School Assembly Visit on Wednesday 22 April
The County Chairman Anny Reid visited Leighterton Primary School to tell them about the upcoming ANZAC Day Parade that the children would be involved in. She was accompanied by her husband David, Angela Jarvis, and Ian Ross form the RBL. Flight Lieutenant Rick Seager MBE and Corporal Michelle Gorman of No. 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), who are based at RAF Brize Norton represented the Armed Services.
The children were told that The Gallipoli Campaign took place between April 1915 and January 1916. Australian and New Zealand soldiers were undergoing training in Egypt prior to being sent to France. However, they were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and then grouped with regular British and French troops and were then sent to Gallipoli instead. The date of their landing, 25th April, is known as "Anzac Day" and is often considered as marking the birth of national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand. It is the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in those two countries, surpassing Remembrance Day.
The children then heard why there were ANZAC graves in the local cemetery. Near the end of WW1 Australia set up its own Air Corps. In 1917 the first detachments were sent to the U.K. and this lead to the establishment of the First Training Wing of the Australian Flying Corps in January 1918. Minchinhampton hosted Number 1 Station and Leighterton hosted Number 2. Trainees came to the squadrons once they had completed 6 week’s basic training and passed a written exam in aeronautics, Morse code and the theory of artillery. They would then fly 12 times with an instructor, each flight lasting 15 minutes, before going solo. They would complete 4 hours of solo flight before going on to advanced training. Minchinhampton trained in single-seaters whilst at Leighterton training was in two-seaters. The planes used were Sopwith Pups and Sopwith Camels, the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5A and Avro 504. The Sopwith Camel had particularly poor handling characteristics. A plaque to their endeavours has been erected on the wall of the cemetery at Leighterton. The Anzacs became well known locally for their daredevil flying. The Anzacs left the Stations on 11th May 1919 after which Leighterton reverted to farmland. Training was always a risky business, and 24 Anzacs are buried in the small cemetery at Leighterton, a testament to the perils of early flight.
The children then showed the visitors the display boards that they had produced and the research that they had done.