Members of Pro Patria Lodge No 9952 was approached by Flight Lieutenant Andrew Nickson, the Commanding Officer of 177 Squadron Air Training Corps based at Squires Gate, Blackpool to see if the lodge could donate to a project he was planning. His appeal was to help raise funds to take about 40 Air Cadets to visit some of the First and Second World War battlefield sites during 2020.
The 177 Squadron Air Training Corps has operated in Blackpool since 1940. Young people can join the Squadron from 12 years of age and can stay as a cadet until their 20th birthday. They then have the option to remain and become an adult uniformed staff or a civilian instructor.
The Air Cadets are hoping to visit Flanders in Belgium, in particular Ypres for the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. This ceremony has taken place every evening at 8pm since 1928. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20 May 1940 to 6 September 1944. The daily ceremony was instead continued in England at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey.
During the First World War, Flanders Fields was a major battle theatre on the Western Front, 1,000,000 soldiers from more than 50 different countries were wounded, reported missing or killed in action. The destruction of the city of Ypres and the awful conditions endured during the Battle of Passchendaele became synonymous with the senselessness of war.
The Air Cadets are also planning to visit the World War One Somme battlefields in France. The battlefields of the Somme are located in the beautiful rural landscape of the region of Picardy. The battle took place from July to November 1916 and began as an Allied offensive against German forces on the Western Front. It turned into one of the most bitter and costly battles of World War One. British forces suffered more than 57,000 casualties with over 19,000 soldiers killed on the first day of the battle alone. When the Battle of the Somme ended nearly five months later, more than 3,000,000 Allied and German soldiers had fought each other resulting in 1,000,000 or more killed or wounded.
Many of the Pro Patria Lodge members were in the Cadet Units as youths, Sea Cadets, Royal Marine Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Training Corps and the lodge members remember that they also participated in adventure activities and visits themselves.
The lodge was very pleased to be able to give a donation to the appeal and the presentation of a cheque for £500 was made by the WM Ray Pinkstone to the Commanding Officer of 177 Squadron Air Training Corps, Flight Lieutenant Andrew Nickson. Ray was accompanied by lodge members Mark Tomlinson, Bob Wareham and Ian Jenkins.
Written by Gordon Ivett.