In November 2013, twenty-two Air Force Cadets from NSW & the ACT, along with a number of Officers and Instructors, went on the trip of a lifetime. The four week tour of France and Belgium included some significant places – the beaches at Normandy, Menin Gate at Ypres, and Ploegsteert Wood in Flanders. The cadets paid homage to Australian war veterans, staging a Remembrance Day service at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Bayeux, France.
There was some fun along the way as well, with the group having the opportunity to visit the A380 factory near Toulouse, Mont St Michel, and the Eiffel Tower, with some time for more tourist stops on the trip home via London and Singapore.
Throughout the trip, the cadets would discuss the day’s events each evening. These evening chats soon developed into a light-hearted ‘kangaroo court’, where cultural and language faux pas were ‘tried’ and penance paid into a communal kitty. What started out as a joke soon turned into a significant sum of money, which the group unanimously decided to donate to a worthy cause.
On their return to Australia, the group chose the Australian War Memorial as the recipient, inspired by the powerful sites they had visited on their trip. Two representatives, Leading Cadet (LCDT) Anav Deo and Cadet (CDT) Aaron Chown, presented the money to Dr Brendan Nelson.
After the presentation, Dr Nelson spent some time with LCDT Deo and CDT Chown, telling them about a significant painting in the AWM collection, Menin Gate at midnight (Ghosts of Menin Gate) by Will Longstaff.
AAFC tour group with buglers, Menin Gate, Ypres, November 2013
CDT Aaron Chown, LCDT Anav Deo, Dr Brendan Nelson, Australian War Memorial, March 2014. LCDT Deo is presenting the funds to Dr Nelson. CDT Chown and LCDT Deo were two of the 22 cadets on the trip.