The last tranche of soldiers to complete their Phase 1 training at Bassingbourn Barracks have marched off the parade square and into the history books.
The soldiers were the last to be trained at the barracks before it closes as an Army Training Regiment (ATR).
An Army presence will remain at Bassingbourn until the end of 2012 but no decision has been taken on the future of the barracks. It will be handed back to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) in March 2013.
The DIO is currently engaged in a programme of work to determine the potential utilisation or disposal opportunities of a number of existing MOD sites, including ATR Bassingbourn.
Steeped in military history, the Army has been training soldiers at the barracks for over four decades and, in that time, over 50,000 soldiers have passed off the parade square.
Led by the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers, the last 76 soldiers marched off the parade square in front of a crowd of 800 family members and friends after completing the 14-week course which combined vocational education and military training.
Major General Paul Jaques, Director General Logistics, Support and Equipment, inspected the parade and presented a series of awards including Best Recruit, Best Endeavour and the Soldier’s Medal.
Addressing the soldiers, Major General Jaques said:
I know you will all be looking forward to your next stage of training and eventually joining your regiments. You are joining the most professional and battle-hardened Army that Britain has had in living memory.
Take every opportunity offered to travel and have a go at the challenges, whether it is sport or adventure training, and widen your horizons and ensure you enjoy your careers. I wish you every success and the best of luck whatever the future may bring. Well done.
The Commanding Officer of ATR Bassingbourn, Lieutenant Colonel Angus McAfee, said:
Clearly there is sadness on this the last pass off parade. 76 soldiers have passed out today, starting a new career and embarking on a whole new adventure. It is a great feeling of challenge for them and a real day for success.
The decision on the future of the barracks has not been made. We will finish here today, a small tranche of guys will remain until Christmas, and then from March 2013 it will be handed back to the DIO until such time a decision has been made.
The service history of the barracks dates back to March 1938 when the first RAF aircraft landed on the airfield and it became an Operational Training Unit as well as a staging post for operational aircraft.
May 1942 saw 20 Wellington Bombers based at the barracks take part in the famous ‘Thousand Bomber’ raid on Cologne.
In September of that year the 91st Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces moved to the base and it was from the barracks that the well-known US aircraft the Memphis Belle completed 25 combat missions.
In 1948 and 1949, York, Lancaster and Dakota aircraft based at the barracks took part in the Berlin Airlift and from 1952-1967 Canberra bombers operated from the barracks.
Whilst the future of the barracks remains uncertain, it is clear that the 76 soldiers who passed out will take their place in the long history of Bassingbourn as the last recruits trained there.