346 (Tynemouth) Squadron has a long and proud history.
The Squadron can trace its roots back to 5 February 1941 – the very day that the Air Training Corps was officially established by King George VI.
This makes 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron part of an elite club whose members’ can claim to have been in at the very beginning of what has become one of the UK’s largest community-based youth organisations.
Whilst the Air Training Corps is geared towards giving cadets the chance to experience an incredible array of fun and adventurous activities, its inception had an altogether more serious objective – to help train combat-ready pilots and competent support staff during World War Two.
There had been flying-related youth groups before the outbreak of war. One such was the Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC), which had been set up in 1938. Squadrons were established around the country with the aim of preparing cadets to join the RAF or the Royal Navy’s aircraft division, the Fleet Air Arm.
But when war broke out in September 1939, the government realised the value of the ADCC’s cadets and took control, renaming it the Air Training Corps, or ATC.
Cadets played their part in the war effort. Many went to work on RAF stations, carrying messages, moving equipment, handling aircraft, filling sandbags and loading ammunition belts. By the end of World War Two, almost 100,000 ATC cadets had joined the RAF.
Times have changed and the organisation is no longer a recruiting ground for the RAF – although some cadets do choose to go into the armed forces.
Instead, what the modern-day RAF Air Cadets and 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron offers is the chance for youngsters aged 12-20 to participate in a host of exciting and rewarding experiences and activities not always open to others their age, whether that be flying and gliding, shooting, adventure training, or the possibility to attend international exchange trips and UK-based and overseas camps to RAF bases.
Along the way, 346’s cadets have the opportunity to learn new skills such as canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, sailing, camping, hill walking and drill; undertake leadership training; build their confidence and team-building abilities; gain qualifications from the Duke of Edinburgh Award to first aid and BTECs; participate in a range of sports, and, above all make new friends and have lots of fun!
Eighty years after our inception, 346 is now one of more than 900 Squadrons around the country split between 36 Wings. Tynemouth is part of Durham/Northumberland Wing, which looks after 35 Squadrons stretching from the Scottish Border to Hartlepool.
Between them, these 35 Squadrons boast over 1,600 cadets and staff. Nationally, there are more than 56,000 cadets and staff taking part in hands-on activities aimed at challenging and developing youngsters and adults skills.
If you want to discover talents you didn’t know you had, do things and visit places you never thought you would, make new friends and widen your horizons, then give us a call on 0191 289 3707 or drop by our headquarters in Military Road, North Shields, NE30 2AB.
We meet on a Tuesday and Friday night between 7pm-9.30pm, and you are welcome to join as a cadet from the age of 13 – or 12 if you are currently in Year 8 at school.
Our history may stretch back eight decades, but for our cadets, we are only just the beginning.