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15 February: Up close and personal
On 15 February, Yeovil, Sherborne and Area Stop the War Coalition held a peaceful demonstration at RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Yeovilton in Somerset in protest at the continued occupation of Iraq.
The group handed leaflets to military and civilian workers about the Military Families Against the War campaign to bring the troops home. Although they were observed by MoD Police on the gate, a considerable number of incoming workers took leaflets. One worker said “I don't need one, I know it's wrong”.
A significant site
Many air crew based at Yeovilton took part in the bombing of Iraq. Yeovilton is one of the Fleet Air Arm's two bases (the other is at Culdrose in Cornwall).
It holds Sea Harrier FA2 planes, Lynx helicopters and the Sea King Mark 4 commando helicopters of the Navy's Commando Helicopter Force. It is also the location for the RN Fighter Controller School. Over 100 aircraft are based there. It employs over 1600 service people and 2000 civilian staff, including permanent contractors such as Serco Aerospace. The Navy's Fighter Controller School is also based there. The base and associated sites cover over 1,000 acres. There is also a museum and Yeovilton runs a large-scale military air show every September. In September 2004, peace activists leafleted the crowds queuing to enter the show.
A town dominated by military activity
Nearby in Yeovil is the Westland helicopter factory which produces military helicopters, such as the Lynx. Around 90% of its production is military.
The BAE subsidiary Aerosystems International is also located in Yeovil, a town whose social life and politics are shaped by the dominance of employment in the military and arms trade.