Air cadets are looking forward to a bigger and better future with the opening of their new home.

The official unveiling of 473 (Hartlepool) Squadron’s new £296,000 headquarters is a major investment in the youth of the County Durham town.

Based within an existing wing at the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations (RFCA) building on Easington Road, it replaces two dilapidated huts which had stood in the grounds.

The refurbished centre with its drill hall, classrooms, offices, servery, and outdoor sports area, was formally opened by Mrs Sue Snowdon, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, on Thursday [April 6] at what was a special parade night for the Squadron.

She unveiled a plaque before touring the facility, meeting cadets and staff, seeing some of the exciting activities the Air Training Corps offers, and handing out commendations, including a silver Duke of Edinburgh Award to 15 year old Rebekah Kadhim.

Mrs Snowdon said: “I am delighted to have been asked to open this exciting new centre that is investing in the energy and enthusiasm of the area’s young people and helping give them something to aspire to in the future.

“Having toured the centre, spoken to the cadets this evening, and heard their stories, I know that the Air Training Corps has not only helped give them a purpose in life, but is helping nurture their leadership skills, self-motivation, confidence, and instil in them a sense of community.

“I hope that many hundreds of other young people who walk through the door of this centre in the years to come will be equally inspired.”

Among the other VIP guests at the opening was the Mayor of Hartlepool, Cllr Rob Cook, and his wife Brenda, and representatives of the North of England RFCA and the Durham/Northumberland Wing ATC. The Durham/Northumberland Wing Band provided music throughout the evening.

The centre has been paid for by the North of England RFCA and HQ Air Cadets. It will be home to 20 cadets, uniformed staff, and civilian instructors, who until recently were housed in 40 year old wooden huts.  

Hartlepool Squadron is sharing the Easington Road building with the Army Cadets and 162 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps, with whom they work closely.

Cadet Kadhim, who joined the ATC three years ago, said the new-look centre made attending Hartlepool Squadron an even more enjoyable experience. “We now have lots more space and it’s a really great place to be. I feel it is better for the whole Squadron, and we will now have the chance to do more exciting activities and hopefully encourage more cadets to join us.

“I get the chance to do all sorts of things that other people my age don’t, such as shooting, rock climbing, and flying, and now I have achieved my silver Duke of Edinburgh, which I would never have done if I hadn’t joined.”

Officer Commanding 473 (Hartlepool) Squadron, Flying Officer Deborah Fairbotham, said the project had opened up even more opportunities for young people from the area.

“It is a wonderful new facility and we are extremely grateful to the North of England RFCA and HQ Air Cadets for making this move possible.

“I am now very much looking forward to filling it with cadets and giving them the chance to take part in a host of challenging and exciting activities that will help build their confidence and self-reliance, test their initiative, and provide progressive training.

“Our move to more welcoming premises is already bearing fruit. As news has spread we have seen an influx of junior cadets.

“This new centre drives the Squadron into the future. We are fully internet enabled with facilities that now make us the envy of many other groups. We hope this home lasts us for another 40 years and encourages yet more young people from the town into the spirit of ‘Venture Adventure’ as set out in the Corps motto.”