Friday, July 25th 1952, will ever be treasured in Halton memories, for on that day, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II presented Her Colour to No. 1 School of Technical Training. Halton was especially honoured on that day as this was the first Colour to be received by an Apprentices' School.
The day began gloriously, the sun smiling its blessing on the high-symboled scene; a blue ethereal sky pleasantly anticipating the azure blue of that Colour Her Majesty had graciously consented to present. Her Majesty drove to Halton in warm, brilliant sunshine, along roads lined by crowds, including thousands of schoolchildren, and Buckinghamshire's towns and villages were gay with flags.
At Halton House, Her Majesty was met by the Lord Lieutenant of the County, the Lord Cottesloe, who presented Air Commodore J. G. W. Weston (Commandant, Royal Air Force Halton) and Mrs. Weston, Lieutenant-Colonel T. R. P. Warren (Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire) and Mrs. Warren, and Group Captain F. W. Judge (P.M.C. Halton House, Officers' Mess).
By 11.25 hours, the parade had marched on to the Henderson and Groves Parade Ground to the music of the pipes, the military bands and the fifes; the cased colour had been placed on the piled drums; and the Senior Training Officer, Group Captain D. O. Finlay, himself an ex-Halton apprentice, had taken over command of the parade.
Since there have been armed forces they have carried with them signs and symbols of their unity and strength. In the earliest records of our own military forces mention is made of Colours or Standards which were carried at the head of a Regiment and also showed troops where to rally round their leader.
Such Colours soon acquired a religious significance as well, and became a symbol of fellowship with God. The modern ceremony of "Trooping the Colour" originates in the old observance of "Sending for and Lodging the Colour" dating back to the sixteenth century.
A Royal Colour is now a symbol of the trust reposed by the Sovereign in the Unit receiving it, an emblem of the Unit's achievements, the shrine of its traditions, and a reminder of the sacrifices and devotion of its earlier members.
One had time to look round on the scene. To the north, overlooking the parade, the spreading beauty of the Chiltern Hills. On the parade ground itself, 1,700 aircraft apprentices, standing at ease, proudly awaiting their Queen, their bayonets agleam in the sun. Facing them, the Royal dais, draped in blue. There was a greater urgency in the dense crowds round the square now that the time was approaching for Her Majesty's arrival.
The cheering of the crowds along Groves Road was the first warning of the Royal approach. A hush descended on the parade ground, and a fanfare sounded the "Still" as Her Majesty's car turned towards the Royal Dais. When the Queen had alighted from her car the A.O.C.-in-C Technical Training Command, Air Marshal Sir Victor Groom, formally presented Marshal of the Royal Air Force Air Staff, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor, and the A.O.C. No. 24 Group, Air Vice Marshal R. O. Jones to the Queen.
Her Majesty, a radiant and charming figure in a silk taffeta coat frock in silver grey and a wide brimmed fine straw picture hat to match, then moved to the saluting base and received a Royal Salute from the massed parade. After this the Parade Commander informed Her Majesty that the Escort Squadron and Main Parade were ready for inspection and Her Majesty walked down from the dais into a Land Rover flying the Royal standard, which had drawn up alongside.
Standing in the motor wagonette, and accompanied by the Commandant and Parade Commander who sat on either side, the Queen then drove slowly along the ranks. Meanwhile the massed bands had commenced to play "Greensleeves," that most English of English traditional melodies, symbolising the pastoral England of former Elizabethan days.
The Queen inspects Halton's apprentices prior to presenting the colour. It was the first colour to be received by an apprentices school, and only the third to be presented to the RAF
Her Majesty showed a keen and lively interest in all she saw. She was particularly amused by Lewis III, Halton's goat mascot, who, overcome by the heat, was asleep in the shade cast by the legs of his aircraft apprentice keeper. It ought to be added, to explain his lack of respect, that Lewis is little more than a "kid" and has only recently joined the Royal Air Force, coming in with the 71st Entry of apprentices, and, no doubt, after his three years' training, when he hopes to "pass out" as a Junior Technician, he will have learnt the respect due on these Royal occasions.
