30 June 2009

Preparing For The Worst


Military Urbanism ∕ Suburbia

A Harrier GR3 [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

At aged 14 I went through quite a serious ‘military aircraft phase’ which involved a subscription to a magazine devoted to the subject, hours spent pouring over photos in books, and even going so far as to join the Air Training Corp with a school friend. The ATC is part of the Air Cadet Organisation, and is a voluntary youth organisation supported by the UK’s Royal Air Force.

Mostly, the ATC involved lots of marching up and down a school playground in a horrid, scratchy uniform made of wire wool, and being barked at by the Warrant Officer. But it did have three exciting benefits: 1) older girls in tight uniforms; 2) running around muddy fields late at night in camoflage, pretending to carry out tactical missions, and 3) gliding lessons. I stuck it out at the ATC long enough to experience taking over the controls of a glider, but the scratchy blue uniform and the marching eventually got the better of me, and I left.

The Windsor flyover [Source: Flickr user synx508]

Another thing I stayed with the ATC long enough to experience was a peculiar rumor, or fact, uttered in the back of a white Ford Transit on the way to a muddy field late one night. Passing underneath the flyover bridge of the dual carriageway which leads from Windsor to Slough, a fellow Cadet mentioned that the bridge had been designed specifically to offer Harier Jump Jets parking space in the event of World War III breaking out.

How could it be, that a familiar and deeply civillian part of Windsor, a sleepy middle-class commuter enclave on the Thames and occasional home to the Queen – the place that I had grown up in – had been planned with a mind for its tactical role in WWIII? The thought was chilling, and a bit exciting, and the image has stuck with me to this day.

So this evening, just out of curiosity, I tried something out. And then I got that chilling feeling again:

Suburban contingency plan for Doomsday