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  • CEO Steve Rowe and Air Vice-Marshal Mike Wigston CBE open RAF exhibition at the M&S Archive
  • Limited edition men’s flying jacket on sale from 26 June, with all profits going to the RAF100 Appeal
  • M&S to support RAF to raise £500,000 for the RAF100 Appeal

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is proud to announce a new partnership with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to celebrate 100 years of the RAF’s service. The partnership is inspired by the shared histories between M&S and the RAF which will go on display at a new special exhibit at the M&S Company Archive in Leeds. Air Vice-Marshal Mike Wigston CBE of the RAF and M&S CEO Steve Rowe will open the exhibit ‘Marking RAF100: M&S and the Royal Air Force in WWII’ at an event on 26 June.

To commemorate the partnership, M&S has designed a limited edition men’s leather flying jacket which will go on sale from 26 June, with all profits going to the RAF100 Appeal.

The partnership will also see M&S pledge to raise £500,000 in M&S stores up and down the country in aid of the RAF100 Appeal. Funds raised through the M&S partnership will inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and technology specialists through providing scholarships, training and university bursaries for air cadets and school pupils from underprivileged backgrounds.

Shared Histories

The exhibit ‘Marking RAF100: M&S and the Royal Air Force in WWII’ will showcase the historic ties between M&S and the RAF, in which Simon Marks, M&S Chairman and son of the founder, helped form the RAF Cadets in 1938 – the pipeline of future RAF talent.  With £25,000 needed to create the cadets and only £7,000 pledged, Simon Marks personally donated the remaining balance. Marks became the Honorary Treasurer of the cadets before later being appointed to its Board of Finance and Welfare Council in 1941, shaping the development of the RAF Cadets for the remainder of his life. In 1944 Air Commodore Chamier wrote: ‘Dear Mr Marks, you were the man who made the Air Cadets possible!’.

By the end of WWII, almost 100,000 cadets had joined the RAF, a pipeline of talent made possible by M&S and RAF. 320 M&S employees served in the RAF during the war, 18 of which received medals and awards for their service.

The Marksman

To commemorate the centenary year, M&S has designed a limited edition men’s leather flying jacket which will go on sale online and in selected* M&S stores from 26 June. The jacket named ‘The Marksman’ is a nod to the M&S colleagues who raised £5,000 in 1941 to fund a new spitfire for the RAF war effort which they named ‘The Marksman’. The spitfire became best known for Sergeant ‘Tommy’ Rigler’s successful Dunkirk mission on 22 June 1941 which saw him shoot down 3 enemy fighters at 20,000 feet above the beaches. The actions of Rigler and The Marksman earned him the Distinguished Flying Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Steve Rowe, CEO of M&S, said: “M&S and the RAF have made a mark on one another’s histories since 1938 when Simon Marks, our Chairman and son of our founder, helped create the RAF Cadets. But our connection with the RAF runs deeper than our shared history, the RAF’s values of integrity and service mirror our own. The RAF’s spirit of relentless innovation, that has led it to flourish 100 year after its inception, reflects our own transformation from our entrepreneurial roots as a Leeds market stall to becoming a British retail institution. On behalf of our customers and colleagues we are proud to be celebrating 100 years of the RAF and its vital contribution to our nation.’’

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, said: “The RAF’s centenary is a proud moment to commemorate the achievements, courage and sacrifice of our first hundred years.  It is also a moment to celebrate the successes of today’s RAF, and our outstanding people.  And an opportunity to inspire the future generations who will lead the Service through its second century.  RAF100 is a moment for the whole nation, so the support of Marks & Spencer - another national institution - for the RAF100 Appeal is a tremendous demonstration of our shared values and intent.”

- Ends -

For further information, please contact:

020 8718 1919

For M&S Company Archive, please contact:

020 8718 2800

Notes to editors

M&S fundraising will also support the Royal Air Force’s four major charities – RAFA, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum.

Leather Flight Jacket, T16 2236M, £199

MS Collection RAF Flight Jacket T16 2236M Dark Brown copy.jpg

This leather bomber jacket is designed to commemorate 100 years of the RAF and to remember ‘The Marksman’ – a Mark Vb Spitfire, serial number W3215, paid for by money raised by M&S colleagues in 1941. It’s designed for a tailored fit with a front zip fastening and full lining. All profits* from the sale of this jacket will be paid to RAF100 Appeal, a registered charity in England and Wales (1167398).

*£38.50 of the retail selling price.

About The RAF100 Appeal

The RAF100 Appeal brings together the Royal Air Force, the RAF Association, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF Charitable Trust, and the RAF Museum to establish a legacy that matches the vision of Viscount Trenchard who steered the formation of the RAF in 1918. The Appeal encourages the British public to get involved in the Centenary year celebrations and help repay ‘the debt we owe’ and help to raise funds for the past, present and future RAF Family, inspiring, honouring and supporting all who have given so much.

2018 is the RAF’s Centenary. To celebrate there are a number of events taking place across the country, and abroad including a touring display of aircraft from the past century in cities nationwide to a mass flypast in London, 100-day baton relay and the unveiling of new galleries at the RAF Museum.