A special parade

Roger's certificate to mark his selection as one of the ATC contingent

Roger’s certificate to mark his selection as one of the ATC contingent

My time in Squadron 34F Balham and Tooting was some of the most enjoyable years of my teenage life in the 1940s. There was a need to be fit and we had physical training every week and, in addition to drill practice on Sunday mornings, we played handball, football, rugby and athletics, as well as organising our own dances. After a testing exam for cadets, I was made a Corporal and later a Sergeant.

In June, 1942, we were asked to supply 25 cadets of 5’8″ to 5’9″ for a ‘special parade’ without knowing what was involved. By this time I was working and it became difficult for me to reach special training evenings at Kennington squadron’s HQ, where we met cadets from other parts of London.

The RAF took a keen interest in this special event and drill was dealt with by senior RAF NCOs. We were whittled down over the weeks to 100 cadets and nine from my squadron were not subsequently included in the final number.

We were given new ATC uniforms with RAF black boots and then shown how to achieve a ‘service shine’ on them. On the final evening of training, we were informed that the parade was to be at a location near Hyde Park Corner on the following Saturday, July 4th, 1942.

When we arrived on the day, we were surprised to see similar numbers of Sea and Army Cadets and we were at last told the parade was an inspection at Buckingham Palace by King George VI. We assembled and marched off behind the Band of the Irish Guards in seniority of the services, ourselves at the rear. I think we were all overwhelmed as we marched into the Palace quadrangle. The King made his inspection and then gave an address.

Afterwards, we marched to Wellington Barracks for lunch served by Guardsmen. After lunch, we marched to Leicester Square for a film, one which was quite inappropriate for 300
excited youngsters as the film was Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers. After the film, we were free to go home. What an experience the day had been.

Roger Bowers, Sutton, Surrey.