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New standard as ‘Dambusters’ squadron looks to the future at RAF Marham

PUBLISHED: 21:08 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:20 24 September 2018

The 617 Sqn at RAF Marham received their new standard in a special parade at the Norfolk base. Picture: Ian Burt

The 617 Sqn at RAF Marham received their new standard in a special parade at the Norfolk base. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Pilots taking to the skies in the RAF’s new stealth fighter are flying in a trail blazed by the legendary Dambusters.

Members of the re-formed 617 Sqn – which carried out the Ruhr dams raids in 1943 – were formally presented with their new squadron standard at RAF Marham.

Battle honours on the standard also include the raids which eventually sank the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944.

Disbanded and re-formed over the decades since the end of the war, 617 Sqn saw distinguished service during both Gulf conflicts. It re-formed in 2016 in readiness for the arrival of the F-35 Lightning at Marham, with crew training to fly the aircraft in America before bringing them to Marham this summer.

Wing Cdr John ‘Butch’ Butcher, commanding officer of 617 Sqn, said the blessing of the standard by Chaplain in Chief the Venerable Air Vice Marshal John Ellis, was a special day.

The 617 Sqn at RAF Marham received their new standard in a special parade at the Norfolk base. After the parade Myleene Klass posed for pictures with veteran paratrooper Jeffrey Long. Picture: Ian BurtThe 617 Sqn at RAF Marham received their new standard in a special parade at the Norfolk base. After the parade Myleene Klass posed for pictures with veteran paratrooper Jeffrey Long. Picture: Ian Burt

“It was an absolutely fantastic parade” he said. “The standard is vitally important to us. It was gifted and awarded to us by Her Majesty, it carries our battle honours and we treat it with respect as a squadron.”

The poignant ceremony saw the old standard marched out before the blessing of the new one.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier addressed the squadron and offered his congratulations on all they had already achieved at RAF Marham. The new standard records key battles 617 Squadron have been part of since its formation and Wing Cdr Butcher said: “It’s a hugely proud thing for 617 Sqn to have those battles on there, and everyone on the squadron is aware of that. The Dambusters thread runs though, and we do colloquially call ourselves the Dambusters from that very first raid.”

The technology the RAF has at its fingertips today is something Guy Gibson, the first Commanding Officer of 617 Sqn, could only have dreamed of 75 years ago.

The 617 Sqn at RAF Marham received their new standard in a special parade at the Norfolk base. Pictured is the new standard being blessed by Chaplain in Chief, Venerable Air Vice Marshal John Ellis. Picture: Ian BurtThe 617 Sqn at RAF Marham received their new standard in a special parade at the Norfolk base. Pictured is the new standard being blessed by Chaplain in Chief, Venerable Air Vice Marshal John Ellis. Picture: Ian Burt

Wing Cdr Butcher said: “I don’t know whether they would be able to look at an F-35 today and think it was real. But what I do think he would recognise is the spirit and the ethos I think he was part of forming in that initial period during the Second World War.

“I really hope they would think that that spirit and ethos carries through to today.”

Pop star Myleen Klass was invited to attend the ceremony as a special guest.

She said: “The RAF flew me out to Afghanistan where I preformed for the troops and got me back to my family safely”

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