A Brief History of 241 Squadron

In January 1941 Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air announced the formation of the Air Training Corps to provide a reservoir of trained young men for the RAF.

Faces of 241 Squadron in 1941

.241 Squadron from the 1940s

Just four days later the Squadron’s founder and first chairman, Sir James Hawkey, the Mayor of Wanstead and Woodford, applied for and was granted £400 from the council to form an ATC squadron within the Borough. As a result, the newly formed 241st (Wanstead & Woodford) Squadron held its first parade night on the 3rd February 1941, in the memorial Church Hall, South Woodford.

By the end of February Sir Winston Churchill had agreed to become the Squadrons first President. Churchill took a keen interest in the Squadron, he visited the Squadron on several occasions and his signature appears in the visitors book dated 1943. In its history the Squadron has had just three presidents, following Churchill was Lord Jenkin of Roding and the current President Lee Scott MP.

By late 1941 the Squadron had split into two and Wanstead & Woodford Wing was formed. The two squadrons had over 1000 cadets, with two full time recruiting shops in Woodford and Wanstead High Roads. The 241st Squadron (as it was known) specialised in Aircrew subjects and 1823 in Engineering. Soon after the war, 1823 Squadron was disbanded and 241 Sqn remained as the Air Training Corps Squadron in the area. A memorial to the all those who served in the Armed Forces during the war can be found in the Squadron HQ today.

For a Headquarters the Wing took over Napier College in Chelmsford Road South Woodford and many of the local schools were also used to provided extra room. Several ex cadets from these early years still keep in contact with the Squadron today. Further premises where at Eagle Lane Snaresbrook.

The Sqn had its longest HQ at its Broadmead Road HQ, a prominent local feature which was a Cricket Pavilion and then an Auxiliary Fire Service Station during the war. However, in 1987 the unit moved to its current HQ at Finchingfield Avenue, which has since been extended twice.

241 Squadron Headquarters

Other notable moments in the Squadron history:

1982 – Sqn expedition to the Alps including ascent of Mont Blanc

1992 – CWO Paul Davidson awarded the Dacre Sword for the best male cadet in the ATC

1994 – Sqn wins the Elworthy Sword military skills competition for Greater London

1996 – Sqn wins the Elworthy Sword

1997 – CWO Chris Pearson appointed Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2002 – The Sqn wins the Morris Trophy for the second best Sqn in the UK

2002 – CWO Holly Brogden-Knight appointed Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2003 – The Sqn wins the Morris Trophy for a second time

2005 – Sqn wins the Elworthy Sword

2005 – Sqn expedition to Ecuador, South America

2005 – CWO Paul Fothergill wins the Duke of Westminster’s Award, awarded to the Best Cadet of all 4 cadets forces in the UK (and was the First Air Cadet to win the Award)

2006 – Sqn wins the Elworthy Sword

2007 – Sqn expedition to the Alps

2007 – Sqn wins the Lees Trophy for the Best Sqn in the UK

2008 – CWO Kristina Pisano appointed Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2008 – Sqn wins the Elworthy Sword, new extension opens

2008 – CWO Ajvir Sandhu appointed Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2009 – Falkland Islands Camp

2010 – Sqn wings the Wing Drill Competition for the 5th consecutive time

2010 – FS Alex Dutch appointed Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2010 – Sqn expedition to Oman

2010 – Sqn wins the Wing Cross Country for the 17th consecutive time

2011 – CWO Alex Dutch wins the Dacre Broach for the best female cadet in the UK

2011 – Sqn wins the inagural Wing Field Day Competition

2011 – Sqn expedition to Red Sea (Scuba Diving)

2011 – Sqn wins the Wing Cross Country for the 18th consecutive time

2012 – Sqn wins the Wing Field Day for the second time

2012 – Sqn wins the Wing Cross Country for the 19th consecutive time

2013 – FS Akshay Mandalia appointed Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2013 – Sqn wins the Marling Trophy at CISSAM

2014 – Unveiling of Sqn memorial to Royal Marine Tom Curry – ex cadet killed in Afghanistan

2014 – WO(ATC) Phil Wright is awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) for his services to the ATC

2014 – Sqn wins The Elworthy Sword

2014 – Sqn wins the Falling Plate Trophy at CISSAM

2014 – Sqn wins the Wing Cross Country for the 20th time in 21 years

2015 – Sqn wins the Wing Field Day

2015 – Sqn wins the Elworthy Sword

2015 – CWO Campbell Wing Representative for the Dacre Sword

2015 – Sqn comes 2nd at CISSAM

2016 – the Sqns 75th Anniversary Parade

2016 – Sqn wins the Wing Field Day

2016 – Sqn comes 2nd at CISSAM

2016 – Sqn wins Wing cross country

2017 – FS James appointed at Lord Lieutenants Cadet for London

2017 – FS Holder appointed as the first ever Mayors Cadet for the London Borough of Redbridge

WO Norman McGrath BEM

Warrant Officer Norman McGrath joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was mobilized for full time service in 1939 serving until the end of the Second World War. He saw active service on the front line in North West Europe in 1944 – 45 and was fortunate to remain physically unscathed during his service. On his return he married his prewar sweetheart, Ethel, for a marriage that lasted into the 21st century.

In the late 1940’s a member of the Sqn staff, persuaded Norman to come down to the Squadron for 6 weeks to teach the cadets about the .303 rifle. He ended up serving as a member of staff for an unbroken 51 years, with over 30 years in uniform as the Squadron Warrant Officer until his death in 2002.  He was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 1970s for his service and was a Brother of St John, reflecting his other passion, that of first aid. He became the “Grandfather of the Squadron” and his spirit and service  are still an inspiration to the staff and cadets on the unit.

To commemorate him, the Squadron now runs an annual competition named after him. It is an inter-Section event between the 8 main sections on the Squadron testing basic military skills which they have learned through their cadet careers. More details can be found in the “Other Activities” section of the website.

Celebrating the Past

So as to celebrate its past, and its future, 241 holds an biannual Dinner and Dance to celebrate another year of 241 Squadron. All staff, Nco’s, Cadets and ex-cadets come together for a “dining-in” night in the style of an RAF Officers mess for the night, celebrating what 241 was and is today. The night includes a 3-course meal, talks about how the Squadron has progressed and its plans for the next year, as well as allowing the cadets of today to meet the cadets of yesterday. It proves to be one of the best nights of the year with our ex-cadets always returning the year after, some from over 40 years ago!

Dinner & Dance

The Current Squadron

Today, the Squadron is one of the largest cadet Squadrons in the country, and is commanded by Squadron Leader Jerry Godden RAFVR(T). Other Staff include:

Fg Off Myles Webb – Adjutant

Fg Off Robin Shaw – Sqn Officer

Fg Off Sam Holland – Sqn Officer

Squadron WO Phil Wright – Drill, Discipline and Stores

NCOs (ATC) – FS Jack Chavner, Sgt Luke Benjafield, Sgt Alex Sadler, Sgt Harry Chavner

Civilian Instructors – David Grant, Jason Parker, Kirsty Troy, Michelle Cheah, Dan Burgess, Jess Goldman, Alex Dutch, Jack West, Arron Mondahass, Lucy Russell, Emma Hutchinson, Akshay Mandalia, Chris Raj, Alan Bearn

The Squadron’s size is slightly changeable but at any given time there are about 100 current cadets, 6 uniformed staff, and 20 civilian instructors. It is classed as an “A” class Squadron with over 100 cadets

The Squadron motto ‘E pluribus unum nulli secundus’ translates as ‘One of many, second to none’.

The Squadron on parade