The Fourth of July Overseas

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The Fourth of July Overseas

Retired Air Force pilot Jay Waitte talks about the Fourth of July, the  English conspirator Guy Fawkes, and what they have in common.

Guy Fawkes Fireworks
Guy Fawkes Fireworks

You might think that members of the American military in England would make a big thing about the Fourth of July and Independence Day. But not really.

I mean, we celebrated it. They might have a parade, they might have some fireworks. It depended on each base. Each base was a little bit different. But they didn't have the big hoopla like they do in this country on that day. Because it's not an English holiday, you know. Just the opposite. Our celebrating the Fourth is kind of a friendly poke in the eye over there.

Not that there weren’t any fireworks in England at all. They are a big feature, along with huge bonfires, when the English celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.

A little history.

In 1605, Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic, was a member of the Gunpowder Plot. He was arrested while guarding a cache of explosives that the plotters had stashed beneath the Parliament’s House of Lords in a scheme to assassinate the King of England, a Protestant. The plot failed, Fawkes took the rap, and the English have celebrated November 5th ever since.

There’s even a poem (first stanza):

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

We used to fly night training missions over England, practicing navigation, journaling, and so on.

We knew all about Guy Fawkes. And that there would be fireworks.

When you fly on Guy Fawkes Day, you can see all the towns with all their fireworks going off. The photo shown here is a Guy Fawkes Day fireworks display over Thornes Park in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, taken in 2014.

Our training flights just happened to take us over some of these towns.

We’d get down pretty low, just so we could fly over and get a good look. I mean, not so low that they could reach us. It was kind of neat.

Guy Fawkes Day is November 5th. Independence Day is July 4th. I like fireworks. Maybe we could celebrate both.