A few months ago, I was delighted to compere a concert at Heolddu Comprehensive School in Bargoed. The concert was to celebrate and commemorate 100 years of the Royal Air Force. It was a marvellous occasion and it came at an appropriate time because the RAF was formed in 1918, during the closing stages of the First World War.
Probably the proudest moment for the RAF was during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. In 1940, when the invasion of Britain seemed inevitable, the brave pilots of the RAF successfully defended Britain against the might of the German Luftwaffe.
During the war my late father was an engineer on the Lancaster Bombers and for much of the war he served in Ceylon.
Recently I signed-up for the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme and I will be spending some 52 days during the next year with the RAF.
There are two reasons why I chose to enrol with the RAF rather than the Army or the Navy. The first is the fact that the RAF is celebrating its centenary and there could not be a more appropriate time to be with them.
Secondly, in a modest way I feel that I am following in my father’s footsteps. My father always said he learnt so much from the RAF and, hopefully, in a modest way, I will be able to do the same.
As a Shadow Defence Minister it is important that I have a real understanding of how our Armed Forces operate. Rather than simply read about or be told how the RAF works, this Parliamentary Scheme will give me the chance to see and experience for myself what the RAF is all about.
Currently the RAF is deployed in Estonia and Romania, as well as in a number of other places throughout the world. The presence in Eastern Europe is to help deter any Russian aggression. Here, more than anywhere else, the RAF is demonstrating its importance and relevance to the defence of our country and the defence of our close allies.