The final farewell to the iconic Tornado aircraft and personnel that have served on her squadrons took place yesterday at RAF Marham with the disbandment parade of the last two remaining units – IX(B) and 31 Squadron. Words and images courtesy of RAF Marham / Crown Copyright.
Up to 850 guests gathered in the hangar to see the two flights, one from each squadron, march on accompanied by the Band of the RAF College Cranwell.
The parade was led on by Parade Commander Wing Commander Gatland, Chief of Staff of the Tornado GR Force Headquarters with Wing Commander Heeps, Officer Commanding IX(B) Squadron, and Wing Commander Bressani, Officer Commanding 31 Squadron, leading in their respective Squadrons.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier was the reviewing officer for the parade and during his inspection he presented Operation SHADER medals, without clasp, to 12 personnel.
The award of the Operation SHADER medal without clasp was approved by Her Majesty in February and is awarded to personnel assessed as making a significant and direct operational contribution but operating outside the Joint Operational Area to Op SHADER.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said:
“Today is a time to rightly recognise the truly exceptional achievements of the people who have been the Tornado Force. We reflect on the courage, skill, commitment and sadly sometimes sacrifice of those who have been at the heart of the Tornado story, from its inception through to the present day. All have played their part to the full in the success story that is Tornado. Which is why I’m especially delighted to have been able to present today some of the first Op SHADER operational service medals to those who have worked so hard on the ground to deliver Tornado’s success on its most recent operation – fitting recognition that the RAF’s operational achievement is always a team effort.”
After the parade guests moved outside to see a flypast by a single Tornado GR.4 aircraft.
This was the final scheduled flight of an RAF Tornado. The aircrew taxied up to the hangar where they were greeted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier as they disembarked the aircraft for the final time
The aircrew who flew the final aircraft, Squadron Leader Ian Dornan and Squadron Leader Stephen Beardmore, said:
“It was an honour and a privilege to be the crew to fly this iconic jet for the very last time and the fact that we have been able to conduct these flypasts is testament to the hard work that has been put in by the engineers to ensure the jets were serviceable. It has been fantastic to see the support that we have received from the public over the last few weeks with the FINale flypasts as they gathered across the UK to say goodbye. It was quite emotional knowing that we would be landing this amazing aircraft for the very last time. The skies over Norfolk and the UK are going to be a lot emptier without her.”
IX(B) Squadron will transfer to a Typhoon squadron on 1 April 19 and be based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. 31 Squadron will reform as a Protector squadron in 2024 and will be based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
GAR would to thank RAF Marham Media for the words and pictures and for all their work to ensure that Tornado didn’t retire quietly.
Our own ‘Farewell Tornado’ coverage continues and concludes next week and we’ll hear from some those who operated the aircraft in RAF service and present a pictorial history of the Tornado’s RAF career.