Part of the site now occupied by RAF Marham had originally been RNAS Station Narborough during the First World War. Developed during the 1930s, Marham has been used as a heavy bomber and fighter Station, before it became the RAF's major reconnaissance base in 1993. Currently operating from Marham are No 2(AC) Squadron and No 13 Squadron, both equipped with 13 Tornado GR1As, as well as No 39 (1 PRU) Squadron, which operates 5 Canberra PR9s, 2 Canberra PR7s and 2 Canberra T4s. The last British nuclear weapons being removed from Germany are transported to RAF Marham for storage and eventual dismantlement.
As part of SDR, RAF Bruggen was slated to close in April 2002. Under the SDR options, 17 Squadron was disbanded and 14 Squadron will relocate to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. 9 and 31 Squadrons will come to RAF Marham in July and August 2001 respectively. To accommodate the two Squadrons at RAF Marham many new build works are required. RAF Marham will undergo major refurbishment works to expand existing facilities and upgrade others to accommodate the squadrons.
The construction projects vary from refurbishment and alterations to complete new builds on Greenfield sites. By far the largest new build and largest construction project is that of the new Electrical Engineering Squadron building. Other notable works are the alterations and refurbishment works to 1 and 2 Hangars to accommodate the new squadrons, the building of a new Mechanical Components Flight and Mechanical Engineering Aircraft Squadron Headquarters building and the major refurbishment of the aircraft operating surfaces on the airfield.
In October 2000, the airfield paving works began in earnest with the construction of a new perimeter road extension. When this phase is complete the station will have its first complete perimeter road. Concurrent with these works is the refurbishment of Alpha Dispersal and the Northern Taxi-way. These works are large and complex and have required good levels of co-operation between station and contractor staffs. In addition station staffs have had to utilise flexible and proactive planning to ensure operations continue unhindered. At present rate, all airfield pavement works are scheduled for completion in May 2001.
In 1934, a major expansion of the role and size of the Royal Air Force began. In that year the whole of East Anglia had only four active military airfields, but Mildenhall was the first of many more. As Germany became seen as the threat the heavy bombers were to be based in Yorkshire, the closest location to Germany, East Anglia was to hold medium bombers, and light bombers would be based in France. So Heyfords were based in East Anglia , and Wellingtons arrived from November 1938 to join 3 Group. Throughout the war and into the 1960's 3 Group controlled the medium and heavy bomber sites in East Anglia, such as Marham, Stradishall, Mildenhall and Honington.
On 22 March 1950, an initial four of seventy Washington B1's for the RAF landed at Marham. The Washington Conversion Unit was formed in March 1950. Eight week conversion courses were held for the squadrons to be based at Marham and Coningsby. The first to become operational was 115 Sqn in May 1950 followed by: 149, 90, 15, 44, 207 and 35 Sqn which was formed on 1st September 1951 from the WCU and became the Washington Training Squadron. 149, 15 and 44 Sqns moved on to Coningsby, leaving 115, 90, 207 and 35 Sqns to become the Marham Wing. Between January and May 1954, the Washingtons were ferried back to America, their place at Marham being taken by Canberra B2's.
On 21st January 1956, 214 Sqn re-formed at Marham with Valiant B1's, first of the V Bombers. Powered by four Avon 204 engines, the Valiant had a top speed of just over 550 mph. 207 Sqn disbanded on 27th March, re-forming on 1st April with Valiants. That same month, a party of VIP's arrived on the station. The visitors included Mr N Kruschev, Mr I V Kurbachov (a nuclear scientist) and Mr A N Tupolev, the Russian aircraft designer.
90 Sqn disbanded on 1st May 1965 and in July, 35 Sqn left for Upwood. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh inspected the Station that month and presented 207 Sqn with a new standard. 148 Sqn re-formed at Marham on 1st July with Valiant aircraft. During September/October 1956, 148, 207 and 214 squadrons were detached to Luqa airfield in Malta, while 115 Sqn went to Nicosia airfield in Cyprus to take part in the Suez operations. All of these squadrons returned to Marham in November/December. On 1st July 1957, 115 Sqn was disbanded.
