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Doncaster Features: History of Doncaster 103 Squadron

A Brief History of 103 (Doncaster) Squadron ATC

By Sqn Ldr Mark Richards MInstLM MAPM RAFVR(T)


The origins of 103 (Doncaster) Squadron, originated back in 1939 when the unit was first founded as a Squadron of the then Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC). The ADCC (which was the forerunner organisation of the Air Training Corps) was set up in 1938 by Air Commodore Chamier and the Air League.

On the evening of the 29th March 1939, a meeting held in the Doncaster Mansion House and it was decided by those present, that a Squadron would be formed under the Air Defence Cadet Corps banner. The then Mayor of Doncaster, Councillor E. Scargill, presided over the meeting and became the first Honorary President of the Squadron and Councillor Harry Morris (an ex World War I pilot) was appointed the first Officer Commanding with Mr W.H.White as the Squadron Adjutant.

On the following Tuesday, 3rd April 1939, the first cadets came along to officially join 103 (Doncaster) Squadron ADCC. Over 100 attended the enrolment meeting which was held at Scarbrough Barracks. At that time, the age for joining was between the ages of 14 and 18 so a number of 13 year olds were placed on a waiting list. The next month was a busy time for the Squadron with a parade at Oswin Avenue School, Balby and the Empire Air day at RAF Finningley.

The aims of the ADCC was to train young men in various aviation relaet Air Arm and the Corps was extremely popular, with thousands joining up all eager to help Britain prepare for World War II. Indeed, many cadets left the ADCC to join the Royal Air Force and serve their country in its hour of need. Some thirty percent of all serving airmen came from the ranks of the Corps, precise details of how many made the supreme sacrifice is not known, however it is reasonable to assume that a proportion of those who died were ex-members of the ADCC.

The first OC, Harry Morris, was appointed to a permanent commission in the regular Air Force, and his successor, Flight Lieutenant A.M. Corbett continued the good work done by his predecessor, and the Squadron band flourished and collected trophy after trophy, being very much in demand in the area, the football team also acquitted itself well, winning matches at all levels of competition and soon 103 (Doncaster) Sqn became the one to beat, the strength of the Squadron grew almost weekly, and soon reached 150 regularly attending members.

The Air Training Corps

In 1941 HM Government realised the true value of the work done by the ADCC and agreed to take over its’ control. This meant a number of changes to the Corps, and in fact brought about the birth of a completely new organisation, the Air Training Corps (ATC). On the 5 February 1941 the Air Training Corps (ATC) was officially established, with King George VI agreeing to be the Air Commodore-in-Chief, and issuing a Royal Warrant setting out the Corps' aims.

The number of young men responding to this new ATC was spectacular. Within the first month the size of the old ADCC had virtually doubled to more than 400 Squadrons and after 12 months it was about 8 times as big. The new ATC badge was designed and, once approved by the King George VI, it was published in August 1941. The motto VENTURE ADVENTURE, devised by Air Commodore Chamier, was adopted by the ATC and incorporated into the badge.

The Air Training Corps Crest

The new ATC squadrons adapted their training programmes to prepare young men for entry to the RAF. Squadrons arranged visits to RAF and Fleet Air Arm stations as part of the cadets' training and to let them fly as much as possible. Everybody wanted to fly but, with so few flights available, many cadets were disappointed. One solution designed to get cadets airborne was to introduce them to gliding. This would give cadets a chance to get the feel of an aircraft in flight and allow them to handle the controls.

'Noli Me Tangere'

The Squadron's motto is 'Noli Me Tangere' which is taken from the Squadron's RAF Counterpart 103 Squadron Royal Air Force. The motto simply means 'touch me not' which is interpreted as 'second to none' or 'untouchable'.

Additionally, the Squadron crest is also based on its RAF counterpart and incorporates the 'Black Swan' or 'Mucky Duck' as it is affection ally known by some ex-members of 103 Squadron Royal Air Force.

