A Notice of Motion was proposed by Councillor McCorkell, seconded by Councillor Duddy that the Causeway Coast And Glens Council bestows the Freedom of the Borough upon the Royal Air Force, in recognition of 100 years of service, and in acknowledgement of the vital air and ground defence roles which they continue to provide for the security of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Council also recognises through this motion the role the RAF plays across the world when called upon to provide air defence, through sacrifice and adversity’.
James McCorkell said
“The first of April marked one hundred years since the creation of the Royal Air Force, the world’s oldest independent air force, from the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.
The RAF has had an extraordinary record since then: in warfare and in peace-keeping, in supply and relief efforts and in search-and-rescue operations. From the early days of flight during the bloodshed of World War One, when the advance of the German infantry was driven back by RAF air power, basic as it was, to the Second World War and the amazing story of the first woman ever to be awarded the George Cross, Violette Szabo. She was dropped from RAF aircraft, behind enemy lines in France on two missions in 1944 as a special agent.
Modern day flight, both civilian and military owes its advances to the men and women of the RAF as they work to improve aviation technology and continue to be the world’s leading airforce.
But it’s not all about fast jets and dropping bombs. In 2018 the RAF and the RAF Regiment are to the fore in helping countries and peoples around the world.
On 16th May, an RAF Regiment from RAF Honington arrived in Kenya to deliver a specialist training package in counter-IEDs to the Kenyan army who will be deploying shortly to Somalia.
Meanwhile a team from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland are in the process of preparing the Nigerian Airforce and Air Police in counter intelligence in their fight against Boko Harem in Nigeria. So all around the world today, the men of woman of the RAF are using their expert skills to help others.
It is closer to home though where I want to turn as I submit this notice of motion. When I was Deputy Mayor I met many people from all across this Borough who had a connection to the story of the RAF. Everywhere I went, someone would come forward when they heard that I was from Limavady and tell me that they once worked in Ballykelly or that they settled here after finding love when posted to the area.
RAF Ballykelly opened in June 1941 during the Second World War as an airfield for RAF Coastal Command. A year earlier, RAF Limavady, known locally as Aghanloo airfield had been opened. Both stations played a vital role as part of RAF Coastal Command in the fight against Nazi U-Boats in the Atlantic Ocean. By the end of the war, squadrons stationed in Ballykelly had been responsible for sinking twelve U-boats and destroying many more. Londonderry and Lisahalley rightly gets the credit for the place where the U-Boats surrendered, but arguably it was the RAF flying out of Limavady and Ballykelly who brought them to submission.
RAF Ballykelly closed at the end of the Second World War, but re-opened in 1947 as the home of the RAF Joint Anti-Submarine School, a training flight of Shackleton aircraft. The airfield would go on to become home to this famous aircraft, further strengthening the bond between the area, it’s people and the RAF. The last of the Shackleton aircraft left RAF Ballykelly on 31 March 1971, when the site was handed over to the Army as Shackleton Barracks.
After the Second World War the Aghanloo airfield was further used by the Fleet Air Arm until 1958 when it was finally sold off. On that site today there remains remnants of the days when Wellington Bombers once took off and landed. Many of the old buildings which where once used to train and house airmen remain onsite. The most historic is the black dome, used to train anti-aircraft gunners, one of only two left standing. Indeed throughout Limavady there are buildings which bear the marks of the days when they were once used by the RAF in more difficult times.
Churchyards across the Borough are memory to and are the final resting place of those who lost their lives working in this place. Christ Church and Saint Mary’s in Limavady town to name just two.
The RAF and the men and woman who served in the RAF and indeed their families are intertwined in the DNA of our community. Without even going into what the RAF does for our Airwaves airshow, the service they gave and the service the RAF currently gives makes them and the Regiment worthy recipients of the Freedom of our Borough in this their centenary year. For without them, our Borough and our freedom to live here would be much different from what we know today.