With the arrival of a nuclear capability in 1957, RAF Marham was awarded it's own Station crest. A Blue bull with the motto "Deter". The glaring bull symbolises a deterrent which aptly refers to the acquirement of a nuclear deterrent capability - hence the motto "DETER".
Valiant to Valiant flight refuelling trials began in 1957 and in 1958, 214 Sqn became the trials and development unit. This squadron retained it's bomber role while taking part in the trials which lasted until May 1960. The Valiants of 214 Sqn flew on several long range non-stop flights, using in flight refuelling, including: Marham to Nairobi, 4350 miles in 7 hrs 40 minutes on 7th April 1959, Marham to Changi, 8110 miles in 15 hrs 35 minutes on 25th May 1960 and Marham to Vancouver, 5007 miles in 10 hrs 28 minutes on 5th July 1960.
RAF Javelins, Vulcans, Victors, Lightnings and Valiants were converted as receiver aircraft from 1960. 214 Sqn was kept busy with training and deployments overseas as well as taking part in trials with Royal Navy Scimitar and Sea Vixen fighters, and a compatibility exercise with a USAF Destroyer, Super Sabre and Voodoo aircraft. 214 Sqn lost it's bomber role in April 1962 and officially became a tanker squadron, while 49, 148 and 207 squadrons remained as bombers and in 1963 were assigned to NATO in the tactical role.
In December 1964, all Valiant aircraft were grounded because of severe metal fatigue in the main wing spars and were officially withdrawn from service at the end of January 1965. 214 Sqn disbanded on 28th February, followed by 148 Sqn in April and 49 and 207 Sqn on 1st May. Their aircraft were all scrapped on site at Marham except for Valiant B(K)1 XD818, which was preserved within the Station and XD816 which continued to fly from Boscombe Down for several months with special clearance, before it too was scrapped.
On 24th May 1965, 55 Sqn arrived with initial equipment of six interim two-point Victor BK1A tankers. In August 1965 a demonstration of the RAF's newly gained in flight refuelling capability took place at Marham with the Victor BK1A tankers of 55 Sqn and Lightning F2 fighters of 19 Sqn taking part. 57 Sqn moved to Marham with Victor B1 and B1A bombers on 1st December 1965, becoming a Victor K1 three point tanker squadron in June 1966.
214 Sqn re-formed at Marham on 1st July 1966 with three point tankers. Supporting the Victors was the Air Refuelling School, the Victor Flight Simulator and the Tanker Training Flight. The latter flight used Victor bombers and tankers which carried TTF on their fins.
In April 1968, RAF Marham changed from 3 Group, Bomber Command to 1 Group (Bomber) Strike Command. The three Victor squadrons were kept busy refuelling the fighter squadrons when training and deploying overseas, as well as escorting Lightnings and later Phantoms of air defence squadrons when they intercepted Russian aircraft off the east coast. 232 Operational Conversion unit was re-formed at Marham in May 1970, taking over from the Victors of the Training Flight.
232 OCU ceased Victor Mk1 training during July 1974 after converting more than 1400 aircrew and had accumulated 57 500 hour on the Flight Simulator. The first Victor B1 (XL233) was delivered to 232 Sqn in May 1974. 55, 57 Sqns and the OCU were fully equipped with Victor K2 tankers by June 1976.
100 Sqn moved to Marham from West Raynham on 5th January 1976 with Canberra B2, T4 and T17 aircraft, using these in the target facilities role, followed by 231 OCU also flying Canberras in the training role. When 98 Sqn disbanded at Cottesmore in February 1976, it's Canberra E15's were transferred to 100 Sqn. On 28th September 1976, Victor K2 XL513 of 55 Sqn overshot the runway after a possible bird strike and was written off. This aircraft was later scrapped at Marham. 214 Sqn disbanded at Marham on 28th January 1977. Victor K1 was alloted the maintenance serial 8517M and was kept at Marham for the RAF Museum. The remainder of the ex-214 Sqn Victors were flown to St Athan where they were eventually scrapped.
In 1977, work started on the construction of 24 Hardened Aircraft Shelters to house the Tornado strike aircraft which were to be based there from 1982. 100 Sqn moved to Wyton in January 1982. Valiant XD818 was towed into one of the hangars at Marham on 25th March 1982, where it was dismantled and taken by road to the RAF Museum at Hendon.
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