Owen George Skane signs on as the first Air Cadet in Swindon in 1941Owen George Skane signs on as the first Air Cadet in Swindon in 1941The Squadron’s history began in 1941 when Councillor Mr H Thorpe was appointed as Honorary Secretary. The Town Hall was chosen as the venue for the first public meeting of the new “Air Training Corps”, and on 29th January 1941 was addressed by Mr WW Wakefield, the MP for Swindon and a reservist in the Royal Air Force with the rank of Squadron Leader. Mr Wakefield was Parliamentary Secretary to the Under Secretary for Air. He was also a member of the Parliamentary committee instructed by the cabinet in 1940 to formulate a scheme of pre-entry into the RAF for the youth of the country in its hour of need. Closing the meeting, attended by teachers, boys and parents, Mr Wakefield announced Swindon would produce three squadrons.

On 6th February 1941, the day after the Air Cadet Organisation was officially formed, the Evening Advertiser reported that an organizing committee had been formed in Swindon. It including the Mayor of Swindon, as well as Mr Wakefield, the Headmasters of three local schools, and various directors of local companies. A photograph in the 24th February’s edition showed Swindon’s first Air Cadet, Owen George Skane, signing his application to join the town’s first squadron, numbered 302. Four days later, 200 boys had joined, and a second squadron had to be formed to satisfy demand. Its number was 1244.


The Early Years

During the peacetime years following World War Two, 302 Squadron slipped into the midst of time. However, 1244 continued to grow in strength and stature. A few years later, 1244 Squadron established its headquarters in the Lawns, occupying former American wartime billets. Detached Flights (small satellite groups attached to the headquarters) were soon formed around the rapidly expanding town. By the mid-fifties, 1244 Squadron had 7 Detached Flights of over 160 Cadets.

Annual Summer Camps were soon organised to give the cadets a flavour of life on an RAF station. More activities soon followed, such as flying and gliding, sports and adventure training. Over the years, the squadron saw many cadets move into successful RAF careers. Two brothers, who joined 1244 in the 1950’s both enlisted in the RAF; one became an Air Vice Marshall in control of Engineering and Supply at RAF Strike Command, and the other a Wing Commander in the department of the Chief of Air Staff.


Rapid Changes

In the 1980’s, girls were allowed to join the Air Cadets for the first time. The squadron’s numbers grew almost overnight. 1244 Squadron moved to new purpose-built premises in Upham Road, and an extension was added soon after. Around the same time, with Swindon continuing to expand rapidly, 1244 Squadron running at near full capacity and expansion concentrated to the west of the town, it was felt there was sufficient need for another squadron. Most of 1244's previous DF's had either closed or become squadrons in their own right by now so, in 1986, Swindon Squadron branched out once again and a new DF was established in West Swindon, parading once a week at Greendown School as 1244DF. 

Numbers at 1244DF steadily increased in the following years, quickly exceeding 50 on the books and regularly parading 45 cadets on an evening. During this time both 1244 and 1244DF enjoyed a great deal of  success, with both units maintaining over 100 cadets between them. On 1st December 2009, the DF was awarded Squadron status and, after a lengthy debate, was allocated the number 633. Not many squadrons start out already having a film and a theme tune of the same name! 


Modern Era

After its inauguration, 633 Squadron went from strength to strength, despite moving premises several times and at any given time operating out of nothing more than a few classrooms at a local school. Throughout the 2010's both squadrons continued enjoying good numbers and high levels of success, both individually and collectively. This included 633 being awarded the Lees Trophy in 2012 (second-best squadron in the Corps), and 1244 being the Wing nomination a few years later. In particular, both units were able to offer their cadets great Adventure Training opportunities due an high number of AT qualified instructors on the books. They also paraded together in the community for events like Remembrance Sunday, and on most occasions produced the biggest turnout of all the cadet/youth groups in the area.

In 2020, with the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, all face-to-face activity was stopped across the ATC, with training and activities being moved online where possible. During this time a Corps wide review of unit feasibility was undertaken and it was decided (largely due to low staff numbers at 1244, and high operating costs at 633 who were still in rented premises) to merge the two units back into one. Whilst this 'new' unit was given the option of re-numbering, it was felt that it should retain the 1244 number due to its history and association with the town. Instead, the name was changed from 'Swindon & District' to simply 'Swindon' to reflect the merge of the two Swindon based units, and also to reflect that the other former 'District' units have either closed or have long been squadrons in their own right.