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Two Griffins holding a 74th shield. The Spirit of the 74th.

The Canberra .

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The First Jet Bomber in the RAF.

Sketch of a Canberra Jet.

The first jet bomber to serve with the Royal Air Force, the English Electric Canberra was designed with no defensive armament, relying instead on high speed, an operational ceiling of 48,000 feet, and great manoeuvrability to avoid opposing fighter aircraft.

The First Canberra B2 Bomber .

The original Canberra design dates from the 1940's and the prototype aircraft flew for the first time from Warton aerodrome on 13 May 49. Canberra B1, was intended for use with a radar-assisted bomb aiming system. A delay in this system led to the production of a day bomber prototype, the Canberra B2, and the first operational aircraft were delivered on May 25, 1951. The Canberra B2 differed in having a crew of three, the added member being the bombardier. At RAF Wittering Number 49 Squadron was re-equipped with Canberras in November 1953, and Numbers 61 and 100 Squadrons in July and August 1954.

Photo-Reconnaissance (PR) Roll for the Canberra.

The Canberra has come to the end of its long service life: a testimony to the quality of the original design. After the Canberra B2 Bomber the RAF operated three versions of the aircraft, the T4 is a dual control trainer, and dedicated reconnaissance missions undertaken by the venerable Canberra PR7 and PR9, specialist aircraft that contribute significantly to meeting the RAF's reconnaissance task.

The Last Canberra T4.

At RAF Marham these Canberras had been used to train the crews of the Canberra PR 9 aircraft of 39 Squadron. The last flight of 39 (1 PRU) Squadron's last Canberra T4 took place at Marham on 1st September 2005.

Camberras Were Everywhere.

The RAF had 62 Canberra squadrons over the aircraft's time in service as well as numerous "Flights" and "Sections". So you may have come across them during your RAF service! Tell me about it. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has any stories about this aircraft; humorous, technical or historical.
Please use the Feedback Form to contact me briefly, in the first instance.

Joe Bosher (74th).


Hard to Believe but...

RAF Service memories recalled by Stan Norris 74th.


[Ed: Can anyone please come up with some answers to the questions posed at the end of Stan's story? Or any other Canberra stories.]


The Canberra T4 Servicing That went with a Bang!

When this sequence of events happened it was nearly 40 years ago and I was personally involved in only the first incident. Oh yes, there was more than one incident and they all featured one particular aircraft. I will not name individuals, the squadron or the station. The aircraft concerned was a Canberra T4. We had two on strength, tail numbers 849 and 861 but, if my memory is correct it is to 861 that this saga relates.

The swing or evening shift came on duty about 4.30 pm. The priority aircraft for recovery was 861 partially through a routine servicing but awaiting armament and electrical checks before further progress could be made. A Corporal electrician on the swing shift entered the aircraft and a few minutes later there was a significant bang! Without taking you through the actual servicing procedure and the whys and wherefores, when the Corporal applied power the canopy detonator bolts fired - curiously, only 24 of the 32 detonators fired. With the uneven stress created on the canopy the perspex cracked in all directions.

The Squadron Commander pressed for Disciplinary Action

Inevitably a unit inquiry was convened., conclusions and recommendations submitted. The Squadron Commander pressed for disciplinary action, the Snco i/c shift and the Corporal were duly charged with wilful negligence and negligence respectively and a Board of Inquiry was quickly convened. Legal Services were not satisfied with the submitted documentation and suggested that the unit re-convene the Board of Inquiry. This was done, but again the evidence was deemed unsatisfactory and unsafe to proceed with Courts Martial and the case should be dealt with at Unit level. The evidence was said to be very unsafe and the disciplinary action fizzled out with an admonishment to the two NCOs by the Station Commander.

Not Again?

Sometime later after I had left the unit, the aircraft was repaired and delivered to the line ready for use. Overnight there was a very heavy rainfall. Next morning, when electrical power was applied, the canopy detonator bolts fired, all 32 this time. The unit inquiry apparently concluded that the cause was ingress of water into the electrical system. For a second time 861 underwent the repair process.

And Again?

Repaired and ready for a squadron deployment to a neighbouring airfield, 861 taxied out piloted fittingly enough by the Squadron Commander himself - and the canopy detonator bolts blew! The findings of the unit inquiry? The seam on the thumb of the pilots flying glove was extra prominent, by about 1/16" to 3/32" and accidentally activated the canopy jettison firing mechanism.
I was told that this event featured in Air Clues although cannot remember reading about it.

Canberra 861: Question Time.

I never heard what happened to 861 after that. The rectification involved reaming out the bolt holes and fitting oversize bolts, but I think that could only be done three times.

Where did 861 go after the third uncommanded jettison? Scrapped? Ground instruction?
Did it happen again?
Why didn't all the detonators fire in the first incident? I never heard if that was investigated.

One Aircraft, Three Similar Incidents, Three Different Causes?

I was off the squadron when the second and third incidents occurred so my knowledge of them is third hand. It is a curious memory to retain but - one aircraft, three incidents, three different causes all in the space of a few months. Remarkable coincidences? An intermittent undetected defect triggering the circuit under three different circumstances?

In the years since I left the service, for some reason or other I have thought about those few months, very sceptically I might add, often doubting my own recollections. Or was it strange but true?

Stan Norris. (74th).


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