RAF Marham (XIII Squadron) Photocall 2005 Review
Sunday 5th June
13 Squadron are, like many other RAF Squadrons, celebrating their 90th anniversary this year. Rather than keep the party private they opened their doors for a photocall to raise money for charity. The weather was predictably dull for most of the time but it did nothing to dampen the spirits of the 300+ photographers, some armed with the latest digital equipment, others with things called film cameras. There may not have been a great deal of aircraft types but the Tornados made the day a worthy event.
travelled to a murky Norfolk for the photocall.
13 Squadron was formed at Gosport in January 1915. Since their formation they have performed many roles but their primary mission is aerial reconnaissance and they now perform this with the Tornado GR4. Other aircraft operated through their illustrious career include such types as Bristol Fighter, Lysander, Blenheim, Spitfire, Meteor and Canberra.
Tickets to the event were sold in advance. Security was much tighter than for the Coltishall photocalls as applicants had to supply not only their car details but also passport details or other similar identification. Once through the initial security check some had a random check of their cars. On seeing this I prayed I wouldn't be stopped as my boot was full of rubbish but you can guess what happened!
Cars were directed to the other side of the airfield along the perimiter fence, passing three very derelict Tornado airframes on the way. Parking was in a small field but even then there was a final security clearance in the form of a rather bedraggled looking sniffer dog checking through people's bags and every so often finding some tasty morsel the owner hadn't suspected of being found by a dog. Must be one of the perks of being a sniffer dog!
On entering the final gate on foot 13 Squadron's CO, Wing Commander Terry Jones personally welcomed attendees with a hand shake which was a nice touch. It was then a short walk to the area where the aircraft were displayed.
Unlike airshows a photocall gives you a chance to photograph aircraft without the usual distractions of barriers (the exception being the F-15 from nearby Lakenheath) and bouncy castles. The only thing to get in the way of shots were other people also waiting for a shot and in some cases a stalemate situation arises! Most were good natured in waiting for photos but a small minority obviously have no patience and shout obscenities as soon as anyone looks like entering the frame. On the other end of the scale there are those 'rivet spotters' who seem fascinated with very minute details and can spend five minutes plus staring at them.
First aircraft to photograph was a Hawk from 208 Squadron who have a year to go before they can celebrate their 90th. It was parked outside a hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) which set the scene off nicely. Close by was a small platform that allowed you to get a different perspective of it. The HAS was opened up to reveal some stalls and also a display of 13 Squadron's photographs. The detail that can be picked up from reconnaissance photos is amazing and with thermal imaging it is possible to tell the fuel state of a C-141 and also where an aircraft has been standing!
Parked close by was another reconnaisance ship in the form of a Canberra PR9. From there it was possible to see the huge line of Tornado tails stretching into the distance. Many of the special scheme tails were present so for those wanting to 'bag the tails' this was a perfect opportunity.
Standing outside another HAS were an F-15 and special scheme Tornado from 11 Squadron. It was possible to photograph the Tornado but the barriers and white tape that surrounded the F-15 did spoil it somewhat. The USAF's paranoia continues.
Parked directly tail on to another HAS was 13 Squadron's brightly coloured anniversary ship, the Squadron's colours of green, gold and blue taking up the whole of the tail. Just about every aircraft was in a good position to photograph, the only let down being the grey skies. Another thoughtful setup was the positioning of a 12 Squadron Tornado alongside a Hunter, also in 12 Squadron markings. There was another slightly elevated platform to stand on to get the perfect shot of both of them.
To the right of the taxiway was the long line of Tornados with nearly every Tornado squadron represented. Every machine had a different weapon fit thanks to Marham's armourers that fitted them the day before. Some of the weapons are not yet in service so it was great to see them hanging off an aircraft.
One of the best places to get photos was from the top of a tall access platform. There was a constant queue for it, the charge being a donation to the charity pot. Although there wasn't a set time limit for using it I think the stares from other photographers burning the back of your head would tell you its time to allow someone else a turn!
The largest aircraft that didn't turn up thanks to going tech was a B-1B but despite this the event was very well organised and I'm sure most enjoyed the opportunity. Events like this certainly pave the way for more enthusiast days in the future. The photographers get their shots and the base raises money for charity so it's a win-win situation for all concerned. Roll on the next one!