In the 1960s, we were a young family living in Oxfordshire. Close by was USAF Upper Hayford where huge B52 Stratofortress strategic bombers, armed with thermonuclear weapons, were based. When they were landing they would fly very low, directly over us. From our garden, we could look up and almost touch the nuclear bomb strapped to the bottom of the plane. I remember standing with my dad looking up at it. He was lost for words and just sighed. Some time later I discovered that he and some mates had painted a huge CND sign on a farm shed at the end of the runway, knowing that the pilots and crew would see it every time they took off and landed. It was all he could do – but it was something.
He attended Ban The Bomb demonstrations in the 70s and 80s; when the Greenham common women were being regularly evicted by the police and their camp demolished, he would go and help them rebuild.
It’s hard to imagine the enormity of what ordinary people like my dad were asked to do. He was a gentle, thoughtful and considerate man who had no great ambition beyond the good of his family and community. It’s almost impossible to conceive what it must have felt like to carry out merciless acts of terror without anger or hate. The crews were not cold-hearted killers, yet they were expected to kill cold-heartedly. After Dad died and I had read his log books, I realised, knowing how passive he was, the extent of what he had experienced and the emotional consequences he had endured.
Since planning and developing this play – and writing the script with Max Kinnings – I have begun to understand the strength it must have taken to hold together the fractured pieces of his psyche. I respect him all the more now for keeping faith in the human spirit that he had witnessed at its very worst.