Ceremony marked centenary

Photo by Royal Air Force College Cranwell photographer ' Mr Loz Platfoot
Photo by Royal Air Force College Cranwell photographer ' Mr Loz Platfoot

In celebration of its formation 100 years ago, number 45 (Reserve) Squadron from RAF College Cranwell laid a wreath at a memorial outside HMS Sultan – where the squadron was formed in March, 1916.

The ceremony saw the parading of the squadron standard, with the laying of a wreath by squadron commander, Wing Cdr David Catlow, and 45(F) Squadron Air Training Corps’ commander, Flt Lt Maria Muggridge. A one-minute silence was led by the padre, Sqn Ldr) Colin O’Dell.

While the airfield is now a housing estate, the technical site remains MOD property. A small memorial outside the main gate commemorates the many forms of early aviation and the obstacles that confronted the pioneers. Wing Cdr Catlow said: “This has been a heart-warming and truly humbling experience.”

While the memorial was taking place a working party from the Squadron visited a cemetery in Blyth, to tend to the grave of Major John Charles Bradley Firth MC, a WW1 45 Squadron Ace with 11 victories to his name. Maj Firth has no known living relatives and died in 1931 at the age of 37.

The team from 45 Sqn, Flight Lieutenant Tony Hall, Master Aircrew Jason Brewster, Master Aircrew Ian Marshall and Mr Alex Power were joined by the Head of Blyth Parish Council, Mr Martin Grocock representing the council and the Historical Society and Museum.

The service at the graveside was conducted by the Reverend Kate Bottley, the local parish vicar and well known television and radio personality from ‘Gogglebox’ and the Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

The members of the Squadron took pride in paying homage to the devoted aviator by clearing and cleaning his headstone, prior to laying a wreath and observing a one minute silence.

Flight Lieutenant Tony Hall said: ‘Today we had the honour of remembering the life of Major John Firth, and the heroic role he played in the history of 45 Squadron while serving as a fighter pilot in France & Italy during WW1. Following his RAF service he became a highly respected and active member of the local community in Blyth, and it was heartening to witness that same community actively supporting our commemorations today.’