In Harm’s Way

The RAF are about to go into action again. Attacking IS in Iraq.

The situation is making me think about the children of the RAF personnel involved.

I have been working on a project that involved me talking to RAF personnel and their families on the base at Cosford. Earlier this year I sat in the staffroom of Albrighton Primary School and interviewed pilots and other men and women who work for the RAF. I asked them about what it is like to be in the RAF and to be in a family with RAF links. I wanted their thoughts about how it made their children feel.

Then – after I talked to the parents – the children came in. We talked about what it was like when your dad or you mum is called away to fight in a war, as many dads and mums will be now.

One boy, age 9, said that he couldn’t cope when he dad was at war. He told me that his way of coping was to imagine that his dad was sitting on the sofa at home, not in a plane above the desert. And when he was at home he imagined his dad was at the bar on the base. He said it was impossible otherwise.

Other children told me equally moving and thought-provoking stories.

It’s hard to imagine what it is like to be in the situation of the adult or the child above. But I needed to. Talking to these very generous parent-child pairs helped me a lot.

The thing that stuck with me most was the answer a senior RAF officer gave to me when I asked him if he thought being in RAF made them different for everyone else. If was a naïve question, but I needed to ask it.

He replied that, yes, RAF personnel are different. Because they put themselves in harm’s way.

That phrase will never leave me. In harm’s way. I think it applies as much to the RAF personnel as to their children. That’s why I am thinking about them today.