322 Squadron is split into four sections: Edwards, McNamara, Middleton and Newton, named after the first four Australian Aviators to receive the Victoria Cross. Each cadet is assigned to one of the four sections. Cadet NCOs are appointed as Section Commanders and Second-in-Command.
A points system has been implemented where sections can earn points. These points will tally up, and the section with the most points at the end of the year will receive the Most Outstanding Section Trophy. Points can be earned (or taken away) for most actions, such as good uniform, helping out and attendance.
The purpose of the section structure is to place cadets in an environment which will enhance their learning of the values and skills taught by the AAFC whilst being fun, challenging, competitive and team-based. The aims of the section structure are:
- To develop initiative, self reliance and good character;
- To develop teamwork and communication;
- To improve self discipline and morale;
- To instil a sense of professionalism, pride and passion for the corps;
- To develop skills to maintain a professional uniform;
- To develop a thorough understanding of the chain of command/SQN rank structure;
- To develop leadership skills;
- To increase discipline, morale and esprit de corps.
The Victoria Cross is the supreme decoration for gallantry in battle awarded to Commonwealth Forces. It was initiated by Queen Victoria in 1856 during the Crimean War to recognise bravery in the field for all ranks and is fashioned out of gunmetal taken from Russian artillery pieces captured during the War. Today, it can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces of any rank in any service and civilians under military command for performing some signal act of valour or devotion to their country in the face of the enemy. Recipients of the awards are designated national heroes.
Air Commodore Sir Hughie Idwal Edwards, VC, KCMG, CB, DSO, OBE, DFC
On 4 July 1941, Edwards led 12 twin-engine bombers in a low-level attack on the heavily defended port of Bremen, Germany. The aircraft had to fly under high-tension wires, through a balloon barrage, and into intense fire. The attack was made in full daylight with bombers flying 50ft above ground. Naturally, all of his bombers were hit, and four were shot down, yet the attack was deemed to be highly successful. For his gallantry and determination, Edwards received the Victoria Cross.
Air Vice-Marshal Francis (Frank) Hubert McNamara, VC, CB, CBE
McNamara was the first Australian pilot to receive the Victoria Cross. On 20 March 1917 McNamara was flying a bombing raid against Gaza when he saw a fellow Squadron member, Captain D. W. Rutherford, shot down. Although he had just received a serious leg wound, McNamara landed near the stricken Rutherford who climbed aboard. But McNamara’s wound prevented him from taking off and the aircraft crashed. The two men then went back to Rutherford’s plane and with McNamara at the controls they took off just as enemy cavalry reached the scene. For this action, McNamara was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Pilot Officer Rawdon (Ron) Hume Middleton, VC
On 28 November 1942, Middleton’s aircraft was hit over Fiat works in Turin, Italy. A shell exploded in the cockpit wounding Middleton, his second pilot and wireless operator. Middleton lost consciousness, and the aircraft dived to 800ft before the second pilot brought it back under control. When Middleton regained consciousness, he began to fly back over the Alps towards England. But the aircraft was heavily damaged and losing fuel rapidly. When only five minutes of fuel was left, Middleton ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Five men left the stricken plane, and two remained on board to help Middleton before attempting to parachute to safety. The Stirling then crashed into the sea, killing Middleton. His heroic actions gained the admiration of the British public and he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross as recognition for his actions.
Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton, VC
On 18 March 1943, Newton was leading an attack against Japanese at Salamaua in New Guinea. He bombed his target in spite of his aircraft receiving heavy damage from Japanese anti-aircraft fire. The aircraft caught fire, but he kept flying and ditched it 900m offshore. Two of the three crew members were seen to make it ashore, Newton being one of them. Out of luck, he was captured by the Japanese and executed on 29 March 1943. His fearless approach and his attempt to save his crew by piloting their burning aircraft as far from Japanese positions as possible earned Newton the Victoria Cross. This was the only such award made to a member of the Royal Australian Air Force in the Pacific Campaign.