Last flight for veteran airman Rick
by Lee Hayhurst
SQUADRON Warrant Officer Rick Brand put on his blue RAF
uniform for the final time last week before he retires from the cadet corps after nearly
A farewell party attended by 125 cadets past and present and fellow
officers was held in his honour last Friday at Denham in Buckinghamshire where his
squadron has its headquarters.
It was an emotional night for the 57-year-old from Brougham Road,
Acton, who continued volunteering his time to the cadet service for two years longer than
the normal retirement age before ill health forced his decision to go.
He said: "It's been absolutely brilliant. People think of it as
some sort of youth club which it is not. You don't find many youth clubs where young
people willingly get into uniform.
"There are some wonderful opportunities for young people to
achieve things that are just not open to them elsewhere. We turn out very honest and very
reliable young men and women. I am very sad to go, but that's the way the cookie
At Friday's event, held at the Marlin Baker Sport and Social Club in
Denham, Mr Brand was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal and the Cadet Service Medal for his
"I came away feeling very, very satisfied that a lot of young men
and women have come through my care and I have seen them go on to achieve some very good
things in their lives," he said.
Mr Brand joined the RAF at just 15. He specialised in radio
A life-long amateur radio buff, this was an interest he was able to
develop in the cadet service as its officer in charge of communications training.
He was forced out of the RAF, however, after he was hurt in an accident
and he went on to train as a nurse.
Having worked as a nurse in London he completed his paramedic training
in America and on his return to England started working for Junesco a private air and
ground ambulance service based in Rectory Road, Acton.
He had intended to return to the States but it was while he was working
in Acton that he met Sheila, the daughter of a well known family of Acton builders, S W
Martin and Son.
She was working in a nearby pharmacy and was to become his wife.
In 1984 while working for another private ambulance firm in Heathrow,
Mr Brand renewed his association with the RAF when he became the first ever civilian to be
selected to take its aero-medivac nursing officers' course, an honour that earned him a
mention in the Gazette under the headline "Para-medic Rick is a high flyer".
During his time as a jet-setting paramedic he was sent around the world
picking up seriously ill people from places as far flung as Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg and
He also invented the first portable on board life support machine for
But the legacy of a successful battle against thyroid cancer in the
seventies was taking its toll on his health and he was forced to retire early from work.
He has suffered two strokes but nevertheless looks back on his life with no regrets.
"I have had the best of both worlds. I was lucky to do a job that
I loved. I did not know from one day to the next where I would be and with the air cadet
corps I have had the opportunity to do things I otherwise would not have had the chance
As for the future, Mr Brand says he intends to take life easy, all the
while pursuing his interests in radio and kite flying and ignoring his wife's attempts at
persuading him to shave off his trademark moustache.