An aviation obsessed teenager has become the inaugural winner of a prestigious award presented in memory of a former Air Cadet, whose time with the youth group sparked a high-flying career in the aircraft industry.
Corporal Will Michael, 13, beat off tough competition to win the George Latimer Award for Aerospace Excellence, in recognition of the outstanding contribution he has made over the past year to 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron RAF Air Cadets aircraft recognition team.
And on hand to present the striking new trophy in the shape of a supersonic TSR-2 reconnaissance aircraft at the Squadron’s annual Sabena Awards, was George Latimer’s widow, Janet, and members of his family.
George was an Air Cadet with 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron between 1961 and 1963 and regularly went flying in a De Havilland Chipmunk at what was RAF Ouston (now Albermarle Barracks) in Northumberland, and on annual camps to the likes of RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
His association with 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron ended when he went to work at Heathrow for British European Airways – later British Airways – for nearly 40 years as an aircraft engineer.
Despite moving away from his native North Shields, he never forgot his time as a cadet and the opportunities it opened up to him. When he died at the age of 70 in 2018, his family decided to donate a trophy to 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron in his memory to inspire a new generation of cadets towards aviation success.
Presenting the award to Cpl Michael, Janet Latimer said: “George would often talk with great affection about his time as a cadet with 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron, and the drive it gave him to succeed. Being a cadet cemented his fascination with planes and the aircraft and aerospace industries.
“His ambition had been to join the RAF due to this interest, but he had poor eyesight so applied to companies connected with the subject and started his apprenticeship as an aircraft engineer in October 1963. There is no doubt his interest in aviation was behind his membership of 346.
“George had very fond memories of his time with the Air Training Corps, and before he died he was adamant he wanted 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron to benefit in some way.
“I know he would be very pleased that his name is living on in this new award and, as a family, we hope it will encourage many more talented young people to move into the aviation and aerospace industries.”
Cpl Michael said he was proud to be the first winner of the trophy. “I really love being an air cadet and the opportunities it is giving me. Since joining 346, I have tried so many activities others my age don’t have the chance to, like flying at RAF Leeming, and have learnt lots of new skills, such as first aid, leadership, radio, and playing the drums in the Squadron band.
“It’s the aircraft side that really interests me, though, and being the first winner of this award is a real honour.”
The Latimer family joined 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron staff, cadets, and their parents at the Sabena Awards, which can trace their history back to the 1950s and are named after the former Belgian national airline which donated a trophy for the best all-round cadet, this year won by Cpl Alex Sutherland, 13.
He also picked up the trophy for top Bandsman. Cpl Sutherland is an enthusiastic member of both the Squadron and Durham/Northumberland Wing bands, has participated in a number of national music camps, and has shown strong potential as an instrumentalist.
Other awards included:
Best First Class Cadet: Cdt Ashton Wilson, 12
Best Leading Cadet: Cdt Joshua Bullock, 15
Best Senior Cadet: Flight Sergeant Evie Panvalkar, 16
Wing Commander Knowles Shield for Master Air Cadet Exam: Sergeant Luke De Vall-McMurray, 16
Best Sportsperson: Cpl Jamie Sarma, 15
Best Marksman: Sgt Luke De Vall-McMurray, 16
Squadron Leader Kennedy MBE Cup for Best Non-commissioned Officer: FS Evie Panvalkar, 16
Brian Luke Award for Best Endeavour: Cdt Alexander Evans, 14
Best Flight: No1 Tempest Flight
Officer Commanding’s commendations were also handed to Cadet Warrant Officer Sean Sutherland, 18; Cpls Tamara Chisholm, 15, and Cady Williams, 13; and Cdts Matthew Adams and Isaac and Samuel Watson, all 13.
Officer Commanding, Flying Officer Adam Whisson, said: “This is my first Sabena Awards’ since taking over the Squadron. While we try and honour our cadets’ achievements throughout the year, this is the one opportunity we have where we can celebrate their sustained efforts, whether that be learning a new skill, excelling academically or contributing to the community.
“I am especially proud we have now added the George Latimer Award for Aerospace Excellence to our annual roll of honour. It is wonderful that his memory will live on through this trophy, and any cadet winning it can feel justifiably proud that they have shown the hard work, commitment, enterprise and positivity that is his legacy.”