What We Do
There are countless exclusive and valuable opportunities available to air cadets, at 56 (Woolwich) Squadron, we are proud to be able to offer a great portion of those and allow our members to grow as individuals therefore.
Discipline is at the core of what we do, with drill activities and many formal parades such as Remembrance Day and many other occasions like the Lord Mayors Show. There are plenty of great opporutnities to make yourself seen and to march out representing a good cause, here at 56.
We also have a well known band, with over half of the squadron taking an active role in learning and playing new music to provide entertainment and a ceremonial role at big events. Band competitions are often common and we are proud to have one of the biggest bands in London Wing ATC.
As a cadet, adventure activities and fieldcraft are also common activities that take place. Ranging from an inter squadron competition (Inness Sword) that assesses all aspects of cadet competence and pushes teams to the limit to squadron combat exercises. Our cadets also have a unique opportunity to take part in the gruelling four day Nijmegen marches, which attract cadets from all around the UK and allow our cadets to be awarded with a set of military medals upon its completion.
Other than that, many other courses and events are available to cadets of varying age and experience, allowing each and every cadet the chance to experience leadership and adventure in a rough environment.
Many qualifications and awards are also available to cadets and at 56, we have many great staff willing to instruct cadets through courses like St John 1st Aid and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards - as well as countless others which are organised by cadets and staff of the squadron. BTECs are also available, with Aviation Studies being the most commonly sought for and most readily available for a cadet to take on. Public Services and many others are also available qualifications which can set a cadet up for the future - giving them the extras that many others wont have.
Presentations and public events are also very common, with cadets being eligible for many recognitions including the Jack Petchey Award.
Flying and gliding is at the core of the Air Training Corps, with opportunities available to every cadet throughout their time at the squadron. Scholarships are also available, allowing cadets to qualify for their PPL and become qualified pilots (sometimes before they can drive).
These opportunities are more common at annual camps, with flights in many aircrafts ranging from the Grob Tutor to the Sea King being on the cadet programme. Flight simulation is even more widely available, with two flight sims based at our squadron for our cadets to use and learn on.
56 Squadron ATC History
A meeting held at the Mansion House, over the formation of the national youth organisation the Air Defence Cadet Corps (A.D.C.C.). The organisation was for air minded youth between the ages of fourteen and eighteen and Staff selected by local committees. Each borough was asked to form a Squadron of one hundred cadets, which would be divided into four flights.
At a meeting of civic and social leaders at Woolwich town hall on the evening of Friday 13th 1939 arranged by the Mayor, councillor T.Watt, it was proposed that Woolwich should form at least one Air Defence Cadet Squadron. It was agreed that a public appeal for donations should take place to raise the £200 required to register the Squadron.
The first parade of 56 (Borough of Woolwich) Squadron of the Air Defence corps took place at the Territorial Army drill hall in Beresford Street in Woolwich on the 1st March 1939 at 1930hrs after enough funds were collected and over eighty cadets had enrolled. The first enrolled cadet was Ronald Emery and the First Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader Owen .H. Furlong, Sir Kingsley Wood the first Patron of the Squadron and the Mayor of Woolwich the first chairman of the committee.
By the end of March 1939 the Squadron was up to full strength and a second Squadron 92 (Borough of Woolwich) Squadron A.D.C.C had been registered and paraded at the drill hall, Footscray Road, Eltham, Squadron Leader A.E. Thomas was the officer in charge.
In July 1939 both 56 & 92 Squadrons amalgamated and moved into new Headquarters at Memorial Hall, Calderwood Street, Woolwich. Soon afterward the Squadron moved again to new Headquarters in St. Johns School Wellington Street, Woolwich. Squadron Leader A.E. Thomas became Squadron Commander after Squadron Leader Owen .H Furlong was called up to serve as a flying instructor in the Royal Air Force.
The new composite 56 & 92 Squadron was the first Squadron A.D.C.C to organise its own first annual camp at warden Bay near Eastchurch. The cadets now numbered at least one hundred and fifty in each Squadron.
On the 1st February 1941 the A.D.C.C became the Air Training Corps so both Squadrons changed the titles to 56 & 92 (Borough of Woolwich) Air Training Corps. In October 1941 the Borough of Woolwich Squadrons became their own Wing within the Air training Corps.
As the Squadron numbers increased and as a lot of these cadets came from the Abbey Wood area, it was decided to form another Squadron Number 1970 Squadron in 1942.
Throughout the war years cadets joined the armed forces and served throughout the war. The Numbers within the Squadron throughout these year fluctuated.
By the 1950’s the strength of the Squadron had reached an all time low, as numbers throughout the Air training Corps decreased as the result of the war finishing. A recruitment campaign by the Squadron during this time helped to increase Squadron numbers. Both 1970 & 1971 Squadrons had closed. The Squadron moved from its Headquarters in the Woolwich Polytechnic school building to new Headquarters at Stadium Road.
The Squadrons’ band made its first appearance at the Royal Tournament in 1965, and gave further displays in 1967, 1970 and 1971 the latter two as part of a larger combined band with another Squadron.
In 1982 tragedy struck the Squadron as a fire caused by arsonists caused damaged to the Squadron. The Squadron lost most of its band, sporting, camping and some training equipment. The Squadron also lost cadet records, paintings and also a Scroll of those cadets whom served the country in its hour of need the Second World War.
The Squadron formed its own Fanfare Trumpet section after raising several thousand pounds through fund raising events and donations from friends of the Squadron. The Trumpet section performed at various functions held by the Royal Air Force and London Wing Air Training corps.
In 1997 Flight Lieutenant Shirley Gore became the first female Commanding Officer of the Squadron.
Over the last decade, cadets of the Squadron have represented it in many major events including the Lord Mayors Show, Festival of Remembrance held at the Royal Albert Hall and the Remembrance parade at the Cenotaph in London and parades held at St. Clements Danes the Royal Air Force Church in London.
In 2003 the squadron held an open day and reunion which upto fifty ex-cadets attended this included cadet whom served in World War. The event was attended by the lord lieutenant of Greenwich as guest of honour.
In 2008, Warrant Officer Mark Bird became the Warrant officer in charge of the Squadron, taking over with only six cadets on the books, but after recruitment campaign in the local area has now built up to 26 cadets and growing, the cadets are representative of Woolwich and its surrounding areas in regards to diversity activity and ethnicity.
In the last years, the Squadron has been busy building up it band which has laid dormant for a number of years, under the guidance of the Band Master, Ron Bonnerlane. The band is now starting to show fruit in musical sound, having switched ICs from Cadet Flight Sergeant Fairwether to Cadet Sergeant Spencer, whilst growing in size.
The remainder of the cadets have taken part in various activities and events throughout the years, which included the Lords Mayors Show, Saint George’s parade, and Annual camps to Northern Ireland, Devon and Wales. The squadron also ran for Lees Trophy in order to qualify as the best ATC squadron, in both 2014 and 2015 - coming as far as region level in 2014, and winning in 2015.