MOD St Athan commemorative photo for ‘St Athan 80’

By Wg Cdr Steve Rowley


It is always difficult to try and take a unit photograph; to try and get everyone together, get the resources required, decide on the arrangement etc. I had also seen previous photographs from St Athan 70 and 75 events and thought they lacked something – colour and story. They were not black and white images, but they were predominantly RAF. MOD St Athan (East Camp) is still RAF-dominated, but that does not represent the mix of services and people we have on the site.

So I wanted the St Athan 80 photograph to be fully inclusive, open to all sections, all trainees and all personnel from across the Whole Force. Only with this colour added would the picture be truly representative of MOD St Athan on its 80th anniversary. We needed representation from No 1 Air Experience Flight, the University of Wales Air Squadron, the Regional Rehabilitation Unit, the Medical and Dental Treatment Facilities and the Regional Mental Health Team.

The next decisions required were when and where to take the photograph. The date was set for 20 September 2018 and to be taken on the Parade Square, subject to the weather. In true Welsh timing the weather forecast at minus 48 hours was for torrential rain with thunder and lightning! Needless to say, the photograph was postponed.

I learned from the lesson of the first attempt, setting the next attempt for 16 October 2018 and changing the venue to inside the wonderful Gymnasium we have here at MOD St Athan. To make the photograph stand out from a normal unit photograph I decided to use RAF100 branding, but I did so appreciating that not all personnel are RAF. I also wanted to include the RAF100 Baton in the image, which was made by Number 4 School of Technical Training and has been designated as ‘the first historic artefact of the RAF’s second century’ by Air Officer Commanding Number 22 Group.

On the day, the SEWO, WO Steve Brothers, and a few others helped coordinate the arrangement, trying to squeeze everyone into the space available. A wonderful surprise was that more people turned up than was expected, but this made WO Brothers’ job more difficult!

After about 30 minutes making the human-sized jigsaw, we were finally in a position to take the photograph. We, of course, could not get 100% of the 480 Unit personnel in the picture with leave and other distractions, but to get 300 people in the photograph was very impressive. One person who would never be in the photograph was Ray Edwards, the Station Photographer, who had the responsibility of capturing the image.

I am really pleased with the result. The photograph is not perfect, some people are looking away and the layout is not faultless, but I would not have it any other way. MOD St Athan is not perfect, not uniform and somewhat quirky and I am glad that the commemorative ‘St Athan 80’ photograph captures what makes this Unit unique.

Thank you to all the personnel who took the time to be part of the commemorative photograph and to secure their place in the history of MOD St Athan. Thanks also go to WO Brothers and Ray Edwards for their efforts on the day, plus all the other people and sections who helped with kit and dressing for the photograph.

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