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A hundred years of service

From reconnaissance to fast jet operations – 31 Squadron marked its 100th anniversary this week.

The Squadron, now based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, held a number of events including a parade at the National Memorial Arboretum at a new memorial for 31 Squadron. New tail art will also feature on one of the Squadron’s jets, the Tornado GR4.

31 Squadron's memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

Squadron commanding officer Wg Cdr James Freeborough said: “It was an extraordinary honour for me to represent the Squadron on its 100th Birthday at the National Memorial Arboretum and receive the Memorial Stone on behalf of the current serving Officers and Airmen of 31 Squadron. 

"The Memorial Stone was a gift from the 31 Sqn Association and dedicated by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. The Memorial not only represents the proud history of 31 Squadron but also the very special relationship between the Squadron and its Association."

Since its formation in 1915, 31 Squadron has spent just 12 years based on UK soil. In fact the Squadron’s motto ‘First in Indian Skies’ gives a hint to its well-travelled history. Less than two months after its formation, the Squadron was sent to Risalpur and remained there until the end of the First World War.

The Squadron came full circle in 2009 when it deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick and was the last Squadron to fly combat missions over the country in 2014.

In the intervening years, the Squadron has been equipped with a variety of aircraft, including Dakotas, Ansons, Phantoms and Jaguars. During the Second World War, 31 Squadron took on a bomber transport role, and flew in service between bases in India, in support of troops in Burma.

Service in Germany followed and crews were part of the RAF Tornado Force in the Gulf War, the Kosovo Conflict and took a leading role in the second Gulf War.

In 2014, 31 Squadron returned to flying mission over Iraq once again, as part of the wider Tornado Force commitment to operations in the region and is currently deployed to RAF Akrotiri.

Air Marshal Chris Nickols, Controller RAF Benevolent Fund, who flew Jaguars on 31 Sqn in Germany in the early 1980s, said: "31 Squadron has one of the most varied histories of RAF squadrons, having served in a range of diverse roles in many conflicts and operations over the past 100 years."

 

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