RAF Marham

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RAF Marham
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near King's Lynn, Norfolk in England
A Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning of No. 617 Squadron preparing to take off from RAF Marham.
Raf marham badge.jpg
RAF Marham is located in Norfolk
RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Shown within Norfolk
Coordinates52°38′54″N 000°33′02″E / 52.64833°N 0.55056°E / 52.64833; 0.55056Coordinates: 52°38′54″N 000°33′02″E / 52.64833°N 0.55056°E / 52.64833; 0.55056
TypeMain Operating Base
Area667 hectares (1,650 acres)[1]
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 1 Group (Air Combat)
Site history
Built1916 (1916)
In use1916–1919; 1937–present
Garrison information
Group Captain Ian Townsend
OccupantsNo. 617 (The Dambusters) Squadron
See Based units section for full list.
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: KNF, ICAO: EGYM, WMO: 03482
Elevation23.5 metres (77 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
06/24 2,784 metres (9,134 ft) Asphalt/Concrete
01/19 1,854 metres (6,083 ft) Asphalt/Concrete
Source: RAF Marham Defence Aerodrome Manual[2]

Royal Air Force Marham, or more simply RAF Marham (IATA: KNF, ICAO: EGYM), is a Royal Air Force station and military airbase near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia.

It is home to No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing (138 EAW) and, as such, is one of the RAF's "Main Operating Bases" (MOB). Since 6 June 2018, it has been home to the fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning operated by No. 617 (The Dambusters) Squadron. No. 207 Squadron will become the second F-35 Lightning squadron to be based at RAF Marham when it reforms on 1 July 2019 as the Operational Conversion Unit.

In 2008, RAF Marham was officially granted the Freedom of the City of Norwich and, as such, is allowed to march through the streets of Norwich with 'bayonets fixed'; this is usually carried out on occasions such as the annual Battle of Britain parade held on 12 September every year. RAF Marham 'took over' the Freedom of the City of Norwich after the former holder, RAF Coltishall, was officially closed in 2006.



Opened in August 1916 close to the former Royal Naval Air Station Narborough, later RAF Narborough, the Marham base was originally a military night landing ground on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) site within the boundary of the present day RAF Marham. In 1916, the aerodrome was handed over to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Throughout the First World War, Marham's role was focused on defending Norfolk from Zeppelin raids. No. 51 Squadron became the first RFC unit to be stationed at Marham upon their move in September 1916, flying home defence missions.[3][4] On the night of 27/28 November 1918, Lt. Gaymer of No. 51 Squadron took off from Marham to intercept Zeppelin L21 however he crashed his Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b and was killed after making no contact, L21 was later shot down near Lowestoft by Royal Naval Air Service crews.[3]

Outside of home defence, Marham also acted as a training base for night time flying, with this provided by No. 51 Squadron.[3] No. 191 (Night) Training Squadron was formed at Marham on 6 November 1917 to provide training for night time operations, who were based at Marham until Upwood in January 1918.[5] No. 51 Squadron also assisted No. 190 Training Squadron and No. 193 Training Squadron, who were based nearby, throughout late 1917 and 1918.[3] To celebrate the Armistice on 11 November 1918, aircraft from Marham bombed Narborough with bags of flour who in return bombed Marham with bags of soot.[6] No. 51 Squadron departed Marham in May 1919 for Sutton's Farm, with the aerodrome closing shortly after.[3]


The new concrete runways viewed in 1944.

In the first half of 1935, work started on a new airfield which became active on 1 April 1937, with a resident heavy bomber unit from within No. 3 Group, RAF Bomber Command.[7]

The first squadron, No. 38, arrived on 5 May 1937 with Fairey Hendon bombers. In June, No. 115 Squadron re-formed at Marham with the Handley Page Harrow, initially sharing No. 38 Squadron's Hendons until Harrow deliveries were completed in August.[7] No. 38 Squadron received Vickers Wellington Mk. I bombers in December 1938, followed in April 1939 by No. 115 Squadron.[8] 218 squadron moved to Marham on 27 Nov 1940, also operating Wellingtons. 218 Squadron began conversion to the Short Stirling in December 1941 and used the type on operations from 1942. De Havilland Mosquitos from No. 105 Squadron also arrived in 1941. Marham became part of the Pathfinder force. They also tested and proved the Oboe precision bombing aid.

