It was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen in my home county of Devon. For days we had watched the articulated lorries with trailrrs attached. Each one bigger than the trailers we had only witnessed before on the one train line in or out of the area. The papers were full of the stories of the outbreak but only now was the full scale of the disaster beginning to show itself.
Of course, everyday life had been changed, signs were up at all farm gates that led onto the narrow lanes with dire warnings of the danger within. Road blocks were everywhere restricting passage to all but bona fide government workers. No more ramblers enjoying the countryside. In the towns and villages, anywhere where cars and other motor vehicles were likely to congregate the entrances were strewn with straw and all around the pervasive smell of strong disinfectant.
Minibuses drove up the lanes following the heavy lorries. Through the windows, it was possible to see human figures. All dressed in the same white coveralls, reminiscent of the NBC suits we donned during exercises whilst in the forces, It was more like a scene from the Roswell or Area 51 movies. Behind these came the oil-tankers all in a convoy heading for the high ridges. Ridges where recently excavated trenches were now filled with the carcases of many thousands of newly shot farm animals, cattle and sheep piled up to the lip in their mass graves.
The hills resounded with the shouts of these eerie white figures as they lit the bonfires and stood admiring their sad handiwork while all in the land looked at the flames and the towering clouds of smoke. Nostrils filled with the acrid smell as of over-roasted beef and greasy smuts of soot blew wherever the wind carried them to land on car and house windows throughout the area.
By night the fires continued to burn. It was like looking up to the edge of some once-forgotten but now suddenly alive volcano. The gloom and sadness was all pervading and for once there was sympathy for the farmers on whom we had always poured such scorn. An attitude that perisits to this day. Even we felt sorry for the victims of the dread, “Foot and Mouth disease.”