Armistice Day

Poppy WreathOn each 11th November at 11 am, every city, town, borough and village across the UK, falls silent for 2 minutes in remembrance of all those who fell in the two Great World Wars and later conflicts. The time and date are very significant as it was at 11am on of the  11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the guns fell silent to bring and end to World War 1,

The village of Yeovilton in Somerset where I live was no different. For a small village of only 50 properties, Yeovilton attracts more than its fair share of royalty and dignitaries. This even included the the Head of the Anglican Church,Archbishop of Canterbury to conduct one Remembrance Day service.

The prime reason is the Church of St Bartholomew located in the village and which was unused when I first moved here. Adjoining the village is the Royal Naval Air Station, RNAS Yeovilton which established at the start of WW2 and which also has a military naval cemetery at the rear of the church.

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) purchased and restored the church for it to become the church for Naval Air Seamen.

At  this years Remembrance Parade at St Bartholomew’s, the worlds last surviving Swordfish plane based at  RNAS Yeovilton took part in a flypast dropping 25,000 remembrance poppies as it flew over.

The current building of St Bartholomew’s dates back to about the 1540’s but still contains elements of a Norman church which predated it and which in turn was built on an even earlier Saxon church.

The pictures below show a number of the poppies that drifted into my garden and the Swordfish flying over RNAS Yeovilton and Yeovilton Village.

Also the Photosphere at the bottom shows the military cemetery at Yeovilton with St Bartholomew’s in the background.

.IMGP3297Yeovilton Swordfish

 

 

 

 

Yeovilton Air Day 2014

As usual, RNAS Yeovilton put on a dazzling day long display of flying skills on 26th August. Aircraft from around the world arriving in the preceding days gradually built up the growing expectation of another fine display.

Aircraft of all shapes and sizes, old, new, small and large, jet or propeller powered and more importantly the pilots that flew them all added to the carnival atmosphere of the day. Although rapidly becoming aged, the Avro Vulcan bomber once the mainstay of the UK’s mainline defence always draws crowds even if it is just to watch it arrive or depart..

Sadly the Sea Fury based ay RNAS Yeovilton as part of the historic flight did something of a pancake landing a week later at Yeovilton’s ‘Sister Ship’ RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall during their annual Air Day display. For some reason one of the undercarriage legs collapsed on landing but fortunately the pilot walked away from the crash unharmed. Provided the Sea Fury is not too badly damaged and provided its airframe is still airworthy, I would not be at all surprised to see this fine aircraft rebuilt.

I have placed a selection of pictures below.

 

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Sea Fury 01
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November 2011


id=”” align=”alignleft” width=”275″ caption=”Dr Rowan Williams – Archbishop of Canterbury”

In many ways I find November something of sad time of year. Whether it was good or bad, Summer is now a distant memory, Autumn is fast slipping away and trees become more denuded by the day as leaves continually fall like raindrops. It is also that time of year when days already becoming noticeably shorter give way to even more noticeable lengthening nights. Even so, I notice daylight hours eke a bit longer in the countryside than when I lived in town where row upon row of houses acted like mini-ravines blocking out precious daylight.

The twice yearly ritual of resetting clocks and watches has recently taken place. The number of timekeeping devices requiring attention appear to proliferate every year. When I was a child, apart from the pocket watch my father proudly wore, the only other clock in the house was a large brass alarm affair with two bells set on top.

While November presents the opportunity to pause and dwell on the year that has so far elapsed, by co-incidence it is also the time we remember our brave fallen from past conflicts. Communities from around the country gather in services of remembrance and pause to observe a two-minute silence of respect. My own small village does not possess a war memorial other than commemorative plaques in the church, it does however have its own more poignant memorial in the form of a military graveyard attached to the church first consecrated when the adjoining naval air station at Yeovilton, (RNAS Heron), first opened in early World War II. Our church, St Bartholomew’s, dates back to the mid 15th century but there are aspects of a previous Norman church that form part of a wall. The church previously came under the auspices of the Diocese of Bath and Wells until it was purchased by the Navy as their Fleet Air Arm church a few years ago. Part of the purchase process led to St Bartholomew’s becoming part of the Diocese of Canterbury.

