The Sunderland Air Show is the largest free annual air show held in Europe. In 2016 almost a million spectators attended the three day event.

This year promises to be no different with “another spectacular show which will feature the return of the RAF Typhoon Display Team and The Red Arrows coupled with military stands, live music, fireworks and entertainment for all the family”.

Show’s like this focus on machinery and weapons whilst omitting the effects of the weapons, the destruction caused and the inevitable deaths of soldiers and civilians alike. The public is given a sugar coated, sanitised presentation of modern warfare.

Whilst the crowds watch, in awe of the courage and skill of the pilots, the same jets are being used in a war sanctioned by the UK Government. The British made Hawk and Typhoon jets on display are currently playing a major role in the Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen. Supplied with British made air-to-ground cluster munitions and flown by the British trained Saudi Air Force these jets have been used to kill thousands of civilians.

I understand the destruction that Typhoon aircraft can create, having fitted and supervised weapon load teams to install Enhanced Paveway II, laser guided 1,000lb bombs to the aircraft during Operation Ellamy, Libya, in 2011. The footage of those bombing raids would then be shown for all to see back at the base.

UK intervention in Libya has contributed to its descent into a failed state. Much like Iraq, a power vacuum has been filled with rival jihadi factions and sectarian violence. Profits are made from smuggling weapons and more strikingly, humans. Libya now has one of the most porous borders of any country and is one of the main conduits of fleeing migrants into Europe. UK foreign policy destroyed the fabric of Libya, but you won’t see that at the Sunderland Air Show.

Whilst the crowds are distracted by live music and fireworks recruitment teams from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force will be at work.

We believe that the public deserves better than this and so we work to raise awareness of the true costs of war.

Dan Lenham served in the RAF as a Weapons Technician he is now a Veteran For Peace.

Veterans For Peace UK, is a voluntary, open and democratic ex-services organisation of men and women. Together we have fought in every war that Britain has fought since WW2. As a result of our collective experience we say that “War is not the solution to the problems we face in the 21st century”. Our fundamental purpose is to serve the cause of world peace.


  1. As an aside for the want of peace, but what of the profits from the racket called war, and the death wearing of the innocents and childerick.
    In this world an all there is pollitical correctness and to silence truth, Via Coactus, in the end we will remember not the words of our enimies, but the silence of our freinds.
    Peace is an ex post facto justification for the suffering bestowed upon mankind for the violence of our ancestors mistakes, but love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a life long freind.
    Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. “I am” not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.
    Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite the manufactured obstacles.
    Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
    Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
    Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
    Expediency ask the question, is it politic?
    Vanity asks the question, is it popular?

    But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is “Right.”

  2. Daniel well said. San Diego VFP chapter has launched 5 year campaign called NO MAS (No Miramara Airshow). Miramara about 10 K from my home has on of the biggest military air shows in US Its USMC Airbase. While the Navy Blue Angels are the attraction as you say recruiters are busy on the ground, kids get camouflaged painted faces and line to have their picture taken pretending to fire guns from tanks etc. All the while arms purchasers from around the world are wined and dine as arms dealers try to sell them the latest and best US weapons.

    Mike Hanes and Chis Smiley got in took photos and film and we produced a film about what really goes on inside the venue. I can get it for you if like.
    See you in Chicago?

    1. Daniel Lenham says:

      Hi Barry,

      NOMAS sounds like a great move, one I hope we mirror with Sunderland Air Show.

      Mike posted the video recently and I watched it. The strategies they will adopt to try and militarise the youth knows no bounds.

      I’ll definitely see you in Chicago in a few weeks. I can’t wait for it.


  3. Heather Speight says:

    Dear Daniel,
    This is such a thoughtful, powerful piece. Thank you.
    You highlight the shocking reality – an exciting ‘family friendly’ event in stark contrast to the primary purpose of these aircraft and weapons and the terrible consequences they produce.
    Are you planning to be at the event?
    If so maybe some Peace Action Durham and Stop the War people might come to support you. The Big Challenge is how to do it in such a way that it doesn’t just arouse hostility and defensiveness – to get people beyond just thinking we’re trying to spoil their fun day out??

    1. Daniel Lenham says:

      Hi Heather,
      I bumped into some mutual friends last weekend in Durham and did ask after you. We do aim to be at the Sunderland Air Show in some capacity. Not wanting to spoil anyone’s fun but to highlight the true costs of war.

  4. Con Tonge says:

    This is incredibly moving – I am tempted to print it out as an exhibition poster!
    Well done!

    1. Daniel Lenham says:

      Thanks for the comment Con. Feel free to use the article elsewhere. Peace

  5. Michael Pike says:

    Excellent blog.

    1. Daniel Lenham says:

      Thanks Spike. I really appreciated hearing your poetry in person at York last month. Thanks for sharing. See you in November. Peace.

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