Marham and Lossiemouth commanders meet up

The station commanders of RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth came face-to-face yesterday as they anxiously await the decision on the future of their base.

Group Captains Pete Rochelle and Andy Hine spoke to the EDP ahead of a medal ceremony at RAF Marham for personnel from XIII Squadron, who have just returned from a tour of Afghanistan.

The pair spoke of their love for the two RAF bases as the latest count revealed the total number of people backing our campaign to Make it Marham was more than 25,000.

RAF Marham station commander Rochelle said: 'It's really important to have this support because it shows we are connecting with our local community.

'We feel very much part of our community with our children going to the local schools and our families working here and we have enjoyed being here for a number of years.

'In terms of the support, it's really encouraging. Clearly people like us being around and that makes us feel good there's no doubt about it.'

The station commander said the morale at the Norfolk RAF base was as focused as it has 'ever been' despite the threat of closure.

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But he added: 'Nobody likes uncertainty and people want to know what's happening in the future.

'Clearly everyone is looking for us to inform them as much as possible and as soon as possible and we will do the best we can based on the decision making process.'

Station commander Rochelle said there is 'little' difference between the two bases under threat.

He continued: 'We work very closely together because we are a Tornado force. I have lived and worked up there so both bases are dear to me.'

Speaking next to a Tornado GR4, RAF Lossiemouth station commander Hine said he 'loves' Marham because he has served at the RAF base before and his daughter was born in nearby King's Lynn.

He said: 'I am sure in an ideal world we would like to see both stay open but we all understand the position we are in nationally with our finance and we know hard decisions have to be made.

'We have to plan together and look forward to the future to make sure we are going forward as a force.

'What we also have to make sure when making the decisions for the next 20, 30 and 40 years in reference to our basing is that we do the work properly so the right decision is made.'

Station commander Hine said many of the people who currently serve at RAF Marham will have also been to Lossiemouth and vice versa at some point during their service.

He continued: 'We exercise and train together and one of the important things is that no matter where you end up being posted, the working practises are identical.

'The bases are very similar in a number of ways, same aircraft, similar size of estate, similar buildings and similar people.

'Some people enjoy working in Norfolk and others enjoy living in Scotland more.'

Both station commanders also praised the role the Tornado has played in recent conflicts.

Station commander Hine said: 'For the troops on the ground in Afghanistan the Tornadoes are vital.

'The Tornado is essential not only in providing intelligence but also the ability to respond in a measured and escalated way either by a show of force or if necessary the application of weapons.

'The Tornadoes have a broad range of capability and a broad range of weapons, which has made it so important in the fight abroad.'