Wattisham Flying Station

One of this week’s fortunate happenings was to be invited to a cocktail party and beating retreat at the Wattisham Flying Station. The last time I was mixing with operational military air crew was in Salalah in 1982. That of course was a different world. The young officers today have done their tours of Afghanistan and finished their Top Gun Training in the U.S. The Army reckons that it costs about £3.5 million to train Apache Helicopter pilots. You get a sense of what a machine the Apache is when it weighs over nine tons fully loaded and can be thrown around the sky at 180 m.p.h. Not that any throwing around is done. These machines cost around £35 million each. The cocktail party was fortunate insofar as Suffolk County Council are initiating a Community Covenant With The Armed Forces. On first reading the Covenant strikes one as being a tad flabby. It is apparently meant as first steps and obviously it cannot be a one size fits all as the various units and communities have different needs. I was in total awe of the personnel whom we met. They are very professional and certainly good value for money. They do deserve our support and one of my ambitions is to make it easier for our veterans to settle in communities of their choice – or as one veteran once put it to me “I can’t go back to where I enlisted. If I become homeless in Camden my wife will divorce me”. We need to work out better ways to support our military.

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