The Squadron's crest has recently changed to be more reflective of the RAF Squadron's Crest with the Swan's wings elevated and addorsed (rather than being on water, which is how it used to appear) and the use of the motto in Latin. The Swan was chosen for the RAF Squadron's crest because this bird is very strong on the wing and also well able to defend itself. During 1999, the Squadron used a different crest throughout its 60th Anniversary year.

Female Cadets

It was not until the Squadron’s 47th year (1986) that female cadets were permitted to join the Squadron. The first females enrolled in January 1986 (during this time the ATC was falling in line with the changes to the RAF and WRAF – Women’s Royal Air Force).

The South Elmsall Connection

During the late 1990’s and early years of the 21st century, 103 (Doncaster) Squadron had a Detached Flight (DF) at South Elmsall (Between Doncaster and Wakefield). Originally, the Detached Flight at South Elmsall was formed in July 1991. After several years being passed from parent unit to parent unit as a DF, the unit struggled to retain members and staff, and late in 1998, 103 (Doncaster) Squadron were asked to try and revive the unit, otherwise it would face closure.

In just over three years, the Detached Flight was upgraded to Squadron Status, and became 23 (South Elmsall) Squadron. This is considered a real success story, as the unit was facing imminent closure until the staff at 103 (Doncaster) Squadron stepped in to help turn things around and save the presence of Air Cadets in South Elmsall.

Commanding Officers

During its seventy year history, 103 (Doncaster) Squadron, has had just fourteen Commanding Officers (with Flt Lt Souter, later promoted to Sqn Ldr, commanding the Squadron twice, the second time round as the Squadron’s Wing Staff Officer).

Special mention must be made of the commitment of Flight Lieutenant Peter Rowson, whose connection with the Squadron spans some thirty odd years.

Sqn Ldr Maurice Beech was the Squadron’s sixth OC who joined the Squadron as a Civilian Instructor and became the Squadron OC (at the rank of Flying Officer) after the previous OC, Flt Lt Harrison relocated to another part of the country. Flying Officer Beech was soon promoted to Flight Lieutenant and he became one of the few officers who held a dual commission, holding not only his RAFVR(T) Commission but also a RAFVR Commission in the RAF’s Fighter Control branch.

After 5 and a half years as the Squadron OC, the then Squadron Leader Beech was appointed as the Deputy OC of the then South Yorkshire Wing. Unfortunately however, tragedy struck, as after only 15 days after being appointed as OC South Yorkshire Wing, Wing Commander Beech was killed in a road accident after returning from RAF Finningley where he had taken some cadets flying.

Both Flight Lieutenants Cooke and Colverson are ex cadets at the Squadron who have returned to take command of the Squadron. Squadron Leader Souter and Flight Lieutenant Wiles (now Squadron Leader RAFVR(T) Retired) were both ex-Squadron Officers who too returned to take command.

Each Commanding Officer has continued the highest standards expected and maintained the traditions laid down by their predecessors.

Commanding Officers of 103 (Doncaster) Squadron ATC

(from its inception to the present day)

Flight Lieutenant Morris
Flight Lieutenant Corbett
Flight Lieutenant Cutler
Flight Lieutenant Rawson
Flight Lieutenant Harrison
Squadron Leader Beech
Flight Lieutenant Summers
Flight Lieutenant Rowson
Flight Lieutenant Wheeliker
Flight Lieutenant Ensor
Flight Lieutenant Souter
Flight Lieutenant Wiles
Flight Lieutenant Cooke
Squadron Leader Souter
Flight Lieutenant Colverson
Present Day

Today, the Squadron retains an active cadet membership along with a dedicated staff team and Civilian Committee.

The Squadron offer’s it cadets the full syllabus of ATC activities such as Flying, Gliding, Adventure Training, Sport, Camps, Shooting, Courses, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, Citizenship Training and Aviation Studies amongst others.

The Future

The fortunes of 103 Squadron have fluctuated over the years, many thousands of young men and women have benefitted from their time spent in its’ ranks.

In 2009, the Squadron celebrated it’s 70th Anniversary and reflected on a proud and successful history. As 103 faces the future it can look forward to future years of achievement from which all concerned can gain a sense of pride and belonging.

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