The Air Defence Cadet Corps formed in 1938, was changed to the Air Training Corps from the 5th February 1941 and by 1945 most of the towns in the U.K. had their own Squadron, Wigan in fact had two, the Technical College squadron was No, 1178 and the Grammar School had it’s own No. 723. Even the smaller town of Hindley had two, one of which was at Hindley & Abram Grammar School. All these Squadrons faded away after the end of the Second World War.
In 1967 cadets had to travel from the Wigan area to No 1471 Sqn, Horwich, this was the nearest ATC unit. Mr David Gardenier and Mr Gordon Rouse both commissioned officers in the RAFVR suggested, and it was agreed by HQ Air Cadets to set up a Detached Flight in Wigan. It started with 14 very keen cadets in Wigan Boys Club in Soho Street.
The two Officers organised trips to Manchester Airport Air Traffic Control Centre for the cadets and some flying from RAF Woodvale. Mr Rouse’s brother worked for B-Ae and helped rebuild a Spitfire, PS915, and wrote a book about it, he also obtained aircraft parts for the cadets to study. Another helper was Corporal Brian Sharkey from RAF Haydock. As a detached flight cadets wore 1471 on their uniform. In July 1969, Wing Commander Reace from Regional HQ visited the Wigan cadets and now the strength was 35 cadets and so it became a full Squadron in it’s own right and given the old wartime number used by Wigan Grammar School. This was 723 Squadron and is one of the 23 Sqns forming East Lancs Wing.ATC. It was assumed that Dave Gardenier would be the C.O. because he was the Senior of the two but Phil Riley, C.O. of Horwich was sent to Wigan as C.O. together with W.O. Roy Pickstock. Mr Rouse was promoted at work and could not attend parade nights towards the end of 1971 so he resigned his commission and in 1972 went to live and work in Australia. At present, Mr Dave Gardenier’s part in the History of 723 Sqn before1972 remains a mystery!
Following an arson attack on the Boy’s Club, two buildings were erected only about 150 yards away, one for the ATC and another one exactly like it for the Army Cadets, these huts where within a shared compound next to the Wigan Small Bore Rifle Club on Soho Street near the ASDA store. The Wigan Cadets had their own aircraft at one time, this was a De Havilland Vampire Mk T11 donated by B-Ae Woodford for instructional purposes, it was complete except for jet engine, after about 4 years it was sold for £200. The A.T.C. operated from these premises until 23rd Feb1999. ASDA had decided to extend, and The Rifle Club, The Army Cadets and the ATC had to find new premises and both Cadet units were provided with a single larger building but one that they had to share, this was inside the secure area of the Territorial Army Centre at Canal Street, off Woodhouse Lane. The first A.T.C. parade at their new H.Q. was on Friday 26th Feb,1999.
723 Squadron Commanders Since 1970
Flt, Lt, P.Riley, emigrated to South Africa, as a nuclear power engineer
Flt, Lt, R. Pickstock went to Blackburn & Horwich Sqn as CO. & WS.O
Flt, Lt, Frank Chesworth went to Salford as C.O.
Flt, Lt, E. Kay from cadet to C.I. to commissioned then C.O. Now Sqn Ldr. Wing Staff Officer
Flt, Lt, R. Mehta from Bolton & Oldham. (C.O.at Wigan, Oct’ 2006)
Flt Lt H Shields – CO Since 2013