Big-hearted shoppers have helped air cadets’ raise more than £1,300 for their squadron.

The cadets from 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron ATC spent the two days before Christmas packing bags at Morrisons’ supermarket in Preston Grange, North Tyneside.

And the youngsters aged 12 to 17 who turned out in full uniform with many in Santa hats too, were well rewarded for their efforts at the checkouts by grateful customers.

The squadron provides ongoing charitable support every year for among others the annual Poppy and Royal Air Force Association Wings Appeals’.

But the bag packs on December 23 and 24 were an opportunity for the cadets to raise much needed funds for themselves.

The squadron’s Officer Commanding, Flight Lieutenant Dan Laidler, 25, said: “It is not widely known that the Air Cadet Organisation is a registered charity. As such we are always looking for ways to raise money to help fund our educational and adventure activities.

“The run-up to Christmas can be a stressful time so we are pleased that our cadets were able to help relieve some of the festive pressure by being on hand to help shoppers pack their bags.

“Everyone was in good spirits with many of our cadets donning Santa hats along with their uniform. We met some fabulous people and it was fantastic that so many gave so generously.

“We would like to thank Morrisons for giving us the chance to raise funds in this way, and we really appreciate that so many people allowed our cadets to help them out.

“Every penny raised has made a massive difference to our ongoing fundraising efforts.”

Corporal Ethan Lloyd, 15, was among the male and female cadets who voluntarily gave up their time. He said: “It was hard work but everyone had fun. There was a lot of laughter and banter and while we packed bags we had the chance to chat to shoppers, many of whom had ties with our squadron and happy memories of being a cadet themselves.

“I’ve been with 346 just over two years now and it was great to get out there and help raise money for the squadron. All the cadets know they will benefit from the money raised.”

Flt Lt Laidler added that the bag packs had positively helped raise the profile of 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron.

“Teenagers often get a bad press, but many shoppers complimented our cadets on their courtesy and appearance. We pride ourselves on giving our cadets the chance to engage positively with both school life and the local community.”

The squadron, which meets twice a week on Tuesday and Friday nights at its headquarters in Military Road, North Shields, runs a full calendar of exciting confidence boosting activities from flying and gliding days to adventure training, the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme, shooting and field craft.

It also has a successful military band and is often called upon to take part in community activities, including conservation work at country parks and helping out at festivals and other events.

Last July a party of 346 squadron cadets flew out to South Africa on a once in a lifetime expedition where they helped out on a community project in an impoverished village and also explored the country.

Cadets also have the chance to attend character building camps at RAF bases at weekends and during school holidays where they can take part in navigation

exercises, flying, station visits and night training as well as outings to local attractions.

Money raised at activities like bag packs goes towards helping fund many of these pursuits.

New recruits aged 12 years and over are welcomed at 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron and are issued with a free uniform. Those interested in joining or wanting more information should email Flt Lt Laidler at oc.346@aircadets.org.