gets its Gold Stars
Dave Eade reports from RAF Marham where 31 Squadron is home at long last
Since the end of hostilities in Germany during 1945, many 'last' chapters have been written as units returned to the motherland. The last eighteen months, however, have seen what is possibly the most poignant finale to date the withdrawal of the remaining flying units of the Royal Air Force in Germany. For so long a regular posting for squadrons and personnel of all roles, to the historic bases of Laarbruch, Wildenrath, Bruggen and the like, this history book finally closed its covers on 21 August with the arrival at Marham of No. 31 Squadron the 'Goldstars'.
With a history almost totally written in far-off lands, 31 Squadron can list among its honours names like India (hence the badge motto 'First in Indian Skies In Caelum Indicum Prunus'), the Middle-East and Indonesia before arriving in Laarbruch, Germany equipped with photo-recce Canberra PR7s in 1955. As time progressed the role changed, together with the mounts they flew as Phantom FGR2s and Jaguars wore the golden star of 31 until in 1984 it became the first Tornado GR1 unit of the Bruggen wing to be declared operational. Dedicated to the SEAD role (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence), the squadron is today equipped with the GR4 version of the Tornado and lists ALARM and TIALD as part of the standard fit of these beasts.
As busy today as ever, with commitments in Canada, Iraq, and the Balkans, the squadrons total complement of fourteen aircraft was reduced to six available machines for the relocation a number which to some would have limited the arrival 'drama' for the Press. Not to be outdone and with a palindromic (!) note, 31 in reverse equals 13 so at 13:31 hours exactly after two lone raiders had attacked the hangar which will form 31s new home an immaculate box-four of fully armed Tornados flew down the waterfront (31 parlance for the ORP). Joining up for a run-in in two three ships, the GR4s broke for landing before parking on the apron ready for the press-gang.
Delight was in the eyes of the squadron boss, Wing Commander Paddy Teakle, as he greeted his beautiful family before posing and chatting to photographers. A mere 41 years of age, he can list an impressive CV with the boys in light blue having spent tours on Vulcans and Victors before converting to the Tornado. He has served in Ascension for Exercise Corporate, and Bahrain for Operation Granby. He flew a desk at HQ RAF Germany, Incirlik, Vicenza and AWC at Waddington. He found time to head the introduction of the ALARM missile on 9 Squadron and took up his appointment as OC 31 in September 2000.
After greetings from the advanced party of engineers and pilots it was time to find the new home as aircrew and family drifted away. Six Tornados basked in the August sun for a final photo-shot. 31 will occupy number two hangar, alongside sister-unit 9 Squadron in number one hangar, both operating from the main ASP that used to house the Victor Tanker fleet. The history of RAF Germany is complete long live the Marham Wing the largest Attack and Reconnaissance force in the RAF.
Aircraft arriving on 21 August 2001 were ZG750/DY, ZD792/DE, ZD714/DL, ZA541/DZ, ZD745/DA & ZA410/DX.
Air-Scene UK acknowledges the help of the Community Relations Office at Marham in the production of this article.