RAF Wittering Bids Final Farewell to Bomb Disposal Squadron

© Cpl Kathryn Galloway

A final farewell was said at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire as former members of No 5131 Bomb Disposal (BD) Squadron held a formal disbandment parade.

The squadron was disbanded during the lockdown at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, as the RAF’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capability transferred to the Army. Restrictions at the time meant that a full military parade was impossible, and so the decision was made to wait for a more appropriate opportunity. Flight Lieutenant Rob Cornford, former member of 5131 BD Squadron, was the project officer for the parade.

He said: “Ideally we would have held the disbandment parade last year when the Squadron formally stood down its duties, however in order to share this poignant moment with the RAF Bomb Disposal community, and our families and friends, we had to wait until a safe opportunity presented itself”.

The care and precision with which 5131 (BD) Squadron fulfilled their bomb-disposal role was reflected in the parade. Scores of former squadron members, veterans and station personnel were treated to a display of meticulous drill, beautifully played music from the RAF Central Band.

The parade was commanded by Squadron Leader Mike Stocks, formerly Officer Commanding 5131 (BD) Squadron. He said: “For more than 75 years the men and women of the Squadron gave their best in the service of this country, so I am humbled to have been given the privilege of commanding this parade. It is an honour to be counted among them and to have served alongside them.”

First formed in 1943, 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron was the Royal Air Force’s explosive ordnance disposal capability for 77 years. Its highly skilled technicians dealt with conventional munitions and improvised explosive devices.

The Squadron also responded to aircraft crashes; clearing the area of explosive risks and making Ordnance, Aircraft Assisted Escape Systems and flare countermeasures safe. Warrant Officer Dave Lowe is the Wing Warrant Officer for No 42 Expeditionary Support Wing, and a former member of the Squadron.

He said: “It’s right that we mark the disbandment of 5131 with a parade. To have served on RAF Bomb Disposal is a huge privilege, and there is a comradeship that only exists in the EOD world because you have faced the same challenges, rewards and specialist training along the way.”

The 77-year operational history of the squadron is illustrious. It saw action in World War II, the Suez conflict, the Indonesian conflict, the Cyprus invasion, the Falkland Islands war, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland as well as Military Assistance to Police taskings in the UK. The Squadron’s operational history has been continuous and without respite.

Group Captain Nick Huntley is Commanding Officer of the A4 Force Elements. He said: “Thank you to everyone who has served on 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron, for all that they have given in the service of their country and for keeping the public safe for so many years. They rightly have the admiration of their peers and the British people.”

He concluded: “The job they did came with great personal risk, and required extraordinary levels of composure, courage, focus and technical skill. 5131 Squadron took those qualities, embodied them and they became a positive example for generations RAF personnel.”

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