It has been another strange year – but there have been highlights!
And one of my highlights has been a trip to Arizona in November to share an 80th Anniversary Celebration with #4BFTS. In 1941, Lend-Lease allowed British Flying Training Schools to be set up in America – #4 was in Mesa, Arizona, and it was here in Mesa we remembered that 80 years ago, the first contingents of young men sailed across the Atlantic in June, July and August 1941 to become pilots and help defeat the evils that were besetting Europe.
America was then neutral but by Pearl Harbor, several hundred RAF cadets had already come to America, enjoyed everything that the New World could offer them including wonderful hospitality, and more importantly, had learnt to fly and sailed home about 6 months later as pilots ready, after a bit more training, to defend their country. Over four years later, four BFTS still trained pilots until the abrupt end to hostilities in August 1945 and several thousand RAF pilots had received RAF Wings; almost without exception, their time in America remained amongst the cadets’ most treasured memories. Several hundred USAAF cadets, who had trained alongside the RAF cadets, proudly wore both RAF and USAAF Wings for the remainder of their service career.
So it is with immense gratitude to the Wings of Flight Foundation in Mesa and the descendants of #4BFTS cadets (and to the US Government who opened up their country on November 8 – just two days before we were due to fly) that my husband and I were invited and able to attend a wonderful weekend of celebration culminating in a service on November 14 (Remembrance Sunday) to remember 23 cadets who never made it home and are buried in Mesa Cemetery. I was proud to represent #5BFTS and honored to stand with the descendants of #4BFTS cadets and remember our fathers and uncles, giving thanks for all the cadets who helped to make the world a better place.
We left Arizona in temperatures of 90oF (32oC) to be greeted at home by snow! Just to remind us that Christmas is coming! As I write, the Omicron variant is gaining a foothold, and none of us known what the future may hold – but wherever you are, I hope you are safe and if needs be, cared for and are able to be with, or make contact with, loved ones wherever they may be.
And so, to everyone, I send Season’s Greetings using the words of Gerry Beardsmore, 5BFTS Chairman from 1998 to 2005:
“From me and mine to you and yours, Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and Health and Happiness and Peace in the New Year”
Scholarly Commons Citation
Harding, J. A. (2021). 5 BFTS Association Newsletter No 21 - Christmas. , (). Retrieved from https://commons.erau.edu/bfts-clewiston-newsletters/9