I live close to Exeter airport, so while I was in my kitchen yesterday afternoon, I rushed out of my back door several times to watch the Red Arrows as they hurtled past, just a few hundred feet above my garden. I never grow tired of watching these scarlet formations flash through the sky and I never grow tired of hearing the shattering thunder of their engines as it echoes over the countryside, but yesterday, another miracle appeared in the skies above me.
I can’t describe the noise and in any event, there’s no need for me to try to do so, as you can hear it for yourselves on the video above. When I heard it, low over my roof, I somehow knew it was very different and very special, and when I gazed up, I saw the astonishing sight of a WWII Lancaster bomber as it prepared to land at the nearby airport. I’ve never seen one of these aircraft before, so I was simply thunderstruck to witness one of the last survivors briefly hanging in the air above me and a hundred images from war films went through my mind at the same time.
Most of all, though, I had cause to remember my uncle, Albert Warren, who had flown Spitfires in WWII, then gone on to be a navigator in Lancasters as huge formations of these bombers flew through the night skies over occupied Europe. My uncle was one of those young men fortunate enough to return home and I spent endless hours asking him about his time flying combat missions when I was a kid in the late 1960s. My uncle and all the thousands of other young men like him were all braver than I’ll ever be and it was a privilege to see for myself one of the aircraft in which they once flew into the night, not knowing if they’d seen their last sunrise.