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Canberra – WK118

Our Aircraft WK118

Built at Woodford as a B2 in 1952. Between 1954 & 1957 she was in Germany at Gutersloh & Bruggen. 1957 to 1970 she was at the College of Air Warfare at Manby before conversion to a TT18.

1976 St Mawgan Airshow Copyright Mike Hall

1976 St Mawgan Airshow Copyright Mike Hall

She was at St Mawgan until 1982 before moving to Wyton and then on to Marham where she ended her days.

WK118 at the Canberra 40th Anniversary Celebration Photocall at RAF Wyton in 1989

WK118 at the Canberra 40th Anniversary Celebration Photocall at RAF Wyton in 1989

She was rescued from the scrap yard and her nose section preserved as part of a private museum owned by John Hancocks.

When John decided to close the museum in 2016 she was purchased by the Avro Heritage Museum.

Her full life story will be fleshed out in the future.

Anyone who worked on her is free to pass any stories on using the contact form on the website.

A Short History of the Canberra

The aircraft was specified as a direct successor for the famous de Havilland Mosquito, and was Britain’s first jet-powered bomber. It was also the first to use Rolls-Royce’s new Avon axial compressor turbojet – a much slimmer, more powerful engine than the preceding centrifugal compressor types that powered the Meteor for example.

The Mosquito, the Canberra and the Vulcan share a number of important characteristics. They were all initially specified as medium bombers, relying on height, speed and manoeuvrability, rather than defensive armament, to get through to their targets. They all proved very successful and flexible designs – world-beating in several ways – that went on to carry out many different roles over their long lifetimes.

The Canberra entered RAF service in 1951 and retired some 55 years later in 2006 – the RAF’s longest-serving aircraft type. No less than 782 aircraft were deployed across 61 RAF Squadrons plus the Operational Conversion Unit, replacing Mosquitos, Lincolns and Washingtons.

Not only was it a successful bomber, but its capability to fly at very high altitudes made it a perfect reconnaissance platform.

Demand for the aircraft was so high that other manufacturers were called on to build the aircraft: Avro at Woodford, Handley Page at Radlett and Short Brothers in Belfast. The Canberra was also a huge export success, being sold to 16 other countries. A total of 1351 Canberra aircraft were manufactured world-wide, making it the second best-selling multi-engine British jet aircraft of all time. (Over 3000 Meteors were made).

The Australians manufactured 48 Canberras to replace their Avro Lincolns. The Americans clearly saw the aircraft’s potential, and had nothing to compare, so 403 Canberras were manufactured under licence by Martin in the United States, flying as the B-57 Canberra. Remarkably, NASA retains three highly-modified B-57 Canberras for high altitude atmospheric research.

The Canberra saw action in many conflicts, including the Suez crisis, the Malayan Emergency, the Vietnam War, the Indo-Pakistan War (where Canberra were used by both sides!), numerous African and South American conflicts and the Falklands, when Argentinian Canberras attacked the British ground forces – two enemy Canberras were lost, one of them shot down by a Harrier on the same day that Vulcan XM607 bombed Port Stanley airfield! Canberras were operated by the RAF in the reconnaissance role in the Bosnia and Kosovo wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Northern Ireland, looking for hidden arms dumps using false-colour photography.

In its first few years, the Canberra captured many records: a Canberra was the first jet aircraft to cross the Atlantic without refuelling. Altitude records tumbled three times to Canberras in 1953, 1955 and 1957. In 1953, a Canberra set a record time in the Last Great Air Race from London to Christchurch New Zealand, a record which stands today. Canberras captured 17 other trans-world point-to-point records, including in 1955, the first ever polar transcontinental flight, from Norway to Alaska.

(Thanks to the Vulcan to The Sky Trust for the text)


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