RAF Marham centenary launch takes off

21 January 2016

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Marham Aerodrome was first opened in 1916 as a military landing ground for the Royal Flying Corps and served as a base for various aircraft, including the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2b and B.E. 2c, during operations in the First World War.

RAF Marham centenary launchThere were several landing grounds in the area, Sporle and Tottenhill being other examples, but by mid-1919 Marham Aerodrome was no longer required and was closed. The aerodrome reopened on 1st April 1937 as RAF Marham, under the control of Bomber Command, and was home to Fairey Hendon and Handley Page Harrow heavy bombers.

RAF Marham remained busy during World War 2 with Vickers Wellington aircraft of 218 Squadron joining the other bombing units at the Station. The Station was attacked on numerous occasions during the war, with 5 attacks occurring in one day on 12th May 1942. RAF Marham remained a bomber base until April 1943, when it came under the control of No. 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group. The Station again closed post-war but this time for a much shorter period of 1 year, reopening in 1946 with Lancaster and Lincoln bombers.

The 1950s saw the Cold War take centre stage and RAF Marham became home to Valiant B1s, the first of the V-bombers, and with the arrival of the nuclear capability in 1957 RAF Marham gained its own station crest – the Blue Bull with the motto ‘DETER’ – symbolising the deterrent. The station also became largely involved in the development of Air to Air Refuelling with RAF Marham becoming the home of the Valiant in-flight refuelling trials and development unit. The station further bolstered this role with the arrival of Victor tankers in 1965 and continued to support Cold War operations. In 1982, a large detachment of Victors from Marham supported operations for the Falklands War including refuelling Vulcan bombers involved in the ‘Black Buck’ raids. Marham remained home to the Victor until 1993.

By 1983 the Station had the 2 current Hardened Aircraft Shelter sites built and saw the arrival of the Tornado GR1. These Tornados, along with RAF Marham Victors, played a large role in Op GRANBY in Iraq in 1991. The station gained a Squadron of Canberra PR9 aircraft in 1993, which remained until 2006, followed by the upgrade of the Tornado to GR4 standard and the arrival of both IX(B) Sqn and 31 Sqn in the summer of 2001. 12(B) Sqn completed the current line-up of flying Squadrons, joining the Station in January 2015.

To commemorate this event the centenary the Station will be holding 100 events throughout the year from a variety of charity events such as a 24 hr ‘Iron-a’thon’, the burial of a time capsule in the Blue Bull roundabout to the annual Families and Friends Day and a large part to play in the Royal Norfolk Show. All of these events will have a centenary theme to them. The local community are also planning to help with the celebrations with flowerbeds dedicated to the Station being planted in the local towns of Kings Lynn and Downham Market and the 42F Kings Lynn Air Cadets putting together a Tornado trail through the town centre.

The celebrations to mark the centenary officially launched on 19th January 2016 with a host of local dignitaries, including The Lord Mayor of Norwich and The Worshipful Mayors of Downham Market, Swaffham and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, visiting the Station for a tour of the RAF Marham Heritage Centre before the unveiling of the centenary artwork displayed on the Gate Guardians as a Tornado GR4 flew overhead. The guests were then taken to the Officer’s Mess where they were given a brief about RAF Marham today and the role of the Tornado GR4 as it continues to support operations in the middle east as it has done for the past 25 years. The Lightning team then gave a brief about the forthcoming arrival of the new Lightning II aircraft that will be stationed at RAF Marham from 2018.

RAF Marham Station Commander, Group Captain Rich Davies said “Today’s launch event has been fantastic and to share it with representatives from our local communities has made it extra special. The plan this year is to have 100 events, each with a centenary theme, and my personnel, their families and also people from our local communities have already come up with some fantastic ideas on ways that we can commemorate this fantastic milestone in RAF Marham’s history. I am extremely proud to be the Station Commander of Marham in this the Stations centenary year”

Editor: Alison Childerhouse

© MOD Crown Copyright 2016

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