Witnessing Wootton Bassett: An exploration in cultural victimology
From Crime Media Culture
Wootton Bassett is a small town in England. It is situated close to the Royal Air Force Lyneham base where service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are repatriated. Media reporting and similar visual witnessing of repatriations has become a frequent occurrence since the first spontaneous saluting of what was then a small procession by Royal British Legion members in 2007. Since that time UK military deaths from the war in Afghanistan have reached over 350, As the number of people present at the repatriations has steadily increased, it would seem that this is an impulse expressing a collective grief. This paper explores the ‘public performance’ and ‘witnessing’ of these events. It identifies three themes within the photographs of the processions: the compression of private and public grief; gothicism and the emergence of ‘dark tourism’; and displays of resistance. In conclusion the article explores the implications of this analysis for victimology.