A WORLD War Two Lancaster bomber roared over Cardiff City Hall last night in memory of the 75th anniversary of the Dambuster raid and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF.
The flypast heralded the opening of the RAF100 Aircraft Tour with aircraft spanning the hundred years of the RAF displayed on the lawn in front of Cardiff City Hall as part of celebrations to mark the mark the service’s 100th year.
The Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the elite drill team of the RAF, The Queens Colour Squadron both performed at a Sunset Ceremony. Then followed a gala dinner in City Hall raising funds for the RAF100 Appeal.
Veterans, family members and Air Cadets were invited to see the aircraft in advance of the site opening to the public on Friday 18 May.
The event marked the start of the RAF100 Aircraft Tour which will visit five other cities across the UK.
A Spitfire and a Typhoon jet are among the aircraft on display over the coming weekend in the centre of Cardiff.
People can also see a First World War Sopwith Snipe fighter, a Harrier jump jet and a Wessex search and rescue helicopter.
Youngsters will also be able to try a range of science-based fun activities including virtual reality experiences and challenges with a flying theme.
School children from across South Wales have been specially invited to the see the aircraft and try out the science activities before the site opens to the public at 1100 on Friday 19 May.
To help make the aircraft exhibits come alive current trainee RAF pilots will re-enact the life of RAF pilots during the First World War and the Battle of Britain and be on hand to talk about the stories behind the machines.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the Chief of the Air Staff, said: “Our 100th anniversary celebrations give us a unique platform from which to showcase the character of the RAF and the opportunities we offer. We want people across the UK to be inspired to find out more about why working in the RAF is so extraordinary and to realise that the world-class training and opportunities that we offer make it an outstanding place to learn, develop and progress. We want young people to be ambitious and realise their potential, so that we can continue to be a dynamic force for good across the nation and can continue to protect the nation, as we have done so successfully throughout our first one hundred years.”
The RAF’s senior officer in Wales, Air Commodore Adrian Williams, said: “As part of the RAF Centenary, it’s fantastic to welcome the RAF’s Static Exhibition to Cardiff this weekend. It will provide a fascinating snapshot of some of the RAF’s most famous aircraft over the last 100 years and I am sure the Welsh public will enjoy having a close look at them. As part of the exhibition, there will also be a number of additional displays and activities to engage young people in the importance of science, maths and engineering, which the RAF hopes will inspire them to do well in these subjects at school and perhaps develop this further in their future careers The RAF has very strong bonds with Wales over its 100 years, and the Welsh public have always been so supportive of what we do. I hope all our visitors have a really great experience with our Static aircraft Exhibition, which is part of a much bigger RAF 100 programme across Wales as a whole.”
Air Commodore Paul Higgins, RAF Benevolent Fund Chief of Staff, said: “This evening’s gala dinner was an excellent opportunity to remember all of those who have served in the RAF and we are grateful so many wonderful supporters have joined us to help raise vital funds for our charity. “The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund exists to support all of those who have served in the RAF and their country, and has stood side-by-side with those personnel, past and present, and their dependants throughout the Service’s rich history.“
One of the RAF personnel attending the tour is Flight Sergeant Lyndon Griffiths is from Crymych in Pembrokeshire, he said: “I’m very proud as a Welshman and an airman to have the chance to celebrate the RAF anniversary in my capital city.
“I really hope people can take the chance to come down and learn more about the RAF and see the aircraft.”
Lyndon, who works in logistics, has served in the RAF for 32 years, nearly a third of its life, and now his son Scott, 24, is set to take up the baton and join the air force himself. “He’s starting officer training on 28 May – he’s joining the logistics branch – so he’ll be very much following a family tradition.” Lyndon, who has seen service in places like Kosovo, the Falklands, Afghanistan and Oman, added: “The RAF has given me the chance to see countries I never would have had the chance to see. “Apart from my day-to-day work, sport has been a highlight. I’ve played rugby for the RAF and now I referee, I did the Army v Navy match at Twickenham recently.”
Air Cadet Kitty Nunan, from Number 1344 (Cardiff) Squadron, said “I have been lucky enough to fly in many RAF aircraft but having these aircraft, representing 100 years of RAF history, in our own city centre is truly amazing”. Fellow Air Cadet Corporal Ioan Rowlands, who is studying Aircraft Engineering at Cardiff & Vale College said, “I really enjoyed the science and technology activities, especially virtual reality flying and the quadcopter challenge. I am going to tell all my friends to go this weekend”.
The RAF100 Aircraft Tour opens outside Cardiff City Hall at 1100 on Friday 18 May and is then open from 0900-1800 Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 May. Entrance is free.