During March 1944, RAF Marham closed for the construction of new concrete runways, perimeter track, and dispersal areas, marking the end of its wartime operations. The three new runways were of the familiar wartime triangular pattern, but Marham was one of only two sites built as a heavy bomber airfield (the other was nearby RAF Sculthorpe) with the runways 50% longer than a standard wartime layout (9,000 ft/6,000 ft/6,000 ft rather than 6,000 ft/4,000 ft/4,000 ft) and also being 200 feet wide rather than the standard 150 feet.


From 15 March to 31 October 1946, RAF Marham hosted seven B-17 Flying Fortressess and three modified B-29 Super Fortressess of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during Project "Ruby", which was a series of trials to test the effectiveness of deep penetration bombs such as the Grand Slam and Disney against "massive reinforced concrete targets".[9][10][11] Trials began on 25 March and were undertaken by the USAAF B-29s and modified Lancasters of No. XV Squadron by attacking the Nordsee III U-boat pen at Heligoland and the U-boat assembly plant at Farge, Germany.[12][13] Project "Ruby" ended on 31 October after 22 trials had been completed,[9] with results concluding that none of the bombs tested were capable of penetrating massive reinforced concrete.[13]

In the postwar period the airfield was home to RAF units operating the Boeing Washington B.1, and later the V-bomber force and tankers: Vickers Valiant and Handley Page Victor. The station is also one of the few large enough for the operation of United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, and a number of these aircraft visited on exercises in the 1970s and 1980s.

During 1980-82, 24 Hardened Aircraft Shelters were constructed to house future strike aircraft, which would eventually see the arrival of the Panavia Tornado GR.1 in 1982. These shelters were equipped with the US Weapon Storage Security System (WS3), each able to store 4 WE.177 nuclear bombs.[14]

21st century[edit]

Panavia Tornado GR4s in liveries to mark 100th anniversaries of Nos. IX(B), 12(B), XV(R) and 31 Squadrons as well as 40 years of Tornado, 2015. (Nos. IX(B), 12(B) and 31 were all based at Marham with the Tornado.)

The GR4A was the reconnaissance variant of the Panavia Tornado but the modern reconnaissance equipment used on the Tornado was interchangeable between the GR4 and GR4A variants, and as such each squadron used a mix of the two variants (the reconnaissance equipment originally used in the GR4A variant is now obsolete).[citation needed]

On 26 September 2014, Tornado aircraft begin airstrikes against ISIL as part of Operation Shader.

As part of the draw-down of the RAF's Tornado GR4 fleet, No. 12 (Bomber) Squadron disbanded on 14 February 2018. Squadron personnel were reassigned to Marham's other Tornado squadrons, No. IX (B) Squadron and No. 31 Squadron.[15]

The Tornado was retired from service in March 2019. A disbandment parade was held at Marham for No. IX (B) Squadron and No. 31 Squadron on 14 March 2019.[16]

Role and operations[edit]


Group Captain Ian Townsend was appointed as RAF Marham station commander on 1 August 2017, previously having been the Lighting Force commander.[4] The station commander is dual-hatted, also being commander of No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing.

The station is close to the Royal Estate of Sandringham and Queen Elizabeth II is the station's Honorary Air Commodore. The Queen has made a number of visits to the station, most recently on 1 February 2016.[17][18][19]

The station is under the command of No. 1 Group (Air Combat).[20]


Panavia Tornado GR4s (ZG752, ZG775 and ZD716) in retirement livery, 2019

Operations at Marham are coordinated by the Operations Wing (Ops Wg), Base Support Wing (BSW), Depth Support Wing (DSW) and Forward Support Wing (FSW). The deployable elements of the station structure form the core of No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing.

