History of 321SQN

City of Newcastle coat of arms

History of 321 (City of Newcastle) Squadron AAFC

The Australian Air Force Cadets was formed in Australia as the Air Training Corps on the 11th June 1941, for two main reasons:

a. to provide for the general education of young men between the ages of 16 and 18 years of age who desired to eventually join the RAAF, and thereby to assist the RAAF in its war effort; and,

b. to enable young men who were air-minded to accustom themselves to the practices of the Air Force and to the studies for which their aptitudes fitted them.

When originally formed, the Air Training Corps was divided into six wings, one in each state (except the Northern Territory). Each Wing had its headquarters established in the capital city of each State.

321SQN can trace its heritage to the wartime No 1 Flight of 33 Squadron, which was organized in the Newcastle area. The current unit was formed as 21 Flight, New South Wales Squadron, Air Training Corps in 1953. The flight was based at the selective Newcastle Boys High School in Waratah, drawing most of its strength from that school. Later, when the school was renamed Waratah High School, the flight accepted cadets from throughout the local community area.

In August 1974, the Federal Parliament of the day announced the decision to cease all operations of the Cadet Forces of Australia following a report into the Army Cadet Corps. Despite the government’s intention to disband the flight, 21 Flight continued to parade, meaning that it has now been in continuous operation for more than 60 years. Very strong public opposition and a change of government resulted in the Cadet Forces being reintroduced in 1975.

In 1977 the new Cadet Forces Regulations was approved by the government, allowing the Air Training Corps, Naval Reserve Cadets and the Army Cadet Corps to be reformed with control delegated to the parent arm of the Defence Forces, but with provision for community sponsorship of cadet units. The Air Training Corps consisted of eight squadrons across Australia, one in each state, except for Queensland, which had two Squadrons (divided by the Tropic of Capricorn). Northern Territory also had a squadron and the Australian Capital Territory was part of the NSW Squadron.

In 1980, the first female staff joined the Air Training Corps, and in 1982, the first female cadets were enrolled. Several Air Training Corps flights had female cadets parading as ‘auxiliary’ members around that time, and 21 Flight was amongst the first units to enrol girls as cadets. Today, female cadets make up approximately twenty-five percent of the cadets in the organization.

In the late 1980s, the school at Waratah needed the space occupied by 21 Flight, and so the unit re-located to St Pius X College in Adamstown. It subsequently moved in late 2006 to its current location at Bullecourt Barracks, Adamstown. This accommodation has recently been expanded, ensuring that the unit has its own administration and logistics area, and shares training facilities with other units on the base.

In 1989 the unit was granted the privilege by the Newcastle City Council, to use the city’s name in the unit title. Consequently the unit was designated 21 (City of Newcastle) Flight. The inclusion of the city’s name confirmed the unit’s strong links with the Newcastle area and community. Later, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Cr John Tate, agreed to become the unit patron.

In the year 2000 a review of the Australian Services Cadet Scheme (ASCS) was initiated by the government. This review, known as the Topley Report, recommended the renaming of the ASCS to Australian Defence Force Cadets (ADFC) and the Air Training Corps be renamed as the Australian Air Force Cadets. The Government accepted this recommendation and hence the AAFC was formed in early 2001.

As part of the changes the organisation structure was renamed to align with current Air Force structures. Each state has a wing with the exception of Queensland that has two wings. The wings are numbered starting with No 1 Wing in North Queensland and progressing in a clockwise manner around Australia to finish with Northern Territory as No 8 Wing. Within each wing are squadrons. Each squadron is designated with the wing number preceding the squadron number (ie all squadrons in NSW they are in the 300 range). Consequently in 2001, 21 Flight Air Training Corps was redesignated 321 (City of Newcastle) Squadron, Australian Air Force Cadets.