RAF Centenary

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 8:49 pm on 26th November 2018.

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Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian 8:49 pm, 26th November 2018

It is a great pleasure to follow Bob Stewart. I congratulate him on his excellent tribute to his father and the RAF Regiment; I would say 76 not out—still going.

We find ourselves celebrating 100 years of the RAF, and the men and women who have served to defend this country and our freedom. As we have heard today, the RAF also brings aid and assistance to those in urgent need all around the globe, and takes what is best about this country out to people who are suffering.

I remind the House of the RAF100 celebrations, when a specially designed baton was taken to 100 places associated with the RAF around the UK and overseas for 100 days. That included celebrations in my constituency of East Lothian. East Lothian plays a vital part in the history of the RAF, so it is appropriate that I stand today to remember those from East Lothian who served with the RAF since its founding years. I sincerely hope that there are Members in this House who are aware of East Fortune airfield in East Lothian. The airfield was used from 1918 to 1920, and then again in world war two from 1940 to 1947, when it operated first as a flying training establishment and eventually became the station for a group of de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.

There were also airfields at Macmerry and Drem, which were vital to the RAF during world war two. This is particularly true of RAF Drem, which was the most active fighter station during the war. It was the defence fighter unit for the city of Edinburgh and the shipping area around the Forth, providing first line cover for the city, the Forth bridge and the very important naval base at Rosyth. These three stations brought many RAF personnel to East Lothian and many stayed after the conflicts to bring up their families and become part of the community, so the RAF is closely intertwined with our local history.

East Fortune is now part of the National Museum of Scotland and is one of the best preserved wartime airfields from the first world war across the world. The museum has plans for a sympathetic extension next year to better tell the story of flight in Scotland and around the world, and—more importantly—to tell the history of the RAF. I give credit to Dr Lewis for reminding me of the Vulcan bomber, because the Vulcan bomber that took part in the Falklands conflict and spent some of its time sitting in Brazil is now resident at the airfield, and can be visited and touched by young children.

That brings me to one of the really important things about the RAF. As has been said today, it is one of the largest employers of apprentices, but the RAF and those aeroplanes also spell an imagination and a charge to children who see them, and give them a drive for future learning. We have spent this Year of Engineering seeking to inspire both boys and girls to a future in technology and mechanics, and the RAF does that day in, day out with fly-bys, visits and more.