Marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force

Marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force

Mon, June 04, 2018

A series of commemorative events have taken place in Ballymoney and Coleraine to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The events were organised by the local branch of the RAF Association, Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, the Royal British Legion and the Kingdom of Dalriada Ulster Scots Society.

The day began with a workshop in Ballymoney Town Hall for 250 pupils from Ballymoney High School, Dalriada and Our Lady of Lourdes which was hosted by the Kingdom of Dalriada Ulster Scots Society and funded by Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council. In attendance were representatives of the RAF, including Air Vice-Marshall David Niven.

There was a unique opportunity to learn about RAF air gunner Flight Sergeant Francis McCluskey of Ballymoney who was shot down and killed over the Netherlands in 1942 and is buried in Rhenen. A delegation from the Netherlands, including Hans van der Pas, Mayor of Rhenen, and Toon Blokland, a Dutch war historian, delivered a gripping account of Flight Sergeant McCluskey’s fateful last mission and told the pupils how this story had now helped to establish strong links between Rhenen and Ballymoney.  Following this, a talk was given on the Battle of Britain and the consequences if the RAF had not defeated the Luftwaffe back in 1940.  Air Vice-Marshall David Niven told the assembled pupils about the RAF in the past and its present role today.

In the afternoon, a special lunch was generously provided by the Royal British Legion which was followed by a Service of Remembrance at Ballymoney War Memorial in memory of Royal Air Force personnel who have been lost during the last century.  Reverend Alan Knox, Chaplain of the RAF Association, Causeway Branch, officiated at the service and wreaths were laid by Air Vice-Marshall David Nevin, both attending Mayors, Councillor Joan Baird OBE and Hans van de Pas, the Royal British Legion, RAF Association, relatives of Francis McCluskey and local school pupils. Toon Blokland also laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Elst and Polish pupils from Our Lady of Lourdes School on behalf of the pilots from Poland who valiantly served in the RAF during World War II.

The programme concluded with a reception at Cloonavin hosted by Councillor Joan Baird OBE, Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, in honour of the Mayor of Rhenen and the accompanying Dutch visitors.  Mayor Joan Baird said: "Today's events have served as a poignant reminder of 100 years of service and sacrifice by the RAF and how the legacy left by people like Flight Sergeant Francis McCloskey still resonates with us today. I was honoured to host the delegation from Rhenen who joined us for the commemorations and together we will ensure his story is never forgotten.”

The RAF Association, Causeway Branch, would like to thank everyone who supported and assisted the various events which were organised, including the Mayor and staff at Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, the Royal British Legion, Kingdom of Dalriada Ulster Scots Society, Ballymoney High School, Dalriada School, Our Lady of Lourdes School, Air Vice-Marshall David Niven and the many other people who contributed to the commemoration events.