RAF air cadets’ Mile End Squadron win Queen’s top award for voluntary work

An RAF air cadet training

An RAF air cadet training - Credit: RAF Cadets Mile End

Air Cadets in a squadron in London’s deprived East End that was set up after the 2011 riots have won the Queen’s highest Award for Voluntary Service.

The award, the MBE equivalent for voluntary groups and the highest they can receive, is being made to the RAF Tower Hamlets cadet squadron based at Mile End.

The squadron, which was set up in the wake of the 2011 disturbances which hit areas of east London including Bethnal Green, Bow and Hackney, has since helped hundreds of youngsters get qualifications and take part in flying and adventurous training.

The award, announced yesterday on the anniversary of the Queen’s 1953 Coronation, is being given for “outstanding work in their community”. The unit receives it from the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London later this summer.

“They are an example to us all,” the Squadron’s honorary president, Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, said.

“What the air cadets at Mile End and their volunteer officers have achieved is now being recognised.

“These young people are from every part of the East End, drawn from all communities and working together.”

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Squadron volunteers attended a Buckingham Palace garden party last month, where they met the Queen and other winners of this year’s award.

The group has been part of high profile parades at the Cenotaph, Guildhall and St Paul’s Cathedral, while 12 cadets even took part in BBC TV’s The One Show in last year’s Battle of Britain memorial celebrations.

Flight Lieut Rex Nicholls, Commanding 31 Tower Hamlets Squadron, said: “We’ve worked with hundreds of young people in the East End since we formed just four years ago and it’s incredible seeing just how far some of them have come, regardless of background.”

The cadets go flying and gliding, train in marksmanship, archery, sport, obstacle courses and parachuting, as well as earning qualifications in St John Ambulance first aid, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and BTECs. The equivalent of 100 GCSEs has been awarded to Tower Hamlets Air Cadets in the last year alone.

The Mile End group, which is recruiting new members next month among youngsters aged 12 to 16, has been recognised as the best Air Cadet squadron in London and the South East and is now in the running for the national UK title. It is supported by the RAF’s 31 Squadron, Canary Wharf Group and the Fishmongers’ Livery Company in the City.