This year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams graced the village by taking an open-air service of remembrance in the military graveyard. A large honour guard from RNAS Yeovilton also attended the service. The naval base fortunately has a large set of double gates from the airfield that open close to the church.

November is also that time of year when the process of gradually battening down the hatches begins prior to the chill winds that are not too far off. I just hope the forthcoming winter period will not be as protracted as last year.

id=”attachment_1854″ align=”aligncenter” width=”447″ caption=”St Bartholomew’s Church, Yeovilton”

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Yeovilton Air Show 2011


Yeovilton Air Show 2011The Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton adjoining our property once again staged its spectacular annual air show on 9th July. Participant aircraft and their pilots from around the world enthralled spectators with flying displays made perfect by flying skills honed to a peak. The air show always gives us the opportunity to invite friends to our home to watch the display from part of our garden and enjoy a long leisurely barbecue throughout the day.

The ever popular RAF Red Arrows display team gave a dazzling performance that lasted nearly 20 minutes and never fails to impress everyone that watches them.

The last flying Vulcan Bomber accompanied by a Sea Vixen gave a display of both grace and power. Although the Vulcan is now a historic but awesome weapon of war, it still remains a crowd-puller at air shows. The Vulcan is now owned by a private trust but cost of maintaining this mighty beast is however high. Public donations can be made at http://www.vulcantothesky.org/

Being a naval air base, the grand finale gives the navy the opportunity to display their unique mixture of sea, land and air skills. A set piece of Marines attacking an “enemy” stronghold using massed helicopters to provide transport for both troops, artillery and transport is always a favourite. Air cover for the marines was provided by conventional land based aircraft. Until last year this was provided by Sea Harriers but a short-sighted purely monetary based policy by an insipid coalition government has now left the seriously UK denuded of both aircraft carriers and sea based air cover. As an individual, I suspect most people would prefer our defence capability to be based on a well-trained and well equipped military with real kit rather than the sabre rattling, parliamentary gas-bag variety.

The number of participants was to great to mention them all but I have added below a selection of photographs I took of the show. Click on a picture for a larger image.

 

 

Yeovilton Air Show 2011

Yeovilton Air Show 2011

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February 2011


February is not my favourite of months during the year, however snow drops are in full bloom and daffodils shoots are growing furiously heralding an ever nearing Spring. Lighter evenings are now becoming more noticeable creating a general feel the sap will soon be rising even in myself. Even as I write the outside temperature gauge which sends a signal to my indoor weather station is showing 53° farenheit (11.7° C) which is remarkably mind for this winter month. This is something of a welcome respite after the recent savage weather conditions that the county has experienced. Those who use the centigrade scale must forgive me for still using Farenheit, it is however what I grew up with and to myself, I find Centigrade temperatures do not convey any real purposeful meaning when visualising external weather conditions. I am certain there are many more old-codgers like me who do the same.

Little is going on in the garden at the moment but I must soon start annual hedge trimming before new greenery starts to appear and birds start building nests in the hedges.

South Somerset where I live is mainly comprised of small villages. Even the local District Council logo is made up of a depiction of rural villages. One of the benefits of this scattered residential habitat is most villages have at least one or two public houses within their small communities. Over recent years this has give rise to many fine small restaurant developments as part of a public house, many of them are reliant on this business for their main trade. Unlike many large cities, my small part of the world now has the choice of numerous restaurants all serving well prepared meals at a very reasonable cost and with personalised attention. Given the rural nature of this area, driving to a public house/restaurant is still a necessity but again, most serve non-alcoholic beers allowing for an equally enjoyable time to all concerned.


 6th February 2011

Our bi-monthy community news letter recently arrived through my letter box, I would think that many of the villages in Somerset have something similar. My newsletter covers the villages of Ilchester, Limington, Northover, Podimore and Yeovilton which are naturally bound together by geography. I recall when I first arrived in Somerset to be pleasantly surprised the first time the newsletter arrived. London where I previously lived although a large a city, is still never-the-less comprised of groupings of many communities that merge into each other. In the 45 years I lived in London, I never once saw a community newsletter in any of the districts where I lived. It is hardly surprising that outside of adjoining neighbours in London, many people are complete strangers to each other.

