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208 Squadron celebrates 70 years in Leeds
Cadet Corporal Charlotte Mannion in a glider
Gliding is on of the activities on offer in the ATC

The Air Training Corps (ATC) is marking 70 years of service in 2011.

208 (North Leeds) Squadron was one of hundreds established in February 1941 during World War II to prepare young men for the Royal Air Force.

BBC Leeds talked with members of the squadron that is based in Oakwood,

Chris Sheard commands the squadron, a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF Volunteer Reserve he has been in charge since 2004.

"The ATC teaches self-discipline and self-respect and it's a meritocracy, cadets get out what they put in."

208 Squadron is one of three in Leeds - the others being City of Leeds and Pudsey.

Chris first became involved with 208 Squadron 15 years ago.

Enemy territory

"My son asked to help with the simulation of a Vulcan bomber that had 'crashed in enemy territory' (actually Otley).

"It was really a walk from A to B but the cadets had to watch out for 'snipers' (armed with cameras). Despite the atrocious weather a lot of people turned out and when I saw that effort I decided to become a civilian instructor."

Later Chris went to the RAF college at Cranwell and has moved up the uniform ranks.

Cadets from 208 Squadron
Cadets from 208 Squadron taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award

Now he's also a canoe instructor and mountain leader who is helping up to 20 cadets through the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

Cadets can experience shooting, glider flights (even going solo) and flying. The training can even lead cadets to a BTEC qualification.

First formed to improve cadets' physical capabilities and get them ready for the wartime air force the modern ATC is more a youth organisation allied to the RAF.

Cadets get the opportunity to go into the RAF, if they want to, but equally the ATC exists for members to experience events with their friends.

Chris Sheard is sure of one thing: "If the cadets put the work in the benefits will stay with them for the rest of their lives."

kingsley Simpson from Moortown agrees, for the last seven years he's been a cadet with 208 Squadron and, at the age of 20, his final parade will be at the squadron's 70th birthday celebrations.

Not that he's finished with the ATC.

"I want to snap back straight into it as a volunteer to inspire others and to give something back. I've been involved with a lot of big parades and I am excited about my last parade."

"If you enjoy a good time the ATC is fantastic."

ATC 70th logo
The logo of the 70th anniversary of the ATC

Celebratory evening

On Friday, 4 February at 7pm 208 Squadron hold a celebratory evening with a drill parade and an exhibition of archive material.

It will be an opportunity for cadets past and present, VIP guests and anyone connected with 208 Squadron to meet and celebrate.

More event details from Ene Kitching on 0113 266 1184.



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