The Air Training Corps (ATC) is a community based, uniformed youth organisation sponsored by the Royal Air Force. We have over 900 Squadrons across the United Kingdom and even a few overseas. Together with the RAF Sections of the Combined Cadet Force we make up the Royal Air Force Air Cadets (RAFAC), there are over 50,000 air cadets in the RAFAC, they are supported and led by a dedicated team of approximately 10,000 volunteer staff.
Our three aims were set down by Royal Warrant in 1941
- To promote and encourage among young people a practical interest in aviation and the RAF.
- To provide training which will be useful in both the services and civilian life.
- To foster the spirit of adventure and to help develop the qualities of leadership and citizenship.
The Air Training Corps can trace its history back to the 1930’s, when a retired RAF Officer called Air Commodore J A Chamier came up with the idea of forming an aviation youth movement to prepare young men for service in the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. This idea evolved into the Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC) with the first Squadron registering in July 1938. The first fifty Squadrons to be formed were known as ‘Founder’ Squadrons and were entitled to put the letter ‘F’ after their Squadron number. By the end of 1939 the number of Squadrons had grown to 173, and by 1940 there were over 200 with more than 20,000 cadets on strength.
During the early years of the Second World War, the ADCC provided many high-quality recruits to the RAF and FAA and this did not go unnoticed by the government. When wireless operators were in short supply they asked the ADCC to specialise suitably talented cadets in this subject up to a standard of sending and receiving Morse to at least 20 words per minute – and the ADCC responded to such extent that on joining the RAF some cadets were found to be better than their RAF Instructors at sending and receiving Morse.
In June 1940 they asked the ADCC for a major contribution – to take in deferred servicemen – men who had been attested into the Royal Air Force but were awaiting call-up – and to train them (with cadets) in drill, technical subjects, and Morse.
The ADCC willingly undertook this extra task and soon there were some 4,000 men on deferred service attending squadron parades. The number stayed much the same because, as new men joined, others were called-up. On leaving the squadron each of these recruits was given a certificate showing what instruction he had had, what standard of proficiency he had reached and how many parades he had attended. This scheme was most successful and further increased the value of the Corps in the eyes of the Air Council.
During 1940 and after the Battle of Britain in September 1940 the Air Council were coming under increasing pressure to take over the ADCC and to widen its scope very considerably otherwise it might not be possible to build up the Royal Air Force to the strength needed to win the war. Numerous proposals of the kind were being made by people who foresaw that a time might come when the supply of candidates educationally and in character suitable for aircrew service might fall short of the country’s needs.
Towards the end of 1940 it was the Yorkshire County Association who, after canvassing other committees for their opinions, forwarded a memorandum to the Government which advised that taking over the training side of the cadet corps and leaving the forming and staffing of squadrons, finance, welfare and local administration to squadron civilian committees headed by a central civilian advisory committee at Government level would be politically acceptable.
Finally convinced, the Government decided to take over the ADCC on this basis. It was hoped that the infusion of finance would widen the scope and in practice, this proved to be the case since after its formation it was not long before the new cadet corps reached the strength of some 221,000 cadets. This meant a large number of changes to the corps and in fact brought about the birth of a completely new organisation, called the Air Training Corps. So on the 5 February 1941, the Air Training Corps (ATC) was officially established.
The RAFAC have a national Headquarters based at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, this is known as Headquarters Air Cadets or HQAC for short. HQAC are responsible for all ATC Squadrons and RAF Sections of the CCF. It is commanded by an Air Commodore in the Royal Air Force Reserve (RAFR) and reports to No 22 Training Group, which in turn is part of RAF Air Command.
HQAC divides the UK into six geographical areas known as Regions, each Region has a Headquarters and is commanded by a full-time reserve Officer who holds the rank of Group Captain in the RAFR. Each Region is further split into five or six local areas known as Wings, each Wing also has a Headquarters and is commanded by a Wing Commander in the RAFVR(T). Each Wing is then responsible for a number of Squadrons and Detached Flights.
2120 (Witney) Squadron is part of South West Region, Thames Valley Wing. There are a total of twenty-six Squadrons in our Wing, covering the counties of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and these range from Banbury to Slough.