RAF Marham crews set to return to Afghanistan

Air crews from RAF Marham will be on their way to war-torn Afghanistan within weeks, it emerged today.

As personnel from XXXI Squadron prepare to deploy to Afghanistan, a contingent from the base will march through King's Lynn on Wednesday, before being cermoniously awarded the freedom of the borough by mayor Colin Sampson.

Last night a spokesman at the base said: 'XXXI Squadron are doing their preparation to go back out to Afghanistan.

'617 Sqn from Lossiemouth are there at the moment but XXXI will be taking over in the coming weeks.'

Tornado jets have saved countless lives providing close air support to UK and Coalition forces fighting the Taliban.

Aerial imaging equipment on board the jets enables them to spot insurgents and improvised explosive devices, while the 600mph aircraft also bristle with devastating firepower.

Mr Sampson has urged people to show their support both for the personnel and their base, which is waiting to hear whether it will become the main base of the RAF's Tornado fleet, or whether the aircraft will be stationed in Scotland leaving Marham's future in doubt.

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Crews will be in Afghanistan by the end of next month, when a final announcement is expected.

'I am sure that the people of West Norfolk will feel particularly strongly this year that they want to show their appreciation and support,' said Mr Sampson.

'We all know that the station's resources have been even further stretched with recent events around the world. I will take great pride in welcoming the contingent from RAF Marham and inspecting them on parade'.

On Wednesday, the Standards of IX(B) Sqdn and No 2620 (County of Norfolk) Sqdn RAuxAF Regt and two supporting flights will be paraded through Lynn. They will be accompanied by the Band of the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell.

The parade will form up at Common Staithe Quay at 11.30am and march to the Tuesday Market Place, where the parade will be reviewed by the mayor.

Mr Sampson and Marham's station commander Group Capt Peter 'Rocky' Rochelle will then give speeches.

Two Tornado GR4 aircraft from RAF Marham will perform a flypast over the parade at noon.

This year, the parade has a special significance for Warrant Officer Paul Edwards and Flight Sgt Tony Murray, as both were born locally and educated in King's Lynn, at what was then the Gaywood Park School.

The EDP has been running a campaign to secure the future of the at-risk base, which received the backing of nearly 37,000 people. A decision on its future is expected over the next few weeks.

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