Upon the return of Her Majesty to the Saluting Base at the conclusion of the Inspection, the Queen's Orderlies marched out smartly, uncased the colour, revealing the Halton Crest and Motto embroidered on a background of azure blue, and placed it, draped, upon the Drums. Her Majesty having taken up her position behind the Piled Drums with the Commandant upon her right, there followed the consecration of the Colour by the Chaplain-in-Chief, Canon Leslie Wright, who, in scarlet robes, called down God's blessing on ourselves and on the Colour with the words:
Then, laying his hand on the Colour, the Chaplain-in-Chief prayed:
An illustration of the Queen's Colour, which featured in RAF Halton's September 20th 1952 Battle of Britain "At Home" souvenir brochure This was followed, by the Lord's Prayer and finally all were asked by the Chaplain-in-Chief to go forth into the world in peace, with good courage, rendering to no man evil for evil, honouring all men and loving and serving the Lord.
Then came the dramatic moment to which all had looked forward: the Presentation of the Colour. Her Majesty, receiving the Colour from the Commandant, walked slowly forward to where Sergeant Apprentice F. M. A. Hines, the Colour Bearer, waited, kneeling, to receive it. The Queen placed the pike in the socket of the richly embroidered belt and the Colour Bearer, taking the Colour from Her Majesty, rose to attention and stepped back one pace. We had received our Queen's Colour.
Moving to the microphone, while the Colour Bearer and the Parade stood rigidly to attention, Her Majesty was then graciously pleased to address the Parade in a voice heard clearly over the broadcast system:
It was clear then, as it still is, that the Royal Air Force must be able to place the same reliance on the technical skill of its tradesmen as on the gallantry of its pilots and the experience and imagination of its commanders. Halton was the first school to be started for this purpose, and today it gives you not only technical skill but a spirit which is acclaimed wherever the Royal Air Force serves in defence of our Country and our Commonwealth.
It is right, therefore, that Halton should be the first Apprentice School to earn the award of a Colour, and I am sure that you will always remember this occasion, as I shall, as a great day for yourselves and for your Service. Your traditions have been well and firmly established by those who have gone before you. For they have made their mark and have justified the confidence which the Royal Air Force has always placed in them, while many of their number have given their lives in carrying out their duties. From what I have been told and, even more, from what I have seen on this Parade, I am sure that you will be very worthy successors to their example of honour, service and sacrifice.
I congratulate you on your drill and on the smartness of your turn-out, which are proof of your keenness and your quality, and I give you your Colour in the knowledge that while you are here you will guard it well. Let it also be a reminder to you of the trust that I place in the Royal Air Force. During your future service you will, I know, strive to the utmost to be worthy of that trust and to maintain the unsullied standards of which this Colour is a symbol.
The Queen speaks to hundreds of apprentices at RAF Halton
The Commandant then replied to Her Majesty as follows:
The presentation of this colour will not only mark the great occasion of your Majesty's visit but also the renewal of personal association between the Royal Family and this station, which remembers with pride the former visits of His Late Majesty King George VI and also visits of H.R.H. The Princess Royal and His late Royal Highness Air Commodore the Duke of Kent.
Your Colour will ever be a symbol of inspiration to the Apprentices under training; of pride to those who have graduated; and of remembrance to those who have been called to a higher service.
The General Salute was then given to the Colour which was marched to its position in the Escort Squadron in slow time, while the Massed Bands played the National Anthem. Upon the return of Her Majesty to the Dais the Escort Squadron marched past in Review in Slow Time followed by a march past in Quick Time, the Massed Band playing "Calvary of the Clouds" by Alford, "Elizabethan Echoes" by A. E. Simms, "The Royal Air Force March Past" by W. Davies and G. Dyson, and finally "The Standard of St. George" by Alford.
Colourised photos showing the consecration of the Colour and its presentation to F. M. A. Hines
As the colour passed the audience stood, officers, warrant officers, Senior N.C.O.'s saluting, while gentlemen not wearing uniform removed their hats.
The Escort Squadron then resumed its position and the whole Parade advanced in Review Order and gave the Royal Salute, followed by "Three Cheers for Her Majesty." Caps were off and hands were raised in three loud resounding cheers. "The square resounded with the shouts and the hills re-echoed our joy." Immediately after the "Three Cheers" the parade marched past and off parade to the lively and inspiring marching tunes of "The Royal March Past" and the "March of the Halton Apprentices."
On all sides we heard unanimous praise for the smartness, bearing, turn out and precision in the ceremonial drill of the Apprentices. The Press were particularly high in their praise, and one of them spoke of the "sheer perfection of the drill." The steadiness of the apprentices under the trying conditions and the heat was most impressive. As they marched off one recalled the lines:
The Main Parade having marched off, the Supporting Squadrons were dismissed by Squadron Leader A. J. Akhurst, Halton's first aircraft apprentice. We thus saw the first apprentice give the last order and the final salute. A final word of praise for these Supporting Squadrons, who although not taking part in the Ceremonial drill, had to keep still under very trying conditions.