I find our local newsletter very informative with details of forthcoming local events, local council decisions and issues with planning applications and outcomes. There are usually a number of well written articles, some covering local events and history while others are much broader based in both content and location. The local CoE also devotes time to broadcast local church news without sounding like a sermon. Advertisements for the butcher, baker and candlestick maker as well as many other sundry local undertakings abound throughout the news-sheet. I find the advertisements very useful in not only subsidising the cost of the free newsletter, but also useful for a first point of contact should one require an external service. Somerset I have found is an area if one needs advice about a subject ranging from building work to good restaurants, one only has to ask a friend or neighbour for an entire chain of helpful knowledge and contacts to be forthcoming.

National crime maps is a subject recently in the news, These can be found at  http://www.police.uk/. These maps give a breakdown of actual or reported crime both by an area and a street by street basis. I could not get through the link on the first day of operation as apparently the computer crashed due to overwhelming demand nationally for information. Now that things have settled down a bit, I was pleased to see my own village showed a zero in every category of crime. Out of curiosity I looked at my previous London location to find the streets around the previous district where I lived littered with markers indicating burglaries, street crime and other types of offences. I wonder if these new crime maps will have an impact on houses prices in districts that show high levels of crime?

Prior to the online availability of these new crime maps, another Government/Police based crime map was available. I however found this map most unhelpful and meaningless. The previous map showed the entire county of Somerset to be “average” in crime. Bristol was the only location showing above average. To me this posed the question of what “average” crime meant? Did average mean two garden sheds broken into over a period of a few years or, did average mean several murders a day on the same street? I suspect on that on that national crime map a broad-brush of statistics were applied that left a pointless outcome. I did ask about the meaning of average crime on this map at a meeting of local Neighbourhood Watch representatives with the Police. Unfortunately as they were not the composers of this particular national crime map, although they understood the points raised, they could not answer the question.

 


11th February 2011

Yesterday, the leaders of the three main political parties visited the West Country with two coming to Yeovil. The pleasant small market town that comprises Yeovil only takes ten minutes or less to drive through and is where I do most my shopping. Historically, Yeovil was the glove making centre of the UK producing up to 95% of all gloves made. Like many industries, times change and glove making is now all but past history. Augusta Westland in now the major employer that dominates the town and is always a magnet for visiting politicians and notables. It was also the same location which became known as the Westland Affair in the 1980’s which led to the then Defence Secretary Michael Hesletine walking out a cabinet meeting and announcing his resignation.

The West Country is traditionally Liberal Party country but the recent debacle over increased university student fees has more than ruffled a few feathers. Apparently Nick Clegg the leader of the Liberal Party found the visit a little uncomfortable as people voiced their thoughts. I wonder how much forward thinking consideration was given to the effects of breaking an unbreakable pledge so soon after coming into power in a coalition government.

At the turn of the 20th century, there was effectively  only two political parties capable to forming a government, The Conservative and Liberal parties then known as the Whigs and Liberals. With the formation of the Labour Party, voters who traditionally vote Liberal moved their voting allegiances in droves to the new Labour Party effectively leaving the Liberals in the national government wilderness ever since. Due to the electorates intense dislike of the Labour Party, recent election results left the Liberals in the position of King Maker who threw their hat into the ring with the Conservatives. After only a few short months in shared government, the firmest of election pledges was broken for which I suspect they will pay a high price at the next election. Excuses for broken promises may be fine for politicians but not the electorate. Most politicians weasel their way out of political promises with feckless excuses. European, Union and Referendum are words that spring to minds in recent times. But to break such a firm pledge is such a short time means that any other undertaking that may be given will be viewed with immediate distrusting scepticism by the voting public. It’s like making a rod for your back for life.

I am not certainly not knocking any particular political party as personally I do not think any of them are fit for purpose at the moment. It will probably take a few more politicians to fall on their swords before one credible party rises like the Phoenix from the flames.

As for the visiting politicians, they left as rapidly as they came following their whirlwind visits, leaving the people that really run the country to get on with their lives.

