A “poignant and fitting” ceremony will mark the handover of RAF Leuchars to the army on March 31, the last ever station commander of RAF Leuchars has confirmed.
In an exclusive interview with The Courier at Leuchars, Wing Commander Neville Clayton said a 20-minute ceremony would be “small scale” and serve as a poignant thank you to RAF personnel and the community after almost 100 years of history.
Confirming the private ceremony would be attended by invited guests only, Wg Cdr Clayton said: “If I was to use one term, I’d probably say it was a flag change.
“I’m not going to say it’s as simple as hauling one flag down and hauling another one up.
“But you know what? It’s probably not that different.
“In a very smart and military fashion, an RAF flight will march on parade and an army flight will march on parade.
“The pipe band from here will be here as well. The RAF Ensign will come down and the army flag will go up.
“Then they’ll march off again.”
Wg Cdr Clayton said his boss, Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group Air Vice-Marshal Gary Waterfall, will attend, as will Brigadier Paul Harkness who is the commander of 51 Brigade for the army.
He added:”We’ve all got stories to tell. The AOC really wants to meet the people and thank them for what they’ve done in what have been extremely difficult times for many people.
“We are very sad to be leaving Leuchars although the RAF is not leaving entirely.
“People have done a great job. Many servicemen have spent many, many years here and Leuchars is by far their favourite station.”
Wg Cdr Clayton said the army could look forward to working in what had been the “jewel in the crown” of RAF stations.
He will be moving with his family to Washington DC where he will be working with the British Embassy on bilateral defence diplomacy programmes.
But the Welshman plans to retire to Fife.
He added: “I’m a convert but I absolutely love the area. And I’ve made some great friends. I’ve really enjoyed working with colleagues in the council, in the university.
“I’ve made some great friends and have been made to feel very, very welcome.
“And that’s why it’s quite nice for those of us who will be here that day that my big boss can come along and thank everyone for their great efforts in very difficult circumstances. And of course for the civilians as well, for those who are moving on to pastures new.”
Wg Cdr Clayton said the drawdown of the base and efforts to make it ready for the army had been “quite remarkable when you consider the size of the estate”.
He added: “The transition of the station from air to land is going really really well.
“Obviously we’ve had quite a few years building up to this and as our presence here has been gradually reducing, we’ve been working very closely with the army to try to minimise the impact on both sets of personnel and their families, and where possible the impact on the locals as well.
“It’s been very much a joint approach between the military and the local environment as well, in particular Fife Council and the Scottish Government.”
Wg Cdr Clayton said there were still several hundred RAF personnel at Leuchars and this was decreasing on a weekly basis, but the RAF would not be leaving completely as around 50 personnel would be running the diversionary airfield.
Also remaining at Leuchars would be the East of Scotland University Air Squadron, 612 Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the HQ of Scotland and Northern Ireland Air Training Corps.