Red Arrows – or poisoned culture?

The Red Arrows have been all over the media recently, and for all the wrong reasons. The RAF elite display outfit’s reputation has been trashed by reports of a “toxic culture” and multiple sackings and resignations by its members. Apparently, the team’s displays this summer have been reduced from nine aircraft to seven as it tries to sort itself out, and it has been called the “Poisoned Arrows” by that very bastion of the Establishment, the Times.

 Some of the alleged misbehaviour seems a little far-fetched to be honest. I’d be astonished if “met roulette”, the game it is claimed team members played involving continued drinking into the wee small hours in the hope that the predicted weather the following day would cancel any planned display, involved the pilots themselves.

And as for self-marking their own performances in the skies on a scale ranging from Meghan Markle for a good one, via Sienna Miller for an average one, down to Susan Boyle for a poor one, well, boys will be boys and it’s pretty harmless in the scale of things. Personally, I’d have put Sienna at the top of the scale instead of the Duchess, but there’s no accounting for taste.

What would be quite unacceptable, of course, is if any of the allegations of bullying or sexual harassment prove to be true. There is no place for that in any organisation never mind an elite military one. However, much of this must remain pure speculation until a report into the team’s reputed misdemeanours is published later this year. Even then there is some doubt whether it will be made public.

The main reason for such lapses, if they prove to be true, is usually bad leadership. “There are no bad regiments, just bad commanding officers” is the old army adage, and there’s a strong thread of truth in it.

As for the possibility of the Red Arrows being disbanded as some have claimed, I would think this most unlikely. It would be a crushing blow to the RAF’s image and morale. Best to wait first for the conclusions of the investigation before calling for blood.

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