British Billy explains Bonfire night, Nov. 5

  • Published
  • By British Billy
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Although I am quite the party animal, I'm not a huge fan of fireworks. Those of us in the animal kingdom blessed with acute auditory gifts will not thank you if we have to endure startling explosions and high pitched squeals. As Bonfire Night approaches here in the U.K., I plan to spend the next few evenings indoors, furry paws over my delicate ears.

In spite of these reservations, I regard Bonfire Night as a great British tradition. As neighbourhoods and communities build bonfires in gardens and playing fields, they are commemorating the survival of King James I after the foiling of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Bonfires will be aflame and fireworks aglow, whizzing and exploding across the November skies.

Four hundred years ago, Guy Fawkes and a group of other plotters attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London by hiding barrels of gunpowder in the cellars. It was Fawkes' job to watch over the barrels and light the fuse, and it is his name that has gone down in history.

As well as the fireworks, it's traditional to make a 'guy' to burn on top of the bonfire, usually made out of old clothes stuffed with straw or paper with a hat and a mask on to add to the realism. Most towns and villages will have a large, organized bonfire and fireworks display, which often raise money for local charities, so keep your eyes peeled for posters and adverts. I've already seen quite a few advertised locally when I've been out on patrol.

As you can see, being disgruntled with the powers-that-be is not a recent phenomenon. There is a lot more to the story, as you can imagine, but most people aren't very worried about the history; they just want to cheer themselves up as the nights draw in ever earlier, with the heat of the bonfire, the fun of the fireworks and filling their tums with baked potatoes, toffee apples and the like.

Personally, as the finely-tuned, highly-sensitive creature that I am, I will be staying in with a mousey take-away. You would be wise to keep all your beloved pets inside on Bonfire Night. Loud noises don't agree with us. Keep us indoors and turn up the television.

As for you, I suggest you put on your warm mittens, a wooly hat and scarf, and go and out and join the locals for some good old British fun.

"Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."


Here are a few safety points to bear in mind if you decide to join your neighbours and community this Bonfire Night:

· Remember to keep your pets indoors on Bonfire Night as the noise and lights can distress them.

· If you build a bonfire, check for hedgehogs nesting underneath. If you find sick, injured or baby hedgehogs, call the wing environmental office at 226-3990 or refer to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website at

· It is illegal for persons under 18 to purchase or possess fireworks in a public place. For more information about the UK law and fireworks, refer to the government's website,

· Never let fireworks off in areas where there is danger to people or property.

· Billy's advice: Go to an organised display. Fireworks are expensive to buy and these displays can be spectacular for a reasonable admission fee. Safety is also strictly maintained.