Community volunteer retires after 40 years of dedication

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Dedicated commitment with over 40 years service to the Ashfield community were remembered in a farewell ceremony for Hucknall’s Air Training Corps (ATC)

Warrant Officer who retired this week.

Ernest Sollis who has been a volunteer with local youth organisations for over four decades has hung up his cap.

Ernest, 65, who lives at Skegby, has dedicated his time to helping youngsters with various organisations over the years as a youth leader.

Ernie was a young man when he first started helping out with the 1st Kirkby (St Wilfrid’s) Cub Scout Pack back in 1971.

A retired control room manager at Nottinghamshire Police, his passion for working with young people has also seen him volunteering with the 2nd Sutton (St Mary’s) Cubs and at the 5th Sutton (Open) Scout group, before he moved to the Air Training Corps back in 1988.

After starting with 1300 Squadron in Sutton, he took up the post of Warrant Officer at 1803 Squadron in Hucknall in 1991 - and retained this position right up to his recent retirement.

Ernie said volunteering has been very enjoyable and that working with all of the hundreds of young people he has known has ‘without exception’ made his life better.

“I think it’s the fact that all those people over the years have enriched my life,” said Ernie. “I wouldn’t change it for the world, and would do it all again.”

As a Warrant Officer he has helped plenty of cadets over the years - some of which have gone on to be staff officers themselves within the air cadet organisation. Ernie got into helping out at Cubs through friends at St Wilfrid’s Church in Kirkby.

A former Cub himself, he said he was ‘persuaded it was time to give something back, which I have been doing ever since’

After moving up to Scouts as a scout leader, Ernie took the boys on several camps.

He moved to the Air Training Corps on recommendation from a friend.

Among his duties at 1803 (Hucknall) Squadron are teaching ‘Principles of Flight’ and ‘Air Navigation’ to the cadets.

“I was responsible for Drill and Discipline technically, but what I enjoyed the most was the teaching,” added Ernie who will be sadly missed.

“I tried and made learning fun.”

Ernie attended parade nights every Monday and Wednesday almost without fail, as well as weekend activities and parades such as Remembrance Sunday.

He has been on camps in Germany and Cyprus with the cadets and has even been winched out of a helicopter.

He is a keen steam locomotive enthusiast, and plays his part as Santa every year on the Churnet Valley railway. He’s also been known to keep youngsters entertained as both a clown and a magician.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ernie still finds time to ring the bells at Mary Magdalene’s church in Hucknall.

He added: “It’s been a commitment, but it’s all been a worthwhile commitment.”

His final message was to all the staff at the squadron, wing, and region within the air cadet organisation, thanking them for the support he had received during his long career.

Ernie follows his wife Hazel into retirement, who herself was a Civilian Instructor with the ATC up until a few months ago. Spending more time with their grandchildren, and getting a bit more use out of their caravan, is high up on the agenda, as they begin an undoubtedly well-deserved retirement.