Formerly the Tactical Armament Squadron (TAS), No. 93 (Expeditionary Armament) Squadron's mission statement is "To deliver and develop specialist, expeditionary armament capability to support UK defence policy". It has approximately 130 staff and is a sub unit of No. 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing.

Expeditionary Air Wing[edit]

No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing (No. 138 EAW) was formed at Marham on 1 April 2006; encompassing most of the non-formed unit personnel on the station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station. The Station Commander also commands the EAW.

Supported units[edit]

RAF Marham is the 'parent' station of

Based units[edit]

Panavia Tornado GR4 ZD739 taking off from RAF Marham during Operation Ellamy, 2011.

Royal Air Force[edit]

No. 1 Group (Air Combat)

No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support)

Other Units

  • Tornado Technical Services (a joint Royal Air Force and BAE Systems team).

British Army[edit]

Royal Engineers (8 Engineer Brigade, 12 (Force Support) Engineer Group)

  • 20 Works Group Royal Engineers (Air Support)
    • 534 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Airfields) (STRE)[21]



F-35B Lightning over RAF Marham during July 2016 with the construction site of the Lightning Maintenance and Finish Facility visible below.

F-35B Lightning[edit]

The Ministry of Defence announced in March 2013 that the British fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning aircraft, which is to be operated jointly by the RAF and Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, will be based at RAF Marham.[22] The Lightning is a fifth-generation short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) multi-role aircraft designed to operate from the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

The first aircraft arrived at Marham on 6 June 2018, when four F-35Bs of No. 617 (Dambusters) Squadron, supported by three Voyagers and an Atlas, made an eight-hour flight across the Atlantic from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.[23] The RAF announced on 5 July 2017 that No. 207 Squadron will be the Operational Conversion Unit for the F-35 Lightning. The squadron is expected to stand up at Marham on 1 July 2019.[24] In 2023 the second front-line squadron, No. 809 Naval Air Squadron, will also form at the station. At least two further operational squadrons are expected to be established, one for each service, all of which are expected to be based at Marham. The first operational unit was declared ready with No. 617 'Dambusters' Squadron being the first to operate the aircraft. As of 11 January 2019, the F-35B Lightning is operational with the Royal Air Force.

Project Anvil[edit]

Project Anvil is the £250 million programme of investment to provide Marham with new and upgraded infrastructure for Lightning II operations.[25]

Contracts for enabling works, worth £25 million and undertaken by Balfour Beatty and Henry Brothers were signed in April 2016 with work commencing in May 2016. These works involved demolition of hangar no. 3 located on the north side of the airfield. The hangar dated from the 1930s and was last used for Tornado depth engineering. In its place will be the new Lightning Maintenance and Finish Facility.[26] Other enabling work involved demolition of squadron offices in the south-west hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) site, upgrading of Marham's high voltage power supply and the installation of new service utilities.

In late 2016 Wates Construction Ltd were awarded a £27 million contract to construct a new squadron building for No. 617 Squadron in the south west HAS site. Construction began in March 2017 and is expected to be completed by April 2018.[27]

The Lightning National Operating Centre (NOC) was constructed on the north-west side of the airfield, near the station golf course. The NOC will accommodate around 125 personnel who will form the Lightning Force Headquarters and Logistics Operating Centre.[26] The NOC was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, the station's Honorary Air Commodore, on 2 February 2018 and was the first Protect Anvil building to be completed.[28]

The Lightning Integrated Training Centre under construction during 2017.
The Lightning Integrated Training Centre under construction during 2017.

