Come in number 9, your time (in Germany) is up
Guy Harvey reports from RAF Marham
Tuesday 17 July saw the return of 9 Squadron (IX(Bomber) Squadron) to the UK mainland after a fifteen year spell at Bruggen in Germany. The third squadron to leave Bruggen, it is the first of two to re-locate to RAF Marham in Norfolk, sister squadron 31 will follow in mid-August.
Led by the OC, Group Captain Greg Bagwell, nine Tornado GR4s arrived overhead Marham at exactly mid-day in diamond formation, signifying the change-over of control from Bruggen to the Norfolk base. It was a return to East Anglia as IX(Bomber) Squadron was previously based at RAF Honington in Suffolk, being the first RAF squadron to occupy a NATO-sponsored Hardened Aircraft Shelter (HAS) complex, which soon became dubbed Gotham City after the units bat insignia. IX(Bomber) Squadron left Honington in 1986 to become the first Tornado unit in West Germany.
IX(Bomber) Squadrons arrival at Marham signifies the bases elevation to the biggest operational RAF station in England, only matched in personnel numbers by Lossiemouth in the Moray Firth of Scotland. With eventually five active front-line squadrons including the Canberras of 39(1 PRU) Squadron, it will also be one of the busiest, although at any one time at least one squadron may be deployed overseas. This expansion at Marham has meant much new infrastructure has been recently constructed, including refurbishment of some of the taxiways and hardstanding areas. Two of the pre-war C type hangars have been refurbished with new administration blocks to accept the two ex-Bruggen squadrons, IX(Bomber) Squadron will occupy number one hangar and 31 Squadron number two hangar. The squadrons will return to operating a flightline, as opposed to operating from HASs, on the main Aircraft Servicing Platforms once occupied by the Victor tanker fleet. The existing recce squadrons, 2 and 13 Squadrons, will continue to use their respective HAS complexes on the south side of the airfield while 39(1 PRU) will continue to operate off the main ASP by number four hangar. It is planned to replace the existing Victor gate guardian with a Tornado in the near future - amazingly some of the older airframes are now twenty years old!
The biggest challenge the new squadrons will find in relocating to rural Norfolk will be to find a local pub - they have all shut in Marham village in the last few years! Robin - to the Batcave!
IX (Bomber) Squadron - a short history
Formed on 8 December 1914 at St Omer as Number 9 (Wireless) Squadron, the Squadron was in the forefront of aviation using wireless telegraphy to assist ground artillery. Serving with distinction at some 23 bases during the First World War, armistice saw the Squadron disband after only five years of existence. Reformed in 1924, the Squadron's task was night bombing, adopting the bat badge in 1917 along with the motto "Per Noctem Volamus" or "We Fly By Night". This motto was given the Royal Seal in 1937, when King Edward VIII approved the Number IX (Bomber) Squadron badge, one of the very few squadron crests to be approved him. More firsts were added to the Squadron's battle honours when it became the first to equip with the Vickers Wellington and then the first to attack Axis forces, bombing shipping at Brunsbettl on 4 September 1939.
After initial trials with the Manchester, in 1942 IX (Bomber) Squadron was equipped with the Avro Lancaster, flying these aircraft throughout the rest of the war, Along with 617 Squadron, IX (Bomber) Squadron was chosen to use the 12,000 lb "Tallboy" bomb, culminating in the attack against the German battleship "Tirpitz" in Tromso Fjord in November 1944. At the end of the war in Europe, members of the Squadron had earned many distinctions, among them the first DFM of the war and a Victoria Cross won by Flight Sergeant George Thomson for rescuing his mid-upper and tail gunners from their burning turrets in January 1945.
Initially assigned to the Tiger Force, the collapse of Japan allowed the Squadron to fly home ex-POWs until converting to the Lincoln in 1946 and later to the Royal Air Force's first jet bomber, the Canberra, in 1953. In 1962, the Avro Vulcan became the Cold War equipment for IX (Bomber) Squadron, serving in the deterrent and attack roles at Royal Air Forces Coningsby, Cottesmore, Akrotiri and later Waddington where the aircraft were retired in preparation for another first in 1982. On 6 April, the Squadron became the Royal Air Forces and NATOs first operational Tornado squadron at Honington, moving to Bruggen, Germany in 1986.
Following the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, six IX (Bomber) Squadron crews and fifty groundcrew deployed to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia in January 1991 and, from the outset of the Gulf War, flew over 200 missions dropping over 300 1,0001b bombs with no casualties. In 1993, IX (Bomber) Squadron became the first Royal Air Force squadron to he equipped with the British Aerospace ALARM anti-radiation missile.
IX (Bomber) Squadron is now firmly established as the lead Squadron for the Royal Air Force in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) role. For their role in refining and defining tactics for the employment of ALARM, IX (Bomber) Squadron were awarded the Wilkinson Battle of Britain Memorial Sword for tactical development by the Chief of the Air Staff in November 1995. Along with laser guided and conventional bombs, operational and reconnaissance sorties over Iraq and Kosovo, the Squadron continues to live up to its motto "We Fly By Night".