5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron at RAF Wittering to be disbanded
A Royal Air Force bomb disposal squadron formed 75 years ago and currently based at RAF Wittering is to be disbanded.
In announcing the news on Thursday, November 8, a spokesman said the decision to disband 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron had been taken as there was a "high level of duplication" between the British Army and RAF's bomb disposal capabilities.
"There will be a managed draw down of bomb disposal capability," he said, adding that it was anticipated the squadron will be disbanded before April 2020.
The spokesman would not reveal how many people will be affected for security reasons, but said members of the squadron will be absorbed into the RAF with no redundancies amongst military or civilian personnel expected.
"There will be absolutely no change to public safety and public tasks will now be carried out by the army and not the RAF," he said, adding the army had a larger bomb disposal capability than the RAF.
He was at pains to say the disbandment of the squadron had nothing to do with cutbacks to military spending, but was rather to avoid a duplication of tasks.
Group Captain Tony Keeling, the Station Commander at RAF Wittering said: "Everyone at RAF Wittering and across the wider Royal Air Force will be deeply saddened by the disbandment of 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron.
"For 75 years the squadron has lived by its motto, to make the harmful harmless, in their operational role and the countless occasions in which they have assisted the civilian authorities to maintain public safety.
"5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron has served this country with bravery, honour and distinction and has maintained the best traditions of the Royal Air force throughout its history.
"We are very grateful to squadron personnel, past and present, for all that they have given in the past 75 years."
The squadron was formed in 1943 to defuse German bombs and by 1945 had made safe 176,000 weapons.
In 1982 the squadron took part in the Falklands War, with a specialist sleeping next to an unexploded bomb in a field hospital to reassure patients that it was safe enough for him to defuse the next day.
In 1991 it was one of the first units over the Iraq border during Operation Granby.