DOUBLE CELEBRATION FOR FLEET AIR ARM’S RESERVISTS
Current and former members of the Royal Naval Reserve Air Branch along with their families and friends gathered at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton to party for a unique double anniversary.
A brilliant summer’s day in Somersetwas the setting for the birthday parade, which celebrated the formation of the RNR Air Branch 35 years ago in 1980 and the 21st anniversary of the first ratings joining the Air Branch, in 1994.
Created on 16 July 1980 to provide flying training for former aircrew officers to prepare for recall to service in time of war and periods of tension, the Air Branch initially consisted only of 35 pilots and observers. Their numbers quickly expanded and the Reservists were soon integrating themselves into all areas of naval aviation activity around the Navy. When rating recruitment began in 1994 the Air Branch grew to just over 485 members, and it could quite legitimately claim to have members in every Fleet Air Arm trade.
Today the Air Branch represents 19% of the trained strength of the Maritime Reserves and delivers over 9000 man-days of support to Fleet Air Arm activities in every aviation specialisation. “Our highly trained and very experienced men and women deliver operational capability to support the Royal Navy on operations and in its everyday business – in squadrons, workshops, control towers, operations rooms and many other areas,” said Commander Barney Wainwright, Head of the Air Branch. “The way we are organised and used has been held up by Government Ministers as an outstanding example of how Reserve Forces should operate.”
Guest of Honour for the day and providing senior endorsement from Naval Command Headquarters was Rear Admiral Simon Williams CVO, Flag Officer Reserve Forces. He presented a Volunteer Reserves Service Medal and several Falklands Medals to reservists who became eligible after the qualifying period was extended by the 2014 Holmes review. The Admiral thanked the Air Branch for their loyal support throughout their regular and reserve service and remarked how impressed he was by their turnout!
An over-sized birthday cake baked especially for the birthday and big enough for the 200 guests was cut by Louise Wainwright and Kay Kendall, the wives of the Head of the Air Branch and the Executive Senior Rate.
Executive Senior Rate of the Air Branch, Chief Petty Officer Geoff Kendall is very proud of what the Air Branch has achieved over the preceding 35 years. “Utilising our skills and experience from many years of service we make a tremendous contribution to very much all areas of the Royal Navy, not just the FAA. As
UK’s Reserve Forces become increasingly more significant, I believe the Air Branch leads the way by retaining that all-important ‘Experience in Reserve’.”