The Queen visited RAF Marham in Norfolk yesterday, in her capacity as Honorary Air Commodore of the station.
Her Majesty commenced her visit at the new Lightning Operations Centre, which will be the Headquarters of the Lightning Force, supporting the F35B Lightning aircraft that will arrive in the summer of 2018.
Whilst at the centre, The Queen met personnel from across the station as well as representatives from the Lightning Delivery Team who were responsible for the delivery of the building along with Lockheed Martin and BAe Systems, the main contractors overseeing this project site. Local firm Balfour Beatty who constructed this state of the art facility were also present.
The Monarch, who has been a regular visitor to RAF Marham, smiled broadly as she chatted to uniformed personnel before unveiling a plaque to officially open the Lightning Operations Centre.
Newly appointed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The royal opening of this operations hub for the F-35 brings us another step closer to these pioneering jets flying from their UK home later this year, and their take-off from the magnificent aircraft carrier which proudly bears Her Majesty’s name.
“I’m delighted The Queen has seen what the future holds for the Royal Air Force, particularly as we celebrate a rich 100-year history of brave men and women protecting our skies.”
The station’s Warrant Officers and Sergeants had the honour of welcoming Her Majesty to their mess where she spoke to them about their various duties, and how the station will be commemorating the RAF’s centenary throughout 2018.
The Sovereign then moved to the Officers Mess for lunch, at the end of which she presented the Firmin Sword of Peace to the Station Commander, Group Captain Townsend (no relation….!) who accepted it on behalf of the Station.
The Firmin Sword of Peace is awarded to the unit or establishment that is judged to have made the most valuable contribution to humanitarian activities by establishing good and friendly relations with the inhabitants of any community at home or overseas during the last 12 months.
RAF Marham received the award in recognition of the many activities that it had conducted throughout their centenary in 2016, and its support to the local community whilst continuing with operations in Syria and Iraq. During this time the station was also dealing with the disruption of infrastructure works at the base in preparation for arrival of the new F35 Lightning aircraft as well as supporting major county and charitable events including initiatives to support the local communities.
Later, Group Captain Townsend said: “It was wonderful to welcome Her Majesty to RAF Marham today and we are honoured that this was her first Royal Air Force engagement in the RAF’s centenary year.”
As The Queen left the Officers Mess, she was presented with a posy of flowers by children from the Cherry Tree Academy.
Her Majesty is coming to the end of her Christmas break at Sandringham, which usually ends just after Accession Day on 6th February; this is the day The Queen took the throne, and also the day on which her father died, also at Sandringham House. We can expect to see her return to London by the end of next week.