A collection of short stories relating to Vulcans or the Cold War period.
Kindly sent in by Derek Parry.
In late 1951 or early 1952, my parents moved to Poynton. This was a village to the east of the Avro airfield at Woodford and our house wasn't far off the extended centreline of the runway. We quickly got use to seeing the red and blue coloured 707A and B research aircraft, and the silver 707C two-seat trainer, flying around. We also regularly heard the sound of ground-running of four Avons - barely two-thirds the thrust of the first Olympus engines fitted to the production aircraft but still pretty noisy in unison!
Then, on 30 August 1952, there was the bellow of the four engines (much closer to our house than on the usual ground-running pan), which gradually faded away. We realised the first prototype Vulcan was airborne, flying off to the west. Not very much later, this huge shape darkened the sky, flying almost overhead our house at very low altitude on finals. Never to be forgotten!
Three years later, at Farnborough, I saw Roly Falk's pull up into a roll off the top. By then, I had started learning to fly on the Chipmunk and was simply staggered at his audacity with that huge aircraft. Many years later, as a test pilot at Boscombe Down, I managed to scrounge several trips in the right-hand seat and was greatly impressed.
Kindly sent in by Tom Fraser
I remember my first day arriving at RAF Waddington from aircraft mechanic school in Oct 1960 and being placed in LINCOLN Block to take my allocated bed space with thoughts of what had I let myself in for. The other occupants were mostly National service lads, all so much older than my sheltered 18 years.
That week, after reporting to the ASF (Aircraft Servicing Flight) hanger, I was instructed to report to the Vulcan training school to begin my technical classroom training on the aircraft and systems, with the promise that if I passed the course exam, I would be promoted to LAC. (Leading Aircraftsman). That was a incentive, and so began my career working on the Vulcans, with XH558 amongst them.
As I worked in the hangers mostly, I also recall seeing somewhere on my travels, a storage unit full of various types destined for museums, including the 707 prototypes. After 50 years, my memory fades, but I do recall being very impressed that those turned out to be the size of a Vulcan.
Soon afterwards, I was involved in the Cuban missile crisis and had to assist with the preparation of the aircraft to load up the bomb and prepare for QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duty, flung in as a bonus. Those days were very long and hard without really understanding the importance at the time.
After that, it was steady work, doing minor and major work, aircraft jackups, retractions, pressure checks, embodiment of the parachute attachments on many of the aircraft, whilst also assisting with aircraft recovery when ever the station had an emergency. One that comes to mind, is being pulled out of bed to recover an aircraft which ran out of fuel as he approached the runway from a great height. Nobody was hurt, but the aircraft was a write off!
After a short posting to RAF Wildenwrath in Germany, I was posted to RAF Finningley in October 1964 as an aircraft fitter NCO on 230 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit), only to find a good old friend with the registration of XH558 had been moved there too.
I have a long list of memories of those 7 years as a airframe 'techie' on the full range of technical jobs, with lots of pleasure, except maybe the key orderly duty for the hangers, the winding of the hanger doors, and the heavy work of hand jacking the aircraft up, especially while the avionic lads watched us drinking their tea!
Tom Fraser: RAF Waddington 1960-1964 RAF Finningley 1964-1969
Editor: we are intrigued to find out more about the early storage of the 707's in what must have been the early 1960's, after all, the initial research and development would have probably finished or had moved to the full size aircraft. Tom can't recall where he saw them, so can you remember seeing them around at that time?
Do write to: firstname.lastname@example.org with your recollections. Thank you.
Kindly sent in by Dave Sully:
Tom Fraser`s article of 4th May (above) reminded me of the `Vulcan Effect`that has remained with me.
In 1955, I was a newly fledged Junior Technician General Fitter, also aged 18 years, and my first posting was to RAF Scampton which was then operating Lincoln bombers. The ground support equipment which we serviced was mostly of WW2 vintage.The highlights of my time at Scampton were seeing the filming of `The Dambusters`, with Richard Todd standing on a box to play Guy Gibson, and Lincolns being used to bring troops and equipment back from `The Suez Crisis`.
Later on Scampton was closed to allow work on the Runway etc. to be carried out to operate the Vulcan and I was posted to RAF Waddington. After a number of courses on the ground support equipment needed to service this complex aircraft, we awaited its arrival. The impression it made is as fresh as ever. I was living in private accommodation with my wife and young daughter about 5 miles from the end of the runway, and when the Olympus engines took this magnificent aircraft in a steep climb overhead `The earth really did move for us`! I never heard one complaint from locals, they were well used to noisy bombers in Lincolnshire.
In late 1957, I was posted to RAF Finningley, soon to be equipped with Vulcans on Quick Reaction Alert for any threat from the USSR. Almost as soon as starting to enjoy being on an operational `V Bomber` base, I was posted to Maintenance Units in RAF Nicosia and then RAF Akrotiri.
In the late 1960s, serving on the Maintenance Unit at RAF St Athan, I saw them undergoing Major Servicing and Modification.
It would be 1974 before coming into contact with the Vulcan again. At RAF Gan we were mainly involved in the servicing of the VC 10 `Milk run`( Brize Norton- Akrotiri- Gan- Kai Tak) trooping service, with the occasional visiting aircraft. Over the Xmas period, we had eight days with no aircraft movements, apart from a RAAF C130 sent to provide emergency cover.
On New Year Day, we were tasked to accept two Vulcans, two or three Victor tankers, plus supporting C130 aircraft. ( I believe there may have also been two Lightnings). These were en-route to Australia.
Fighting off the hangovers from our extended break, we saw them off and were left with only the sound of the surf breaking on the reef.
Within minutes the two Vulcans returned `to beat up` the Island to show appreciation of our efforts. As the highest point of Gan is about 12ft. above sea level and all the buildings single storey, they were very low as they thundered off to the East!
Moments like that almost make up for the seperation, frustration and sometimes boredom, that is life in The Armed Forces.
If you enjoy our articles, please do consider a small donation to help maintain the last remaining airworthy Avro Vulcan by clicking here: Thank you.