Queen visits RAF Marham

THE QUEEN enjoyed an action-packed display, including a mock airfield attack by four Tornado GR4 jets, during her visit to RAF Marham as its honorary air commodore yesterday.

She also spoke to servicemen and women who have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan during an almost four-hour stay, in which she also saw some of the latest weapons and equipment.

Wearing a burgundy three-quarter length coat with a matching hat and black accessories, The Queen arrived at the West Norfolk base by limousine at about 11.15am.

She was taken to the airfield, where a Tornado GR4 from each of the base's four squadrons were on ground display, to be greeted by a flypast from another four Tornados in close diamond formation.

The Queen was then shown a Raptor reconnaissance pod, an ALARM anti-radiation missile for use against enemy surface-to-air missiles, a guided bomb using a global positioning system and a Brimstone anti-armour missile.

During this tour, she talked to Squadron Leader David Richards from IX (Bomber) Squadron ,who returned from Iraq shortly before Christmas.

He said: "I think she is completely knowledgeable. She spends a short time on a visit, but always looks with interest and she knows a lot more than I think people realise."

Squadron Leader Nathan Giles, from XIII Squadron, showed The Queen an enhanced Paveway II precision-guided bomb. He said: "It's said the public sometimes don't appreciate what the armed forces do, but she does. She does everything to try to respect what you do and I think it's a great morale booster for the service."

In a field tent, The Queen saw live images of the ground display being beamed from a jet flying at 20,000 feet above the airfield, demonstrating how ground commanders get precise information on enemy forces in the field.

Sergeant Rob Daley, who showed her the pictures, said: "It was a real honour to meet The Queen. She is the head of the country and for me to shake her hand is something you never forget."

The Queen wore shaded glasses to watch the spectacular airfield attack, with pyrotechnic effects as Tornados flew in from different directions to attack enemy tanks and missile launchers.

In a hangar housing the Tornado Engineering Squadron, she met RAF and British Aerospace engineers involved in maintaining and upgrading the jets.

John Bell, working with BAE Systems at Marham, said: "She had a nice little chat with everybody and it was good to see that she was very knowledgeable."

After a reception at the sergeants' mess, The Queen lunched in the officers' mess.

Afterwards, she was greeted by Union Jack-waving schoolchildren and families as she called at St Margaret's Church on the base to unveil a plaque marking its 50th anniversary.

She also unveiled a memorial plaque beside a Canberra jet from 39 Squadron, which disbanded at Marham last year, dedicated to all who served with the aircraft during its 55 years of service with the RAF.

Station commander Group Captain Phil Osborn, who accompanied The Queen, said: "She gives us great continuity. She has been our honorary air commodore for a long time and we give her a snapshot of what RAF Marham has done every two years.

"I think she was really pleased to be that close to what we are doing. It was giving her the opportunity to see what our aircrews are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq."