'There's always bl**dy something!'
Heeley (Down To Earth Promotions) finds IX [B] Squadron's new unofficial
motto at its 90th anniversary celebrations held at Marham
With squadron aircraft having participated in a flypast over the Saint Omer Memorial on Friday 10 September 2004, members of IX [Bomber] Squadron and the IX Squadron Association held their 90th Anniversary celebrations at RAF Marham, Norfolk on Saturday 11 September.
The day marked a double celebration, not only was it to mark the 90th Anniversary of the Squadron being formed at Saint Omer on 8 December 1914, but it was 60 years to the day that Lancasters from the Squadron departed for Russia to participate in the first of the raids on the Tirpitz battleship (raid on 15 September 1944). A series of combined raids, which culminated in the Squadron dropping Tallboy bombs that finally sank the Tirpitz on 12 November 1944.
Early attendees for the 90th Anniversary gathered in the Officers Mess at the RAF Marham on Friday evening and early Saturday morning. Shortly after lunch the focus of activity moved to the Squadron Dispersal, where Squadron memorabilia had been put on display. This was complimented by static aircraft on display and by a short flying display.
As Tornado GR4 ZA585 undertook flying controls and wing sweep demonstrations, a very special visitor arrived. This was Rockwell B-1B 'Lancer' 86123 (CC) from 9 Squadron of the 7th Bomber Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, USA, which had flown in specially for the anniversary celebrations and whilst in the UK was temporarily operating out of RAF Mildenhall. After touching down the B-1B was parked to the east of the main static display area, but soon after the aircraft had been 'made ready' attendees to the anniversary were given the chance to go down and inspect the aircraft both externally and internally.
Five IX (Bomber) Squadron Tornado GR4s took off, with four aircraft taking part in a flypast to formally start the afternoon flying. To represent flying from across the various squadron eras, displays then took place by a Tiger Moth, Avro Anson, De Havilland Vampire and an Apache AH1 (ZJ225) of 9 Regiment. Tornado GR4 ZD895 of 15(R) Squadron also performed an impressive display for the attendees.
Members of the IX (Bomber) Squadron flypast team posed for an impromptu photograph in front of ZA585 before the afternoon was closed out by the departure of various visiting aircraft. Most spectacular of which was the B-1B, which departed with full reheat into the by now cloudy sky, drawing gasps from those privileged to be attending the afternoon's display.
The excellent displays and activities highlighted many aspects of the RAF's premier bombing squadron, which has always been at the forefront of Royal Air Force campaigns around the world. The IX (Bomber) Squadron Standard proudly carries the following Battle Honours: Western Front 1915 - 1918; Somme 1916; Ypres 1917; Fortress Europe 1940 - 1944; Berlin 1941 - 1945; Ruhr 1941 - 1945; Tirpitz; The Dams; Gulf 1991 & Kosovo. IX (Bomber) Squadron has recently added operations during the Second Gulf War to its operational record.
Many years of planning had gone into this event, which culminated in an evening celebration, or 'Hangar Bash' that was attended by more than 500 people, who represented more than seven decades of squadron service. Of special note on the 60th Anniversary of the Tirpitz Campaign was the large number of former Lancaster aircrew in attendance who had participated in those particularly notable raids.
Also well represented were Squadron Association members from the Canberra, Vulcan and Tornado GR1 eras. After the Squadron Standard had been marched in and out, the attendees were treated to an excellent buffet, dancing and a slice of a special Anniversary cake.
Around each of the IX (Bomber) Squadron facilities you are constantly reminded of the bat that is the central element of the squadron crest, which also carries their motto 'We Fly By Night'. Over the years IX (Bomber) Squadron has undertaken many challenging operations and an unofficial motto has been adopted to reflect these near constant challenges, 'There's always bloody something'. This message was proudly proclaimed on the anniversary cake!
It was particularly heartening to witness the deep respect and camaraderie that each member of the squadron and the Squadron Association hold for each other, from whichever era they represented. I felt very privileged and honoured to be allowed to be part of such an historic anniversary and to be treated with such hospitality by everyone I met. Thanks for a memorable day.