Centenary of death of Wellingborough VC hero honoured with land transfer to cadets

More pictures from yesterday's ceremony
More pictures from yesterday's ceremony

A council has marked 100 years since the death of one of this country’s greatest World War One fighter pilots by supporting future generations of cadets.

Major Edward (Mick) Mannock VC moved to Wellingborough at the age of 20 and went on to become one of Britain’s most successful fighter pilots.

Major Mick Mannock

Major Mick Mannock

As this year is the centenary of the end of World War One and the death of Mick Mannock, Wellingborough Council had been looking at ways to commemorate both.

Councillors agreed last year that the land on which the cadet centre sits in Spring Gardens, Wellingborough, be transferred to the East Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA) with a covenant limiting its use to cadet training.

The centre is home to both the 378 Mannock Squadron Air Training Corps (ATC) and Wellingborough Army Cadet Force (ACF).

Councillors also agreed there would be an official hand-over ceremony, which took place yesterday (Thursday) exactly 100 years to the day since Mick Mannock was killed in action.

Invited guests included members of the ATC and ACF, the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire David Laing, Wellingborough MP Peter Bone and members of Wellingborough Council.

Leader of Wellingborough Council Martin Griffiths said: “This is a year of commemoration for the country as a whole and Wellingborough in particular; not only do we join the national remembrance of the centenary of the end of a ‘war to end all wars’, we also remember the 100-year anniversary of the death of Wellingborough’s adopted local hero, Major Edward (Mick) Mannock.

“Mick Mannock was a young man who was brave and determined, and knew what he wanted to achieve.

“I am proud that the council has decided to honour the ATC, which is named after him, and also the ACF, supporting young people who have their own plans and aspirations – looking to the future as well as remembering the past.”

He said the council often has to make difficult decisions, but added: “This was one of the easiest decisions we have ever made.

“I know that this facility will be in very safe hands.”

Martin Capewell, head of estates at East Midlands RFCA, said: “There are lots of opportunities for personal development in the cadet forces for both young people and adult volunteers alike.

“We are delighted to be receiving the deeds of the land and will maintain the training facilities to the best of our ability.”

Refreshments were served afterwards by Ria Jefferies, a food historian who used to run Ria’s Rosy Lee Tearoom in Cambridge Street, Wellingborough.

Ria specialises in wartime and heritage baking, and she served cakes based on recipes from the time as well as a special tea first blended in honour of Mick Mannock back in 2014 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.

The service and bravery of Mick Mannock has been well-documented.

He was not only Britain’s most successful fighter pilot, with a reported 73 victories to his credit, but also its most highly decorated.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously having already received the Distinguished Service Order three times and the Military Cross twice.

After joining the British Army, Mannock transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and in April the following year arrived in France where he got a reputation as a brilliant and ruthless fighter pilot.

On July 26, 1918, Mannock shot down another German aircraft but then made several low passes over the burning wreckage.

He flew into a storm of German ground fire and crashed.

Mannock’s body was never recovered but his name is on the RFC Memorial at Arras in France and on Wellingborough War Memorial.

His memory also lives on with the town’s Mannock Road named after him.