and a credit to the Wing, It was one of the best Battle of Britain Parades I have attended. All the dignities at the Service and Parade, afterwards commented how smart they were and every member of the Air Cadet Organisation was in step!! I am extremely proud to be associated with them.” The day was however, one of reflection, pride and honouring the sacrifice of a previous generation, many of which were the same age as our older cadets, who stood tall in the face of great danger and adversity. It can certainly be said that the ‘few’ over 150 staff and cadets of the South and East Midlands Wing stood tall in honouring the ‘few’ of 1940.