Balfour Beatty were awarded a contract worth £82.5m in April 2016 to construct a joint Lockheed Martin/BAE Systems Lightning European Maintenance Hub. The hub will comprise an Integrated Training Centre (ITC); the Logistics Operations Centre and a Maintenance and Finishing Facility (M&F) across three separate sites at Marham.[29] The ITC will be located on the south side of the airfield and provide maintainer training and accommodate the Lightning Full Mission Simulators.[26]

The final construction contracts, worth £135m, were awarded to Galliford Try and Lagan Construction in June 2017. The work includes construction of a new hangar to replace hangar no. 1, rebuilding of Marham's runways, installation of vertical landing pads, new taxiways and refurbishment of 90% of existing taxiways and airfield operating surfaces.[30] Both runways were rebuilt during a three-week period (8–28 September 2017), which saw all flying cease and the laying of more than 18,000 tonnes of new asphalt.[31][32] The resurfacing works were completed by June 2018.[33]

Project Anvil also includes construction of servicing platforms and refurbishment of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS). Facilities for the OCU are to be located between the No. 617 Squadron HAS site and Integrated Training Centre.[26]


Station badge and motto[edit]

RAF Marhams's badge, awarded in October 1957 when it was home to part of the RAF V-Force, features a blue coloured bull with its head lowered and facing towards the viewer. The bull, an animal considered to be aggressive to intruders entering its area, represented Marham's nuclear deterrence role. For the same reason, the station's motto is Deter.[34][35] The badge is reflected in the name of RAF Marham's local radio station, Blue Bull Radio 1278 AM.

Gate Guardians[edit]

Marham has three preserved aircraft on the station. Panavia Tornado GR1 'ZA407' acts as gate guardian and is displayed on a plinth adjacent to the station entrance. Nearby, outside the station headquarters building is Handley Page Victor K.2 'XH673'. English Electric Canberra PR9 'XH169' has been on display within the main technical site since November 2007.[36]

Former squadrons[edit]

De Havilland Mosquito B.IVs of No. 105 Squadron at RAF Marham during WWII. (Based at Marham between 1942 and 1944).
Boeing Washington B.1 WF502 of No. 90 Squadron, 1952. (Based at Marham between 1950 and 1956).
Handley Page Victor K.2 XH672 of No. 55 Squadron at RAF Marham, 1993. (Based at Marham between 1966 and 1993).
English Electric Canberra PR.9 XH131 from No. 39 (1PRU) Squadron, 2006. (Based at Marham between 1993 and 2006).
Squadron Present Aircraft
No. II (AC) Squadron 1992-2015 Panavia Tornado
No. IX (B) Squadron 2001–2019 Panavia Tornado
No. 12 (B) Squadron 1993–1994


