Thursday, September 28, 2006
I’d come to look for Grim’s Ditch, but all I saw was footpaths just like any others amongst the Chiltern Beeches. The only difference was the fit-looking joggers, all in khaki T-shirts. And the Royal Air Force officers with gold braid and lots of stripes, on the road. One looked at me curiously, before exchanging relaxed salutes with a warrant officer. At the gate was a rather attractive female sentry, holding her gun at the ready. A sign said, “Cyclists must dismount and show ID.” But she let through all the cyclists, in their blue-grey RAF uniforms, as they pedalled in without stopping, waving their passes in the air. She was talking to an RAF policeman at the same time, who was giving her instruction I think. But seeing me from the corner of her eye, she stiffened. I was a potential stirrer of the hornet’s nest. She brandished her gun as if she was ready to do business with it, whilst I loped past. I didn’t look like a suicide bomber, but then, what self-respecting terrorist would?
RAF High Wycombe is the headquarters of Strike Command, one of the nerve-centres of UK forces. I researched it a while ago as a footnote to my book, which chronicles the life of a country boy from rural Jamaica whose experience of military service had terminated after insubordination to a corporal. Forty years later he became Mayor of High Wycombe and dined as an honoured guest in the Officer’s Mess, which I passed today, and enjoyed equal status with an Air Vice Marshal, a situation which he recalled with great relish.
Posted by Vincent at 4:23 pm