A BATON, which is touring the Midlands to mark 100 years of the Royal Air Force, has arrived in Bromsgrove during a special handover ceremony.

Three tokens, representing the three forming elements of the RAF - the Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps and the 'father of the RAF' Major General Hugh Trenchard - will be passed between 87 branches of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) across the UK between April and November this year.

Former and serving RAF members from the local area gathered at Bromsgrove Sporting's Rousler Bar on Friday (May 11) as the Royal Flying Corps baton was handed over to the Bromsgrove and Redditch branch from Leamington Spa and Warwick.

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

The ceremony was opened by Bromsgrove town crier Kevin Ward, who read the promulgation announcing the coordination of all royal airborne arms in 1917.

Speaking at the ceremony, secretary of the Bromsgrove and Redditch branch Graham Kiteley said: "This year we are reflecting on the history of the world's first independent air force to pay tribute to everyone who is and was a part of its existence.

"The history of RAFA runs in tandem to that of the RAF. Today it has 75,000 members, of which 60 per cent are currently serving in the RAF. So while the RAF's history is ours, its future is also our future."

Twelve years after the RAF was founded, the RAFA was established as an organisation supporting the welfare of serving and previous members - work which the association continues today.

The Bromsgrove branch now has 131 members, 30 of whom are currently serving in the RAF.

Branch chairman Brian Lewis told the Advertiser: "This branch has been going for 70 years now and several our members have received Distinguished Flying Cross awards.

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

"I served in the air force myself - I had my training in 1952 and then served three years in the RAF.

"The RAF is like a brotherhood. Once you're in the air force you're always in the air force. I imagine it's the same for the army and the navy.

"Most men here are ex-air force, but we also have female members who are the wives of ex-air force.

"We hold functions throughout the year and meetings every month and raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund to support old serving members of the air force who are struggling, either with their health of financially.

"Flying and the air force is our passion, so to celebrate 100 years is a real occasion for us."

The Royal Flying Corps baton will be passed on to the Worcester RAFA branch on Saturday to continue its relay journey, before the three tokens are united at the Birmingham International Tattoo in November.