31 (Tower Hamlets) Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets in London recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for 2016

Tower Hamlets Air Cadets have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the MBE for voluntary groups, and the highest award a voluntary group can receive from the state in the UK.

The successful East London based cadet squadron, which was established in the wake of the 2011 London riots, has quickly become one of the largest cadet units in London, and has helped hundreds of young people earn valuable qualifications, undertake flying and take part in adventurous training.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work in their communities. The awards were created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and winners are announced each year on 2 June – the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. Volunteers from the squadron attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May, where they met the Queen and other winners of this year’s award.

Cadets at the highly active unit have the chance to go flying and gliding, train in marksmanship, archery, sport, obstacle courses and parachuting, as well as earning recognised qualifications including St John Ambulance first aid qualifications, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and BTECs, with the equivalent of over 100 GCSEs being awarded to Tower Hamlets Air Cadets in the last year alone. The group have been part of high profile  parades at the Cenotaph, London Guildhall, St Paul’s Cathedral and twelve cadets even took part in BBC One’s ‘The One Show’ as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial celebrations in 2015. Cadets regularly take part in camps in the UK, and overseas, including Hong Kong, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Germany. Having recently been recognised as the best Air Cadet squadron in London and the South East, the group are now also in the running for the national level competition to identify the best squadron in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets.

The group will receive the award from the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London later this summer.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Committee Chair, former broadcast journalist Sir Martyn Lewis said:

“I warmly congratulate all of the inspirational voluntary groups who have been rewarded for their community work with a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The judging panel for this year’s awards were struck by the quality and breadth of all the successful groups. The thousands of volunteers who give up spare time to help others in their community and to help solve problems demonstrate the very best of democracy in action.”

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP, said:

“I would like to congratulate all groups who received this year’s Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, in recognition of their fantastic achievements. The huge amount of work and commitment these organisations put into their local communities is surpassed only by the passion and motivation of the individuals who volunteer. I hope these groups continue to inspire others to get involved and make a positive impact so that we can continue to build a more compassionate society.”

Hon. President 31 (Tower Hamlets) Squadron Air Cadets, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, said:

“I am very proud to be associated with the Air Cadets at Mile End and their volunteer officers. What they have achieved is amazing and it’s wonderful that their achievements are being recognised. These are young people representing every part of our borough, drawn from all communities and working proudly and effectively together. They are an example to us all.”

Officer Commanding 31 Squadron Royal Air Force, Wing Commander James Freeborough, said:

“My sincerest congratulations to Rex and the team – this award is exceptionally well deserved and an achievement every single member of the Squadron should be proud of. I am in awe of the energy, dedication and commitment of the 31 Squadron (Tower Hamlets) team as they continue to make a significant difference to hundreds of young people’s lives in East London. Very well done.”

Officer Commanding 31 (Tower Hamlets) Squadron Air Cadets, Flight Lieutenant Rex Nicholls, said:

“It is a huge honour for our cadets and the unit to receive this award. Since we formed, just four years ago, we’ve worked with hundreds of young people in the local area – and it is incredibly rewarding to see just how far some of them have come, regardless of background – and the opportunities they now enjoy. Our group is run entirely by volunteers, who have put in a huge amount of effort to help cadets to get the best out of themselves, and learn new skills. The award reflects the support we have received from 31 Squadron RAF, the Fishmongers Livery Company and the Canary Wharf Group and I would like to thank them today and our other supporters for their commitment to our cadets. We are opening to new recruits in July, so it’s a great time for young people aged 12-16 to get involved.”  

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