Acklington pilots mark 50 years

The RAF Acklington graduates in April 1965.
The RAF Acklington graduates in April 1965.

This Saturday and Sunday, a group of retired Royal Air Force pilots are holding a reunion at the Linden Hall Golf and Country Club to celebrate 50 years since graduation as RAF pilots and receiving their wings.

The group of aspiring pilots who assembled at RAF Acklington for No 174 Course on May 26, 1964, had just completed their Initial Officer Training at South Cerney in Gloucestershire.

The parade slow march past of the class of 1965.

The parade slow march past of the class of 1965.

In 1964, No 6 Flying Training School (FTS) was one of five schools at the time (the others were located at Leeming, Linton-on-Ouse, Church Fenton and Syerston).

The school originated in 1917, training Army pilots for First World War fighting.

Disbanded after the end of the war, the school was revived briefly between 1920 and 1922 before disbanding again.

As re-armament accelerated, No 6 FTS reformed in 1935. During its history, the FTS boasted Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, of Dambusters fame, as one of its pupils and other early graduates gained 727 honours, including five Victoria Crosses and 51 Distinguished Service Orders. In 1961, 6 FTS moved to RAF Acklington equipped with the Hunting Jet Provost training aircraft and remained there until disbandment in 1968.

Acklington had few, if any, permanent buildings and, instead, comprised a village of wooden huts, variously converted.

Only a minority of students owned cars so the station hosted an active weekend social scene, unlike the schools further south within easier reach of London. Locally, the Dirty Bottles in Alnwick was exceptionally popular as it appeared to be, coincidentally, with the Teacher Training College!

Basic pilot training at the time was ‘all through’ on jets and assumed no previous flying experience. The Jet Provost Mk 3 and Mk 4 were two-seat side-by-side jet trainers with a single Armstrong Siddeley Viper engine.

The course comprised some 160 flying hours of which about 110 were dual, under the supervision of an instructor, and about 50 solo.

The Passing Out Parade on April 22, 1965, saw the cherished award of the pilot’s brevet.

Thirteen of the original 19 graduates will join together for dinner at Linden Hall on Saturday at which Squadron Leader (Retired) Stuart Miller will propose the toast to ‘Absent Friends’.