Lord-Lieutenant honours long-serving Wiltshire Air Cadets officer


As an Air Training Corps officer of 31 years’ experience, Alan Smith, of Westbury, Wiltshire, has always commanded respect.

And, even among cadets who passed through his expert hands a couple of decades or more ago, this still applies, as the 68-year-old explained.

“These days, I can be walking down the main street in my painting overalls – he works part-time in property maintenance – and a 40-year-old will come up to chat and call me ‘Sir’.

“It’s nice to get that sort of reaction but, most of all, to think that long ago this is someone I was able to help during his cadet years.”

He added: “I just wish that more youngsters would take advantage of all the ATC offers because it can have a hugely beneficial impact on the development of boys and girls from all sorts of backgrounds.”

Alan has just been awarded the Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire’s Certificate for Meritorious Service.

He has actually spent the past 41 years in uniform because, before joining the ATC, he served for a decade in the Royal Observer Corps, the former civil defence organisation.

The ATC years began as an adult instructor at Westbury’s 68 Squadron, where his sons Stuart and Martin and daughter Erin all paraded – and where Isabel Besent, one of his ten grandchildren, is now a cadet.

Alan was an officer in the Trowbridge, Westbury and Bradford on Avon squadrons before taking his current post as Warrant Officer in the Dorset and Wilts Wing, which includes Jersey and Guernsey.

Retirement is definitely not on the agenda – “I still enjoy every minute of it,” he adds.

Alan received his award from Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant, Sarah Troughton, during ceremonies at the Town Hall, Devizes. Others to receive Certificates for Meritorious Service were:

  • Retired Flt Lt RAFVR(T) Paul Widdicombe, of 68 (Westbury) Squadron, for his dedication to the Air Cadets in Wiltshire. Paul served with the RAF as an Air Loadmaster for over 20 years, as a uniformed volunteer for the Air Cadet Organisation for over a further 20 years and now continues this voluntary commitment as a civilian instructor.
  • Warrant Officer Frederick Cole, of Swindon Sea Cadet Corps. Ever since joining the Corps in Chippenham, he has supported the unit’s marching band. As well as being an accomplished musician he has gained many instructor qualifications and held key roles at District level. His time is currently divided between unit, district, area and national levels, particularly in overseeing first aid and seamanship training.
  • Sergeant Major Instructor Paul Collins, who became an adult volunteer at the end of his cadet service with Wiltshire Army Cadets in 1979. He soon found himself leading detachments at first Calne, and then Chippenham, and his flair for organisation and logistics he became Company Sergeant Major for both Wessex and Ferozeshah Companies, followed by 5 years as county Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor
  • Sergeant Major Instructor Ethel Giles, who joined Wiltshire Army Cadet Force in July 1989. She soon rose to Detachment Commander at Wilton and Downton and coached the County shooting team before joining the Tilshead Cadet Training Centre support team. She attended her first Annual Camp in 1990 and all 27 since and has earned two Clasps to the Cadet Medal.
  • Petty Officer Christopher Bird, who is a vital member of Swindon Sea Cadet unit and of the wider Avon District and South West Area through his training of cadets and adults as a British Canoeing Union Level 3 coach. He also supports local charities and is a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition supervisor.

Reserve Forces