Panavia Tornado
No. XIII Squadron 1994–2011 Panavia Tornado
No. XV Squadron 1950–1951 Avro Lincoln
No. 27 Squadron 1983–1993 Panavia Tornado
No. 31 Squadron 2001–2019 Panavia Tornado
No. 35 Squadron 1951–1956 Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 38 Squadron 1937–1940 Fairey Hendon, Vickers Wellington
No. 39 (1PRU) Squadron 1993–2006 English Electric Canberra[37]
No. 44 Squadron 1946–1951 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington
No. 49 Squadron 1961–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 51 Squadron 1916–1919 Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b, RAF B.E.2c, RAF B.E.2d, RAF B.E.12
No. 55 Squadron 1966–1993 Handley Page Victor
No. 57 Squadron 1951-1951 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington
No. 57 Squadron 1966–1986 Handley Page Victor
No. 90 Squadron 1950–1956 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 100 Squadron 1976–1982 English Electric Canberra
No. 105 Squadron 1942–1944 de Havilland Mosquito
No. 109 Squadron 1943–1944 de Havilland Mosquito
No. 115 Squadron 1937–1941 Fairey Hendon, Handley Page Harrow, Vickers Wellington
No. 115 Squadron 1950–1957 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 139 Squadron 1942–1943 De Havilland Mosquito
No. 148 Squadron 1956–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 149 Squadron 1950-1950 Avro Lincoln
No. 191 (Night) Training Squadron 1917–1918 Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b, RAF B.E.2d, RAF B.E.2e, Airco DH.6
No. 207 Squadron 1951–1956 Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 207 Squadron 1956–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 214 Squadron 1956–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 214 Squadron 1966–1977 Handley Page Victor
No. 214 Squadron 1940–1942 Vickers Wellington, Short Stirling
No. 242 Squadron 1959–1964 Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missile
No. 617 Squadron 1983–1994 Panavia Tornado
No. 231 OCU 1976-1982 English Electric Canberra
No. 232 OCU 1970-1986 Handley Page Victor K2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 15. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  2. ^ "RAF Marham Defence Aerodrome Manual (DAM)" (PDF). RAF Marham. Military Aviation Authority. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "World War One". Royal Air Force Marham. Archived from the original on 6 February 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b "RAF Marham". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 28 March 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  5. ^ "No 191 Squadron". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Narborough". Royal Air Force Marham. Archived from the original on 5 May 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b "New Site". Royal Air Force Marham. Archived from the original on 5 May 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  8. ^ Bowyer 1990, p. 148
  9. ^ a b Howell, Mark (30 December 2009). "Project Ruby -- a look at RAF Mildenhall's history". Royal Air Force Mildenhall. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Project Ruby". RAF Marham. Archived from the original on 5 May 2006. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Bombs versus Concrete". FlightGlobal. Flight. 30 May 1946. p. 538. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Bombs versus Concrete". FlightGlobal. Flight. 30 May 1946. p. 537. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Comparative Test of the Effectiveness of Large Bombs Against Large Reinforced Concrete Structures (Anglo-American Bomb Tests Project "Ruby")". Elgin Field, Florida: The Air Proving Ground Command. 31 October 1946. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  14. ^ Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen (November – December 2004), U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, 1954–2004 (PDF), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, retrieved 11 June 2009
  15. ^ "12(B) Squadron Bids Farewell to the Tornado GR4". Royal Air Force. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  16. ^ Russell, Sam (14 March 2019). "Tornado's final scheduled flight as Marham squadrons are disbanded". Eastern Daily Express. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Queen visits RAF Marham". lynnnews.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  18. ^ "The Queen visits RAF Marham, Norfolk, in her role as Honorary Air Commodore". British Monarchy. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  19. ^ "Queen cheered on visit to RAF Marham: February 3". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  20. ^ "No 1 Group". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  21. ^ "An introduction to...20 Works Group Royal Engineers" (PDF). Wittering View. Lance Publishing Ltd.: 18 Spring 2015.
  22. ^ "Defence Estate rationalisation update". Ministry of Defence. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  23. ^ "Four RAF F-35 fighter jets land in UK". BBC News. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  24. ^ "Identity of F-35 Lightning Training Squadron Announced". Royal Air Force. 5 July 2017. Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  25. ^ Bishop, Chris (13 July 2017). "Project Anvil brings 1,200 jobs to Norfolk, as RAF Marham upgrade takes off". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  26. ^ a b c d "News from the Lightning Basing Team" (PDF). Marham Matters: 5. April 2017.
  27. ^ "Wates' work on next generation aircraft base brings boost to Norfolk economy". Wates. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.[dead link]
  28. ^ "Her Majesty the Queen Visits RAF Marham". Royal Air Force. 2 February 2018. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  29. ^ "Balfour Beatty awarded £82.5 million F-35 contract at RAF Marham, Norfolk". Balfour Beatty. 7 April 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  30. ^ "£135M infrastructure contract marks milestone in UK F35 programme -". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  31. ^ Bishop, Chris (9 October 2017). "Runways ready for F35 Lightning jet at RAF Marham". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  32. ^ "News from the Lightning Basing Team". Marham Matters: 10–11. October 2017.
  33. ^ "Ready for F-35s: runway resurfaced at RAF Marham". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence, Defence Equipment and Support, and Defence Infrastructure Organisation. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  34. ^ "Marham". RAF Heraldry Trust. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  35. ^ "RAF Marham History 1954 - 1982". RAF Marham. Archived from the original on 7 December 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  36. ^ "RAF Marham, Norfolk". Demobbed - Out of Service British Military Aircraft. February 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  37. ^ Disbanded on 28 July 2006, ending 55 years of RAF Canberra operations.
  • Bowyer, Michael J. F. (1990). Action Stations 1. Wartime military airfields of East Anglia, 1939–1945 (2nd ed.). Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stephens Limited. ISBN 1-85260-377-1.

External links[edit]