The Big Eye, October 27, 2015

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Last Wednesday YET ANOTHER warplane crashed amongst our homes, narrowly missing people and buildings. Another pilot killed and another scene of mayhem as emergency services scramble fire engines, ambulances, and helicopters to a crash site.

This time it’s not far from Littleport and they are happening with increasing and petrifying regularity. It was Cley marshes that saw a scene of devastation in January 2014 and again, in October 2014 our American allies lost one of their aircraft, narrowly missing a school near Spalding as it fell out of the sky in a ball of flames. Immediately after each event a stern senior officer from the base issues the standard statement of regret over the loss of a pilot and a plane but nothing more. They’ll proudly tell us that a full enquiry into the circumstances will take place immediately but at no point will there be a word of apology for endangering our lives once again. We aren’t on their radar. We don’t count. The reason they fly here is because we have relatively low population density and, because these machines are unstable and unreliable, they have to minimise the chances of killing a lot of people when they crash them. My village is under a flight path. They fly directly over our homes morning, noon and late at night in increasing numbers and it is only a matter of time before an aircraft slaughters dozens of us in a direct hit on a school or hospital or town centre. No complaints or requests to fly away from centres of population are heeded by them because they say they have to practise and believe they serve a greater good. And I guess if your mission in life is to launch missiles and bombs with the intention of killing and destroying then you obviously become hardened to risks and the sanctity of life.

As I write this piece, Tornadoes scream overhead, they turn across the village and if I step outside to look closely, I can see a pilot. Strapped into the ejector seat and travelling at god-knows-what speed, this highly-trained officer must think he’s king of the world. Round and round he goes, back over my head maybe a dozen times. The same route, the same manoeuvre, the same noise and every time I feel like I’m staring down the barrel of his gun and wondering when it’ll be my turn to hear the loud explosion and the black smoke followed by the wail of sirens and the clatter of helicopters hovering overhead.

Traditionally, a series of correspondents will write in to defend the military and we get the lecture about national security and how much the roar of the jets brings comfort to their hearts, and they are entitled to an opinion. It is, apparently, a free country thanks to the armed forces but it would be nice to get a response from those who, evidenced by the latest crash at Redmere Fen, are undoubtedly endangering your lives every day.