This morning, Saturday 10 May, RAF Leuchars held its final parade through the streets of St Andrews.
Crowds turned out in their masses, bracing the rain, to bid farewell to the Leuchars squadrons. The parade was also a welcome home for the 58th squadron after a seven-month-long tour in Afghanistan.
“We didn’t expect as many people to turn out – it’s really good,” said one RAF official.
[pullquote]It’s an opportunity to show what we do[/pullquote]
Setting of from St Salvator’s Quadrangle with the expected military precision at 10:25 am, the parade was headed by standard bearers carrying the Freedom Scroll of St Andrews along with the standards of the Leuchars-based squadrons: one and six, and that of 58.
The RAF Leuchars pipe band came next, swiftly followed by the band of the RAF college, Cranwell, and a mass of regimented soldiers.
As the roughly 250 RAF personnel made their way through town, a plane performed a close fly-past with a scorching noise, adding to the din of the celebratory atmosphere.
Cheers, banners and profuse clapping escorted the troops past the cathedral, down South Street and into the square of Madras College. Here, a brief speech and display of drill brought proceedings to an end.
[pullquote]The crowd seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the display[/pullquote]
Crowding around the Blackfriars ruins at the entrance to Madras, the onlookers showed their support for the last RAF parade to take place in St Andrews after 100 years of tradition. Excited children pushed their way to the front to catch a glimpse of a parading parent, while bewildered but impressed tourists looked on and cameras snapped all around.
Judging by the reaction of the spectators, this official farewell was a great success.
“It’s an opportunity to show what we do” explained a participating drill instructor.
Bruce Nairn, a bass drummer in the RAF Leuchars pipe band, said: “The parade was very successful and the crowd seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the display.”
Yet there was an underlying sense of sadness to the day’s events, knowing that this will be the last event of its kind for those who have been based at Leuchars for so long.
The two Typhoon squadrons based in Leuchars will begin their relocation to Lossimouth next month as part of the UK government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Graham Hasty, one of the ushers for the parade, summed it up: “It’s all gone very well indeed [but] nobody wants to go.”