Tornado pilots remembered as Leuchars squadron disbands

An RAF pilot and navigator who died in a crash last month have been remembered on the day their Fife-based squadron was disbanded.

Flight Lieutenants Kenneth Thompson and Nigel Morton died when their tornado hit a hillside in Argyll on July 2.

Today, colleagues performed the "Missing Man Maneouvre" during a fly past of their Leuchars base.

It came on the day 43 Squadron was disbanded as part of a shake-up of the RAF by the Ministry of Defence.

43 (fighter) Squadron, one of the two fighter squadrons currently stationed at the Fife air base.

Wing Commander David Hazell of 43 Squadron said: “The events alone were very tragic. They weren't just air crew on my squadron, they were friends. As a stand-alone event, it was quite marked.

“But we just have to appreciate that it is two air crew within the history of the squadron. We mustn’t forget the number of lives lost in Afghanistan in the last few days alone”.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed in April that the squadron would disband as a consequence of a reduction in the number of Tornado aircraft operating at Leuchars ahead of the introduction of the new Typhoon fighters.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Roger Palin was at today’s ceremony to inspect the squadron he once commanded one final time.

Sir Roger said: "This feeling of pleasure is tinged with sadness that this is a disbandment parade and that the standard of this proud squadron will shortly be laid up at Cranwell.

“I expect there will be a mix of emotions felt by everyone here. But everyone I suspect will feel sadness that our squadron, one of the finest in the Royal Air Force, which only a few short months ago had an assured and exciting future here at Leuchars has been called upon to disband". 

The squadron, nicknamed The Fighting Cocks, was originally formed in Stirling in 1916 as part of the Royal Flying Corps when it initially flew biplanes, going on to flying Hurricanes and Spitfires during the Second World War.

It was to progress to jets in the late 1940s with the Gloster Meteor, the UK's first jet fighter, later moving to the Hunter and Phantom jets before being equipped with Tornado F3 aircraft in the late 1980s.

They were involved in the first Gulf war and as part of operation Telic, the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The squadron was granted the freedom of Stirling in 2005, the squadron being the town’s home squadron when it was formed in 1916.

The decision to disband 43 Squadron will not result in any job losses at the Fife base, as it is set to become home to three squadrons of the new Typhoon aircraft.

The first is to be based at Leuchars from next year. It is thought possible that one of the two subsequent squadrons could be given the 43 Squadron name.
 

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