Cadets celebrate 70 years in town

flying, gliding and shooting aren’t the average weekend hobbies for teenagers but for 37 recruits who attend Ilkeston air cadets every week they are.

Ilkeston’s 348 Squadron meet every Tuesday and Thursday and spend their weekends taking part in all sorts of activities and community projects.

This year the squadron celebrates its 70 year anniversary.

They are marking the occasion with an open evening at their base on Albert Street tonight.

Elaine Tonge, secretary of the squadron’s civilian committee, said: “We want everyone to come and see what the squadron does and the opportunities that air cadets offers young people and volunteers.

“We want ex-members to come, people interested in joining and anyone who might want to volunteer too.”

Sgt Lauren Ratcliffe, the Mayor’s cadet, said: “There’s so much for us to do, we go shooting, gliding, flying and it’s all free.

“We go through a training programme which gives us all sorts of skills and being an air cadet looks great on your CV.

“I’ve been coming for two-and-a-half years now and I love it.”

David Tonge, chairman of the civilian committee, said: “People are always saying that there’s nothing for kids to do but you only have to see what’s on offer here to realise that that’s not the case.”

As cadets the recruits can also gain two BTEC qualifications and various other certificates.

After spending 13 weeks as a junior cadet and passing the exams cadets can progress through the ranks.

The cadets are closely affiliated with the RAF and receive funding from them but the links don’t mean all recruits have to pursue a military career.

Civilian Instructor Ivan Eyre said: “We’ve had one cadet go on to become a fast fighter jet pilot but the recruits don’t have to join the air force.

“Being in the cadets sets recruits apart when applying for jobs in all fields.”

Senior Cadet, Kieran Tonge, said: “I enrolled in the cadets nearly two years ago and have enjoyed every minute since.

“We do flying and gliding which is just a real buzz.

“We do weapons handling and shooting on our own indoor range, which definitely beats Xbox games, night exercises where we camp and go on field adventure missions, weekend camps, drill training, there’s so much.

“Never a dull minute to be honest.

“I have recently passed my advanced radio communicators course based over a weekend at RAF Cottesmore and progressed to Senior Cadet. There’s always more to aim for.

“I’ve made loads of new friends and done things I wouldn’t otherwise of done.”