A gesture by 2 pilots from 208 Squadron was splendidly rewarded with a handsome new trophy to be presented to pilots displaying outstanding qualities.
The solid silver trophy, designed and made by Robert Jackson of the Faculty of art and Design at the University of Manchester, which conceptualises flight, was presented to the Squadron to ‘mark the essence of the spirit of a pilot’.
Previously, 208 Squadron only awarded prizes to those student pilots who had achieved the best results, but this changed with the introduction of the Gwen Jackson Trophy.
Wing Commander Neil Meadows, the Officer Commanding, explained the background to the Trophy and the reasons for its presentation at the Graduation Ceremony for Courses V71 and V72 on 16 May 2003, at which the first awards of the Trophy were made.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the excellence that has been shown by our prize winners is something we have become used to here at RAF Valley - it is in fact what we strive for. However, it is very rare in life to be genuinely taken aback by someone’s unexpected altruism and total generosity of spirit. For me, today is one of those occasions, or the culmination of one of those occasions. And please indulge me a little whilst I explain.
Mrs Gwen Jackson was someone I never met.
She was born in June 1905, the daughter of a sea captain from Amlwch who, just before the outbreak of WWI, was incarcerated by the Germans after delivering a cargo to Hamburg. You can imagine the disruption and deprivation this caused to the family, which ended up split whilst mother sought work in Wales and Gwen continued her schooling in Liverpool, where the family had settled.
As a child in Liverpool she had to endure great hardship. For example, as a small child she had her tonsils removed without anaesthetics only barely to survive the septicaemia that followed but she had a strong and determined character (which will be a theme in this story) and gained a scholarship to Blackburn House and then later on to Cardiff University - no mean feat for a young woman in those days.