Force Protection Flight embarked on a FD Trip to the Imperial War Museum. After in depth conversation and planning, we departed RAF Halton and had the privilege of Ski entertaining us with his ‘back in the day’ War stories over the 2 hour trip to London Embankment.
We were struck with the technology, sophistication and engineering that was evident in the design of the bombs, submarines and vehicles of WW1 and WW2. We had a discussion with a museum guide who answered the questions we had about the equipment. Next stop were the aircraft and anti-aircraft weapons. It was the first time we’d stepped inside a Lancaster’s cockpit and for me it was an incredible experience, placing myself in the pilot’s seat and thinking of how he would have reacted under pressure, knowing his aircraft had been hit and he had his crew to look after.The next floor created a sombre, humbling mood and hit us with the reality of what we’ve experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. On reaching the top of the stairs soft, harmonious music played and along the 4 walls are pictures of soldiers, sailors and airmen. Each face tells a different story of the arduous, tormenting and gruesome time they faced on operations. Some were barely 18 but had experienced life in a way that many cannot relate to. Lost a friend, a colleague, a best mate and yet still their piercing eyes show strength, courage and integrity. Some things never change and the comparison between our soldiers in all operations, past and present, shows how remarkable and disciplined we are as a fighting force.
We went through the holocaust section and despite all having been on Staff Rides around Europe, still the impact this had on us was overwhelming. Reading documents, viewing footage and pictures from this time brings to light the suffering and brutality that men, women and children faced just because of their beliefs, the colour of their skin or because they refused to side with the regime. We were filled with rage and disbelief that such cruelty was possible. It became too much, so we increased our pace and moved to the trenches.
Smells like a combination of urine, blood, sweat, feet and corned beef hash! It’s the smell which soldiers faced in the trenches on a daily basis. Dirty, confined and home to many, yet still they soldiered on. The statues of a soldier writing a letter to his loved one and the wounded being looked after by a field medic demonstrates the difficult conditions they had to endure. We exited the dark, gloomy room feeling somewhat lucky not to be fighting in those conditions. What an experience! The effect it had on us was enough for one day.
On leaving the museum Ross, as photographer, organised us for a picture – how hard could that have been? 10 minutes later and he’s still shunting us around. Eventually and after cajoling tourists to take a picture of us, we trekked a cold 1.5 miles to a non-existent Nandos restaurant. I eventually redeemed myself by finding us food and we sat down to discuss the day. We’ve had new members join the section and this FD trip was an opportunity for us to come together and interact in a different environment. It was about us achieving our training objectives and applying the things we’ve learnt in the work place. Filled with fun but also mixed emotions it was a day well spent as a section. On the drive back to camp with more of Ski’s stories, we wondered whether to thank Chief Tech Nik Elliot for helping us to organise the trip! Cpl Duncan (DUNCS)