A final farewell was said at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire today as former members of No 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron held a formal disbandment parade.
Today’s ceremony was also the formal dedication of a new memorial to the Squadron, which has been installed inside the Station’s Chater Road Gate. The installation features, among other items, an iconic armoured personnel carrier used by the Squadron in previous years.
No 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron was actually disbanded during the lockdown at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, as the RAF’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capability transferred to the Army. Restrictions at the time, however, made a full military parade impossible, and so the decision was made to wait for a more appropriate opportunity.
Flight Lieutenant Rob Cornford, formerly of 5131 BD Squadron, is the project officer for today’s parade. He said: “Ideally we would have held the disbandment parade last year when the Squadron formally stood down its duties, however in order to share this poignant moment with the RAF Bomb Disposal community, and our families and friends, we had to wait until a safe opportunity presented itself”.
The care and precision with which 5131 BD Squadron fulfilled their bomb-disposal role, was reflected in the parade. Scores of former Squadron members, veterans and Station personnel were treated to an immaculate display of meticulous drill, accompanied by beautifully played music from the RAF Central Band.
The parade was commanded by Squadron Leader Mike Stocks, formerly Officer Commanding 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron. He said: “For more than 75 years the men and women of the Squadron gave their best in the service of this country, so I am humbled to have been given the privilege of commanding this parade. It is an honour to be counted among them and to have served alongside them.”
First formed in 1943, 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron was the Royal Air Force’s explosive ordnance disposal capability for 77 years. Its highly skilled technicians were trained to deal with conventional munitions and improvised explosive devices. The Squadron also responded to aircraft crashes; clearing the area of explosive risks and making any Ordnance, Aircraft Assisted Escape Systems and flare countermeasures safe.
Warrant Officer Dave Lowe is the Wing Warrant Officer for No 42 Expeditionary Support Wing, to which 5131 BD Squadron belonged, and a former member of the Squadron. He said: “It’s right that we get to mark the disbandment of 5131 with a parade. To have served on RAF Bomb Disposal is a huge privilege, and there is a comradeship that only exists in the EOD world because you have faced the same challenges, rewards and specialist training along the way.”
The 77-year operational history of 5131 (BD) Squadron is illustrious. The Squadron saw action in World War II, the Suez conflict, the Indonesian conflict, the Cyprus invasion, the Falkland Islands war, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland as well as Military Assistance to Police taskings in the UK. The Sqn’s operational history has been continuous and without respite.
Group Captain Nick Huntley is Commanding Officer of the A4 Force Elements. He said: “Today we are saying thank you to everyone who has served on 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron, for all that they have given in the service of their country and for keeping the public safe for so many years. They rightly have the admiration of their peers and the British people.”
The Group Captain concluded: “The job they did came with great personal risk, and required extraordinary levels of composure, courage, focus and technical skill. 5131 Squadron took those qualities, embodied them and they became a positive example for generations RAF personnel.”