Her Majesty descended to the front of the Dais, where Warrant Officer Hoad, the Station Warrant Officer, and Warrant Officer Craddock, the Parade Warrant Officer, were presented.
Left: ranks of apprentices, including the 69th, stand to attention, right: A view of the dais, with the Royal Standard flying
Entering her car, Her Majesty then proceeded via Groves Road, Main Point, Upper Icknield Way and Main Point to Halton House. All along the route crowds of civilian spectators, including schoolchildren, gave Her Majesty a loyal and hearty welcome. These expressions of loyalty were acknowledged by Her Majesty who smiled happily and seemed to reserve a special greeting for the schoolchildren with their waving flags.
On arrival at Halton House, Her Majesty was received by the President of the Officers' Mess, Group Captain F. W. Judge, and after signing the Visitors' Book and two photographs, the Queen passed through into the Ladies' Room where all those guests who had been invited to luncheon at Halton House were presented to Her Majesty. Among these were several ex-Halton apprentices and a number of Halton officers and their wives.
The Queen leaves the parade ground and heads off to Halton House
After the Presentation, sherry was served in the South Drawing Room where Her Majesty spoke to Air Commodore Weston, and to Group Captain Finlay, about the Olympic Games, showing a lively knowledge and interest. Trumpets then proclaimed it was time to move into the Main Hall for luncheon. When the scene was set, a second trumpet call announced the coming of Her Majesty with the principal guests. With the Colour now lodged in an oak plinth to the North side of the Hall, it was a perfect setting for such an occasion. On Her Majesty's left was the Commandant and on her right the Air Officer Commander in Chief, Technical Training Command. The Chaplain-in-Chief said Grace and the luncheon followed.
After luncheon coffee was served on the Terrace where Her Majesty spoke to several Halton Officers and their wives. Her Majesty showed a keen interest in the Wing Organisation, the Educational side of the Apprentices' training and the Hospital. She also asked questions about the background of the apprentices, the significance of the coloured hat bands and the apprentices' welfare in general. This human approach is happily a characteristic of our Royal Family.
After coffee, Her Majesty proceeded to the North Drawing Room, where eight apprentices had the honour of being presented. These were the Apprentice Escort Squadron Commander, Flight Sergeant Apprentice L. W. R. Parkin, Sergeant Apprentice F. M. A. Hines (The Apprentice Colour Bearer), Leading Aircraft Apprentice R. Thomas of the New Zealand Royal Air Force, Sergeant Aircraft Apprentice K. S. Wijesieri of the Royal Ceylon Air Force, Aircraft Apprentice Proudfoot of the Southern Rhodesian Staff Corps, Aircraft Apprentice S. Durham of the Burma Air Force and, finally, Aircraft Apprentice N. P. Ram who comes from Fiji and is now in the Royal Air Force.
Her Majesty received the Apprentices with her customary charm and put them at ease straight away. Among other things, she asked them questions about their Service careers, and showed a keen interest in their homes. The overseas apprentices all agreed they would take back to their respective countries proud and happy memories of this great and unexpected honour that had been bestowed on them.
The Queen leaves Halton House
As the hour approached for the Queen to leave Halton House, a large crowd of officers and their wives gathered round the Main Entrance. At 14.40 hours the Royal Car drew up and Her Majesty prepared to take her leave, and those privileged to be near saw thirteen-year-old Jennifer Weston present Her Majesty with a bouquet of blue orchids.
Having taken leave of the Lord Lieutenant, the Air Officer Commanding in Chief and the Commandant and their ladies, Her Majesty entered her car and with a smile and a hand wave to the saluting officers and their wives, began her drive which was to take her past some of the airmen's married quarters and the Hospital. Proceeding by way of MacEwan Ride, Chestnut Avenue and Main Point, Her Majesty made a detour along Babington Road and through the Hospital Area and thence to Wendover.
The route was lined from Chestnut Avenue onwards by apprentices, airmen and airwomen and as Her Majesty passed they showed their loyalty and affection by cheering. These cheers the Queen gracefully acknowledged. At the Hospital the Staff and patients gave Her Majesty a tumultuous welcome as she drove past.
Thus the Queen departed, leaving behind her, as always, an impression not only of Royalty but of personal graciousness and charm. It was a proud day for the founder of the school, Lord Trenchard, the school staff, and indeed for the whole Royal Air Force.