Cookie Notice

WE LOVE THE NATIONS OF EUROPE
However, this blog is a US service and this site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user-agent are shared with Google along with performance and security metrics to ensure quality of service, generate usage statistics, and to detect and address abuse.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Dealing with sudden death

Growing up during the Cold War we reckoned there was a fair chance we would all be obliterated in an atomic storm before reaching adulthood. Living in the middle of Europe's largest military airfield - East Anglia - made us even more aware of the risk. Then, in Needham Market, additionally, we had the RAF sheep and the Polish spies.

The RAF sheep are the easiest to explain. Just down the road we had a vast underground aviation fuel dump, running for about 2km at the side of a B road. The tanks beneath the grass-covered tumps were connected, we supposed, with RAF Wattisham, our closest nuclear target amongst the scores of UK and USAF airbases across the region. They were cleverly camouflaged and there were no visible signs as to what the vast bumpy fields actually were, except for the sheep. It was whispered that the risk of fire had ruled out the use of gang mowers to keep the grass short (this was old school '70s - even a secret, camouflaged defence facility needed short hair and discipline) so the fuel dump was populated with RAF sheep. And we passed them daily, grazing atop the millions of gallons of incendiary aviation fuel, utterly unaware of the danger, calmly gazing back as they chewed the RAF grass.

The Polish spies were hiding in plain sight. At a time when there was virtually zero trade between the West and the nations behind the Iron Curtain, the Polish tractor and agricultural machinery firm Ursus Bison opened an outlet and service centre just outside Needham Market. The tractors were heavily discounted to ensure sales across East Anglia. Then, to 'improve customer service', they imported a Sikorsky helicopter, a couple of pilots and a ground crew, ostensibly to deliver spares and engineers to farms across East Anglia. We reckoned any farm within spitting distance of a NATO facility that bought a tractor would find the injectors quickly blocked or the fuel pump fouled and a friendly Polish voice on the telephone offering to fly an engineer out immediately. We once had the inevitable conversation, watching the Sikorsky wobble across the sky minutes after a flight of F4s had screamed over our heads at low level leaving us covered in a faint mist of unburned Avgas Kerosene.

"Do you reckon they'll warn them?"

"What, when they launch the missiles? Nah."

Like the blissfully unaware RAF sheep, both we and the diligent Poles would be condemned to instant nuclear annihilation by Soviet nukes. Such was life.

For the millennials, the Chinese plague threat will be the first time anything has actually threatened their lives. Whilst I hope and pray the thing is contained, if it is not it will be up to our generation to set the example as to how to live with the threat of premature death. And being British, I'm quite sure our response will include humour. Even before the first case has been confirmed, you can bet the first joke will have hit the internet.

20 comments:

Poisonedchalice said...

Number 47 with fried rice and Corona please. No, I meant the fizzy drink you clutz!

Mark said...

Ag those were the days!

Span Ows said...

I grew up within 1 mile as the crow flies from Northwood Nato HQ (amongst others housed there). We weren't particularly worried about the danger but knew if anything ever kicked off we wouldn't know much about it! Good old days :-)

r_writes esq. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
r_writes esq. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
r_writes esq. said...

"The tractors were heavily discounted to ensure sales across East Anglia. Then, to 'improve customer service', they imported a Sikorsky helicopter, a couple of pilots and a ground crew, ostensibly to deliver spares and engineers to farms across East Anglia."

And just yesterday, history repeated itself as our government goaded the Yanks again by importing a load of knock off gear from Huawei.

Our establishment really does smell of something unpleasant.

Huawei the lads.

Nick Drew said...

ah, Wattisham - Lightning F Mk3s ... yes, the everpresent Avgas fumes, and the never-to-be-forgotten sound of the RR Avons, (distinctive in their own earsplitting way as a Merlin) as they practised their QRA drills, near-vertical at some extraordinary rate of climb

sighs, sounds and smells: what bliss it was to be a space cadet

Anonymous said...

I was in HK during SARS, nobody panicked even though we were effectively quarantined. All the bars kept open and I think bodily fluids were still being swapped as vigorously as at any other time. Perhaps alcohol was an effective antiviral... that's my excuse!

Mark said...

What about mad cow disease? Weren't we all supposed to be shuffling zombies by now?

Raedwald said...

Nick - I second the awe-inducing power of the Lightning. I only saw it once at a Wattisham open day, just before they went out of service, and I've never forgotten the power and ground-trembling roar of that vertical climb. MilKit bliss.

Dadad said...

Not so long ago all the woke crowd were bleating about an inevitable third world war with Iran.

At least now corona will give them something else to worry about.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Perhaps some brave soul will compose an 'Armageddon Of The Week' list?

This week it's coronavirus. Previously WWIII because of Iran. Previously a potential Deutsche Bank collapse brining the global financial system to it's knees. And Brexit. And Global Warming. And the big earthquake 'due' in California. And North Korea. And Trump. And Hillary.

Any of these things could happen but we do ourselves no favours by allowing the media to stoke anxiety and fear week after week.

Michael said...

When I was doing a lot of building work for USAF, the Cambridge bods in Brooklands Avenue always happily told anyone who bothered to listen, where all the active bases were, and what they were up to!

Greenham Common was an attack area from the 'We shall overcome' brigade, which was interesting, but I did get seriously 'frisked' at Alconbury though...

John Leak said...

Avgas in an F4? And what was that huge hole they dug just outside Downham Market in the 60s?

Raedwald said...

Oh Kerosene then .... but an F4 on afterburner was also a very impressive sight and sound

Billy Marlene said...

26 dead.

125,000 deaths in China every year through pneumonia.

Some catching up to do.

Mr Ecks said...


The attached link from Lew Riockwells site shows your chances of dying from this coron-whatever are 0.0000001137

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/01/bill-sardi/your-chance-of-developing-symptoms-or-dying-from-the-menacing-coronavirus-that-now-threatens-global-human-populations-is-0-0000017482-symptoms-0-0000001137-death/

Mr Ecks said...



Also this :https://blog.nomorefakenews.com/2020/01/24/man-who-pushed-sars-dud-now-pushing-new-chinese-virus/

Dave_G said...


There's either a lot more than 26 deaths or there are a lot fewer than 10's of millions under 'lockdown'.

No-one shuts down massive cities for the sake of 26 deaths.

What are we not being told?

Also, those massed diggers? Making a hospital or digging a grave? Where were the associated lorries to remove the dirt?

Span Ows said...

bit late on this thread but in answer to the final comments: China built a lab for SARS and Ebola in Wuhan...what a coincidence. US warned in 2017 that it wasn't safe and a virus could 'escape'