A Freeman with the Company and a Cadet Forces Adult Volunteer with the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, Dan Holden shares his reflections ahead of Remembrance Day 2024.
For me, Remembrance Sunday is not just about looking back at the past; it’s about acknowledging the importance of our present and our future. The lessons we can learn from history are crucial in helping future generations in society shape their future. As a volunteer with the Air Cadets for over 14 years, Remembrance Day is an important moment each year, helping young people understand the value of freedom and the sacrifices made to preserve it.
I want to share a local perspective of remembrance with you and invite you to join me in the Cotswolds, England.
RAF Little Rissington is the former home to the RAF Red Arrows and the Central Flying School, which opened in 1938. Occupied by the United States Air Force in the 80s and 90s, it returned to the RAF before becoming the home of 621 and 637 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons, providing gliding opportunities to Air Cadets across the UK.
About five minutes down the road is St. Peter’s Church in the small village of Little Rissington. The church built close connections with the airfield, with a dedication to those personnel who lost their lives serving from RAF Little Rissington between 1937 and 1976 through a memorial window. It features crests of the Central Flying School, the Red Arrows, and the Royal Air Force Association, along with the keys of St Peter’s and a dove of peace.
On my first visit to the church, walking among the 49 Commonwealth War Graves, a badge on a headstone caught my eye. It was that of the Air Training Corps, part of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. I was struck; there was a young person from the same organisation for which I volunteer today. Cadet George Edward Kenneth Stone
Thanks to the Chipping Norton branch of the Royal British Legion, I discovered more about Cadet Stone.
On 11 September 1943, Cadet Stone was a passenger on an Air Experience Flight in an Airspeed Oxford from RAF Little Rissington, along with the pilot and a Beam Approach Instructor. Sadly, their aircraft collided with another Airspeed Oxford, coming down north of Southrop Village, with the loss of all persons onboard.
Whilst not a casualty of conflict, I am sharing this with you because Cadet Stone was an extended member of our Armed Forces family, perhaps himself looking to join the Royal Air Force. To see Cadet Stone resting at peace alongside military personnel from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA reminds me that no matter where we might come from, we all experience the same sense of loss.
This year, Remembrance Day also closely reflects on my own family. Earlier this year, we lost our father, and I learnt for the first time his military history, a short period serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers between 1975 and 1982. Discovering stories of his time in the Army, supporting operations in the UK and overseas, was bittersweet, not having had the opportunity to talk about these in person with him but proud of his achievements.
Private Philip Holden, back row, second from the right
Let us remember, appreciate, and work towards a world where peace and unity prevail, ensuring that the sacrifices of the past were not in vain.