 

 


24th February 2011

 The connection between Somerset and the Middle East may seem somewhat remote but the recent troubles sweeping through that region arouse not too distant memories. In 2006 similar troubles arose in Lebanon which involved the rapid evacuation of British nationals from that country. The response of the Government of the day was swift. Naval ships including aircraft carriers, (we still had both in service at that time), moved into that area of the Mediterranean Sea. I also recall watching from my garden, a flight of Sea King helicopters from the Royal Naval airbase at Yeovilton which adjoins my property, leave in formation on a 24 hours flight to Cyprus. At that time the Sea King helicopters were about 25 years old but have proved to be an immensely reliable workhorse. The flight involved a number of refueling stops in various Nato countries but despite the long distance, the Sea Kings managed the flight with ease. The following day the helicopters were involved in ferrying stranded British nationals from the troubled shores of Lebanon.

Now only five short years on and again we have need to evacuate British nationals but this time from Libya currently being torn apart by internal strife. What is the Government response this time? It is a very weak, swift on words but short of action response as one might expect from a government constantly trying to appease its coalition partner. Other European governments took immediate steps to evacuate their nationals while our government was still trying to charter aircraft. Five years ago troubles abroad were foreseen and an aircraft carrier was moved into the area in advance to assist in evacuation. Now we have reduced aircraft carriers with no aircraft and a reduced naval fleet. We still do have large transporter aircraft which could be used in an emergency although the government is closing some of their bases. However, being stranded at Tripoli Airport as upheaval and bullets tear the city apart does not appear to be deemed a sufficient enough emergency to use the transporter aircraft.

I do hope this Government never have to deal with a real national crisis, but I do foresee if the Alternative Voting system (AV) is accepted in a forthcoming referendum, we can constantly expect similar indecisive action from a string of coalition governments that will be inevitably be elected as a result.

Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton


Yeovilton Air Show

The Red Arrows

One might think that living next to a naval air station is noisy but quite the reverse is true. Although the base is busy, it is not a commercial airport and the most one hears from time to time is an occasional  whoosh as an aircraft takes off. The Air Show Day however is noisy but that is a prerequisite we accept in return for the wonderful free entertainment that we get.

Yeovilton is not a large village, its more of a hamlet with about 50 properties. It used to be the case however in the week preceding the air show for aircraft enthusiasts world-wide to flood into the village to watch rehearsals for the show taking place, some with camper vans intending to camp overnight in the village. Understandable as it is for enthusiasts to satisfy their chosen hobby, for a small village it was proving very disruptive. Now military personnel seal off both ends of the only road to run through the village prior to the air show and only residents who are issued with passes are allowed through. Regrettable but necessary.

The UK’s own Red Arrows are frequent participants at the show and each year their display in precision flying seems more spectacular the preceding year. The vertical take off Aircraft the Harrier has always been a favourite. Until a few years ago, the Harriers were based at Yeovilton after which they amalgamated with the RAF Harriers. Alas the Harrier is no more having been withdrawn from service due to budget cuts. I watched the last flight of Harriers land at Yeovilton after they left their aircraft carrier for the last time. One cannot forget the role the Harrier played during the Falklands conflict and although they were coming to the end of their serviceable life, I would seriously question the decision to retire the Harrier prematurely solely as a budget saving exercise without a replacement. This now leaves the UK with mothballed aircraft carriers without aircraft and the same position will exist for some time even when replacement aircraft carriers eventually are commissioned. The thought of placing reliance in other countries for our defence is one that hardly fills me with enthusiasm. Dear old Winston must be turning in his grave.

Although peace has now returned to the Falklands, possession of the islands by any country now becomes even more desirable with the discovery of oil in the offshore waters. As usual politicians will assure the public they know what they are doing but history shows that conflicts frequently swiftly arise in a short space of time, like a storm appearing from nowhere out of a clear blue sky. The last Falklands conflict is a prime example. History is equally littered with swiftly replaced politically defunct leaders that thought they knew what they were doing.

 There are however strong rumours going around locally that a flight of 8 or 9 Harriers may be stored at Yeovilton, “just in case”. I have no idea whether there is any truth in the rumours.  Some people claim to have faries at the end of their gardens, in my case it’s jet fighters.

Friends watching the Air Show

Yeovilton Air Show

 
 
 Yeovilton Air Show
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