RAF Centenary

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 8:19 pm on 26th November 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 8:19 pm, 26th November 2018

I add my sentiments to those expressed by my hon. Friend about all those who contributed to the war effort, men and women, because the heroics of the few will never be forgotten; they saved our country and our freedom in the summer of 1940 and thereafter. Although there are few left of the few, our indebtedness to the air crews and ground crews of the wartime RAF is immense and in no way diminished by the passage of time.

I wish to pause at this point to express my appreciation of the modern-day RAF and particularly of those responsible for the quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, who stand ready to defend our airspace 24 hours a day, every day of the year. They have been called upon to do so with increasing regularity in recent years, as the Russians become more audacious in their incursions.

It is important not to let such an important anniversary go by without taking the time to reflect on it. The RAF has served the people of these islands with great distinction. It is right that we, as a United Kingdom, should be proud of them. That brings me to two of the great pioneers in the field of aviation, who lived, worked and did great things in Stirling: Captain Frank Barnwell and his brother Harold Barnwell, who were the British equivalent of the Wright brothers. They established the Grampian Engineering and Motor Company works in Causewayhead in Stirling in 1907, at the foot of the Wallace monument, where they achieved the first powered flight in Scotland. It was very similar to the experience described by my hon. and gallant Friend Leo Docherty. The brothers were in fact Londoners who became great Scottish pioneers—a fitting symbol of the great Union between Scotland and England.

Harold tragically lost his life while testing an aircraft during the first world war, and Frank served his country for many years, gaining the Air Force Cross in 1918. Frank’s three sons all served in the RAF during the second world war, and tragically all three were killed during the battle of Britain or shortly thereafter. I would like to mention their names for the record. They were: Pilot Officer David Usher Barnwell DFC, RAFVR, of 607 Squadron, who died aged 19 on 14 October 1941; Flight Lieutenant Richard Antony Barnwell, of 102 Squadron, who died aged 24 on 29 October 1940; and Pilot Officer John Sandes Barnwell, of 29 Squadron, who died aged 20 on 19 June 1940.

That capacity for service exemplifies so much about the Royal Air Force, and about how bravely those early aviators took to the skies in defence of their families, their communities and their country. That is the type of service that the Royal Air Force has given us as a nation, and we know that we can rely on its vigilance in the skies above us to protect and defend us.

Stirling has a proud connection with the Royal Air Force. The RAF had its Scottish headquarters in Stirling. In fact, the RAF command for Scotland based itself in the Station hotel for the first five years of its operation.