Prince Philip, the Royal Family and the AVRO Vulcan

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was honorary Patron of The Air League of the UK since 1952. The Air League formed in 1909 and it is designed to keep the UK at the forefront of aviation.

On 3 May 2016, Prince Philip presented Dr Robert Pleming the Scott-Farnie Medal at The Air League Annual Reception. The Scott-Farnie Medal is awarded by The Air League to recognise work in the field of air education and was established in 1969 in memory of G R Scott-Farnie. The medal was awarded to Robert for his work in restoring Avro Vulcan XH558 to flight.

That wasn’t the first time that the Prince had been linked with a Vulcan. On 30 June 1958, Prince Philip arrived at RAF Wyton to inspect the Bomber Command Station. Famous aircraft on show included Canberra, Valiant, Victor and the mighty Vulcan. His visit was caught on camera and the Prince can be seen climbing aboard a Vulcan, to take the Co-Pilot’s seat, watched by Air Chief Marshal, Sir Harry Broadhurst. Then the great delta-wing bomber began a flight, during which the Prince took over the controls. 

VTST Volunteer Adrian Sumner, Wg Cdr (retd), recalls a story of his friend’s father who met the Prince on that day. “John Morgan, who also retired as a Wg Cdr, recently came across these photographs which give credence to this story of his father who was a Vulcan

Navigator at RAF Waddington on No.83 Squadron, the first Vulcan squadron, in the late 1950s.

In June 1958, John’s father (2nd in the line up from the left) was a member of the crew who flew with Prince Philip in a Vulcan Mk1. Following the flight, his father acquired the white kid flying gloves which the Prince had worn, and took them home as a souvenir. Unfortunately, after only a few days of celebrity status, the gloves were commandeered by John’s mother who used them for doing the housework. John doesn’t know what happened to the gloves, but what would they be worth now?

Prince Philip flew for 45 years amassing 5,986 flying hours in 59 different aircraft.”

The flight crew and Prince Charles after his flight in Vulcan B.2 XL392.

The Vulcan has a special relationship with the royal family. Like his father, Prince Charles flew in the aircraft, as did The Queen’s cousin Prince Michael of Kent.

Even one of The Queen’s dorgis (a dachshund-corgi mix) was named Vulcan. Vulcan was one of Her Majesty’s most famous dogs. He appeared with The Queen on the front of Vanity Fair magazine in 2016 and made an appearance in the 2012 James Bond London Olympics sketch.

Vanity Fair Cover 2016. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Along with the London Olympics, 2012 was the year of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Diamond Jubilee of the Avro Vulcan. Vulcan XH558 toured the UK celebrating Britain’s aviation and engineering achievements during The Queen’s reign.

Dr Robert Pleming presenting the book at Buckingham Palace

On the Diamond Jubilee tour, XH558 carried a leather-bound book of good wishes inscribed with the names of supporters and their words of support for Her Majesty The Queen. It was an initiative which Buckingham Palace approved and they accepted the book at the end of the tour.

Next year, 2022, is the Platinum Jubilee of The Queen’s ascension to the throne and the Avro Vulcan’s maiden flight. Sadly, XH558 will not be flying for Her Majesty, but we will be celebrating the history of the Avro Vulcan and the aircraft’s achievements during the 70 years.

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