Armistice Day on 11 November provides a powerful focus for national remembrance, but for me it’s a particular day of reflection.
Some of my fondest memories growing up as a child are of playing with my two grandfathers, both of whom fought in World War Two – one in the Royal Engineers and the other in the Durham Light Infantry.
I grew up surrounded by tales of my two heroes. My grandfather Bill was captured a year into service and spent a couple of years in prisoner of war camps in Germany, eventually being released and returning home to his family.
When I was old enough to understand a little more, all I wanted to do was listen to his tales about surviving on the most meagre of rations, and secretly building crystal radio sets in his hut in an attempt to keep in touch with the outside world. As I grew up, I became aware that I had been shielded from some of the dreadful memories which both grandfathers had brought home with them.
Sadly both of my heroes passed away when I was in my early 20’s and like so many other families across the country, 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month has always been a special time for us to show our respect for all those who gave their lives for our country.
And now, as part of the team of air traffic controllers at Heathrow (alongside other airports across the country) we play our part in ensuring the silence is as complete as possible.
On the 11th, aircraft movements will be suspended between 10:57 and 11:03, which enables local communities to observe the period of silence without interruption. Airlines are also asked to voluntarily avoid the ground-running of engines during this time, and the usual hum of airside operations is silenced. Within the terminal buildings, passengers and staff stand motionless in respectful silence, and the usual rumbles of baggage belts and x-ray machines are muted.
On Remembrance Sunday itself, we will be working closely with our colleagues at Swanwick control centre to avoid overflights in the vicinity of the Cenotaph from 10:55 precisely, so that the national silence centred upon Whitehall can be observed.
The entire event is orchestrated with military precision and is something for which NATS takes the utmost care to get right, to ensure that we help create an environment in which we can all remember those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s the least we can do.
Please respect our commenting policy and guidelines when posting on this website.