Veterans and dignitaries gather to mark RAF Foundation Day

Veterans mark RAF Foundation Day. Picture by Frank Copper SUS-150404-103458001
Veterans mark RAF Foundation Day. Picture by Frank Copper SUS-150404-103458001

Veterans marked the creation of the Royal Air Force (RAF) at a ceremony on April 1 in the town centre.

The event, which was jointly sponsored by the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) and Hastings & St Leonards Veterans Association (HSVA), saw standard bearers gather in Queen’s Square by the Town Hall.

I found it amusing that our anti-Soviet threat depended on people like Dad commuting on the 134 ‘bus!

Kevin Boorman

Led by the Queen’s Colour and followed by the Standards of RAFA, HSVA and others, veterans marched through Queens Square to the Town Hall.

Kevin Boorman’s father, Lew, who is now 82, was a guest at the event.

Kevin said: “My dad was a guest because he used to work at RAF Fairlight (but actually just within the Hastings boundary).

“The event was held to mark the anniversary of the founding of the RAF on April 1, 1918.

“I spoke on his behalf because he didn’t really want to speak himself, as he’s quite frail, and in a wheelchair.

“I gave a brief history of the station. RAF Fairlight was a radar station, operational by September 1940. After D-Day, in 1944, the doodlebug campaign started and RAF Fairlight was upgraded, with additional radar, and a specialist tracking console. It included a photographic section, radio signals analysts, controllers, engineers, operators and clerks, with the whole site being surrounded by light and heavy anti-aircraft guns.

“Fairlight was downgraded again after the doodlebug campaign finished.

“But in the early 1950s RAF Fairlight was chosen to participate in the ‘ROTOR’ project, built to counter the threat of attack by Soviet bombers, with new, more powerful radar coming on line in August 1952. It was at this time Dad worked there, he was acting sergeant in charge of one of the operations rooms. He initially lived on the base, he remembers 32 sleeping to a billet, but then travelled from his home in Church Road, commuting on the 134 ‘bus. I found it amusing that our anti-Soviet threat depended on people like Dad commuting on the 134 ‘bus!

“Rapidly advancing technology meant the station was redundant by 1956, and it remained on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis until the early 1960s. In 1962 it was surveyed by the then County Borough of Hastings as a possible site for the Hastings area Civil Defence Control, but this scheme was abandoned in 1964. The buildings were demolished in 1973.

“Interestingly, when Dad was there the station was run by a woman, Flt Lt Mitchener – Dad never knew her Christian name, he simply referred to her as Ma’am! Dad said he still has good memories of his time at RAF Fairlight, and of the great camaraderie there.”