It’s every schoolboys dream to become a Red Arrow. At least it was for me. The problem was, I was cack at maths and my brain isn’t wired up that way. Having served in the Army for 10 years, a lot of the time attached to the RAF, when you hear such sad news as what happened to Flt LT Jon Egging and only a day ago, Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham. Well, you feel like you’ve lost an old friend.
Outside of the Reds on their squadrons, these daring pilots saw operational duty flying Tornados, Harriers and the new Euro fighter. Whilst I was on active service in the Gulf War of 1991, it was the likes of Jon and Sean that risked life and limb to help the boys on the ground, delivering essential fast air support when the chips were down. And that’s a major point we are missing. Its not just two Red Arrow jocks we’ve sadly lost, its another two men serving Queen and country.
A a kid I was always thrilled to see the Reds in action and I can honestly say that my hairs still stand on end whenever I’m lucky enough to indulge. They are wondrous to enjoy and for me and possibly you, mean more than the Royal Family, Big Ben and London Bridge. The Reds represent everything good about Britain and if you were to ask anyone whether they’d swap 100 MPs for just one Red Arrow pilot, the jet powered ambassador of the sky would get the vote every time.
The Red Arrows carry our hopes and dreams as they sour majestically into the clouds and in a time of such desperation here in the UK; they represent and stand for all things good. They are quintessentially British and fly in a way far superior to anyone else.
Its living proof that if you knuckle down and do well, you can be rewarded by serving with the finest aerobatic display team in the World. The Red Arrows don’t just represent the Royal Air force, pilots or fast jets. They represent England and its proud aviation history. They stand for the freedom of our skies and the smile on a child’s face as their watch in awe as the synchro pair go head to head, full welly.
I’ve been extremely lucky and indeed fortunate not only to attend various airshows in a media capacity but also to have a good old chin wag with Red 10, Andy Robbins. I’ll post up the interview at some point along with some footage and let you enjoy it. For the meantime though, enjoy the photos that I’ve snapped over the years. The majority are from either the International Air Tattoo at Fairford and the Royal Navy Air Show at Yeovilton.
Finally I’ll leave you with a very famous poem first bought to my attention by Mike Collins of Apollo 11 fame and written by Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee of No 412 squadron, killed 11 December 1941. As we approach the 11th hour of the 11th day, I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to the aerial ambassadors that have been lost over the years, all in the name of freedom.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
For all who have flown to protect us and thrill us, we salute you.