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RAF Centenary Gala

Published: 05 Apr 2018


The curtain was raised on RAF Centenary celebrations at a Gala Evening at the Royal Albert Hall in London over the Easter weekend.

Compered by TV historian Dan Snow and RAF Air Cadets Honorary Group Captain Carol Vorderman, the evening was a rousing mix of live music, recitals, sketches and video.

First class musicians from the Massed Bands of the Royal Air Force, under the assured baton of the RAF's Principal Director of Music Wing Commander Piers Morrell, were ever-present on stage and provided a magnificent soundtrack to the evening's entertainment.

Among those in the packed hall were RAF Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier; the last remaining British Dambuster Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson and Falklands War veteran and Vulcan pilot Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers.

The evening included a meticulous drill display by the Queen's Colour Squadron and a parade featuring serving and veteran members of the RAF who each represented various RAF campaigns over the years.

There was high emotion when RAF nurse Wing Commander Charlie Thompson-Edgar and paramedic Squadron Leader Andy Smith were joined on stage by former Royal Marine officer Jon White, Britain's first triple amputee in the war in Afghanistan. It was the first time the three had met since Jon's life was saved by the RAF's medical emergency response team. The three were given a standing ovation.

Among the guest performers on the night were Simply Red's Mick Hucknall; McFly's Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones, male vocal group Blake, singer Alexandra Burke, the RAF Spitfires Choir, actor Russell Tovey and Dame Penelope Keith, who recited the Noel Coward poem Lie In The Dark and Listen.

Finally, the show saw one of Tony Hancock's most famous comedy sketches - The Test Pilot - recreated live for the first time in 60 years. Hancock joined the RAF in 1943, not long after his older brother, Colin, died in action in September 1942 aged only 24. Hancock's family, along with the families of scriptwriters Galton and Simpson, gave their blessing to the performance, which featured actors Kevin McNally and Robin Sebastian, both of whom starred in BBC Radio 4's The Missing Hancocks. 

The RAF100 event, which was sponsored by BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, was staged in support of the RAF Charitable Trust.

Photo Credit: Jon Salmon

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 Racing Driver

“This is the best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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