Memory Bank

The Air Cadets Return To Princethorpe

This autumn the Air Cadets have returned to Princethorpe College as one of Coventry’s oldest Air Cadet Squadrons, 84 (Coventry Airport) Squadron, formed 75 years ago in 1945 and based at Coventry Airport since 1963 has relocated to the College campus.

Princethorpe has previous connections to the Air Cadets having been the home of a Detached Flight of Southam 2028 Squadron back in the early 1970s, which went on to become 2514 Princethorpe Squadron, so the College is delighted that 84 Squadron is choosing to make its new home with us.

Trawling through the archives has uncovered plenty of fascinating references to the Air Cadet’s previous incarnation here.     

First mention is way back in July 1969 when the Southam Air Training Corps Officers and Cadets visited the College to give a talk to the boys, the talk was followed up with a visit to 2028’s headquarters in Southam.  The first pupils joined the squadron in the September with the creation of a Detached Flight based here at the College (one that is too small to operate individually so instead acts as a satellite of a larger squadron).

By February 1970 the boys had received their first uniforms and by April most had their First Class Wings, showing they had completed their initial training, allowing them to visit RAF camps for events.  By July 1970 the Detached Flight had had four NCOs based at Princethorpe who took on the training of the boys.

In January 1971 the ATC got its first headquarters in the village at the ‘Old School’.  Previously they had been meeting in classrooms (and in the tower briefly). 

The air cadets took part in many different activities with gliding, flying, shooting, night exercises and even morse code mentioned alongside the regular drills, lectures and parades. They also enjoyed visits to RAF camps and there is even mention of the Air Cadet international exchange programme.

In March 1973 the Detached Flight was visited by Squadron Leader Swift with regards to becoming an independent squadron and shortly afterwards they became 2514 Princethorpe Squadron.

Members of the ATC are also mentioned in the Prize Giving Programmes from 1971-1974.

In 1975 Flying Officer Penn (who appears to have been involved from the start of the ATC) left to join another squadron in Coventry. He was replaced by Flying Officer Hall. According to the article at that time there were 20 boys from Forms C to E involved in the Air Training Corps and it was a stable number. They had plans to refresh their HQ and build a new cadet room after exams.

From there the story goes cold as there is then no further mention of the Air Training Corps in any magazine or Prize Giving Programme after 1975.

Southam 2028 Squadron’s website refers to 2514 Princethorpe Squadron, stating that in school holidays cadet members often disappeared to the four corners of the globe, sometimes never returning, and attributes the squadron’s demise in part to that.

Extracts from the archive can be seen here:

1969 The Tower - Story of the RAF

1971 Prize Giving Programme

1971 Princethorpe - The Sky's The Limit

1972 Prize Giving Programme

1972 Princethorpe - ATC and Trip to Shawbury

1973 Prize Giving Programme

1973 Princethorpe - The Air Training Corps

1974 Prize Giving Programme

1975 Princethorpe - Air Training Corps

Do you know what happened to the squadron?  Or can you tell us any more about their previous time here at the College?  Our archivist, Janette Ratcliffe, would be delighted to hear from you please email her at

And if you know anyone who would be interested in joining the Air Cadets then 84 Squadron will be meeting every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning at the College, further information is available from or visit


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Update from the Archive

Our archivist Janette Ratcliffe gives an insight into her role...

You might be forgiven for thinking from recent ‘Updates from the Archives’ that I spend all my days cataloguing. For this edition, I thought that I would share an equally interesting part of my job, which is using the archives to research and promote the history of the College.

One of the key parts of my role is using the archives to answer enquiries. Some of the interesting enquiries I have had in the past year include:

  • Finding the names of Princethorpe men that were killed in World War I before the Year 8 History trip to Belgium and the Somme at the end of June. Year 8 were then able to pay their respects to Private Leonard Tracey who died in 1916 and was listed on the Thiepval Memorial. Leonard Tracey had worked on the grounds at the Priory.
  • We regularly get requests for information about or from past pupils. The son of a past pupil contacted me to see if I had information about his mother’s time here when it was St Mary’s Priory. I was delighted to be able to share multiple references to his mother from the Peeps magazine which showed her to be a talented artist, scans of handwritten articles by her from the Junior Debating Society magazines, an image of her name on the hockey trophy from when she was awarded her colours in 1951, and even a photograph of her that was in the one of the albums. Her son was thrilled as it far surpassed his expectations.
  • If you have visited the college recently, you will have spotted the scaffolding around the clock tower in what was the original chapel at the Priory (which has been a study hall, library, sports hall and theatre in its time since the MSCs opened Princethorpe College). A straightforward enquiry about the original colour of the clockfaces turned out to be anything but simple. It turns out that the current clock was purchased in July 1861 by Reverend Charles Comberbach, who was Chaplain here from 1849 until 1863. It replaced a 30-hour turret clock that was already in place and it had a slate face, 4 feet in diameter. It was bought from William Roskell, Late Robert Roskell and Sons, in Liverpool. It appears that the clock acquired its distinctive blue and gold faces when it was renovated in 1959 at a cost of £400 for Reverend Mother Mary Augustine’s Golden Jubilee. What I haven’t been able to discover is where the black and gilt clock faces that are stored here at the college fit in – did they replace the slate face and were they then replaced again by the current blue and gold ones? If you know the answer, please do let me know.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, I answered 113 enquiries, compared to the 61 I received in my first year here in 2017-2018. The number of external enquiries also more than doubled between the two years.

By the time this newsletter is published, all six of the new Year 7 classes will have had an ‘Introduction to the History of Princethorpe College’. Alongside the talk, they will have looked at a selection of items from the archives and considered what it tells us about the life at the school and the pupils will have thought about what they would like to add to an archive to tell future generations about themselves. This is the first year that I have been involved as part of the Year 7 induction process and I am really excited to see what ideas the pupils come up with.

The Princethorpe Foundation archives now has its own Twitter account. It can be found at @PFdn_Archives and I will be sharing extracts and images found within the archives regularly. It would be great to get lots of Old Princethorpians following it and I am always open to suggestions for the types of content you would be interested in seeing – you can contact me at

Also, a reminder that you can find our catalogue at If you spot a gap in our records that you can fill, please do get in touch. I am able to scan and return your originals if you would prefer to keep them.

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