View Full Version : Some old photos and a question

25th Feb 2008, 09:00
Hi I'm new here but was pointed to this forum as a place where I might find an answer to a question I've got.

I've been going through my late father's photo and slide collection trying to digitise, catalogue and generally sort them out so they never get lost. In doing so I came across these which he took in 1956 at SYD, Sydney, Australia.

I know the date and I know where he took them because he wrote some description on the back of the prints but not some of the detail I'd like for building a digital catalogue.

I know that they are of a RAF Vulcan bomber XA897 and a Canberra bomber W??92 both of which went on a world tour. The Vulcan later crashed in poor weather at London airport on it's return.

I can't work out the full rego of the Canberra and can find no mention of it accompanying the Vulcan on the world tour. Both were definitely parked at Mascot airport in Sydney on the same date according to the data my father wrote on the back of the photo's.

Does anyone have any idea what the rego of the Canberra bomber is and whether it accompanied the Vulcan on the entire round the world trip or did it just fly down from the RAF/RAAF base Butterworth in Malaya?


Thanks to anyone who can help.

25th Feb 2008, 09:31

There was not a Canberra accompanying that Vulcan in 1956. A Canberra would have been left way behind.

I had a backup Vulcan with crew on a 4 hour standby at Boscombe Down in the UK for all of the time it was Down Under. Self and crew had to suffer the effects of innoculations against African bugs as I planned to break a few records through Africa with the spare Vulcan if Sqdn Ldr Podge Howard and his co-pilot Sir Harry Broadhurst (then Commander in Chief of RAF Bomber Command) happened to need the backup.

Was rather looking forward to a quick visit back to Oz but they didn't have their mishap until the final return to UK. Unfortunately the four in the back didn't have ejection seats and did not survive.

The tail number of the Canberra is too blurred to read but looks like an A84-xxx number which would make it one of the RAAF's. If so I probably had a few flights in it.

Are you able to have the Vulcan shots scanned.? Would like to include in memoirs.

25th Feb 2008, 10:12
@Milt, Thanks for you help. I can make out the rego now that I've done a hi res scan of the tail section. It is WH797 which from my basic google search http://www.bywat.co.uk/types01.html comes up as an RAF PR Mk7 reconnaissance aircraft from 81 Sqn. IIRC even back in the 50's RAAF aircraft used the red kangaroo roundel markings rather than the standard RAF roundels of earlier years.


I'll also post the hi res scans of the Vulcan for you when I'm done with them.

These are just a contact sheet scans I'm using for reference thumbnails for the catalogue.

25th Feb 2008, 10:38
This is as detailed as I can make the forward fuselage markings.


I think the white marking nearest to the open hatch, looks like an ace of spades but I cannot make out any of the other markings. A look at http://www.adf-serials.com/2a84.shtml shows no record of WH797 being received by the RAAF.

The original prints (I don't have the negatives), are only 3x3in b&w prints done back in 1956 so they are not great source material but come up OK unless you need to ID the aircraft in more detail.

Thanks again to anyone who can help.

For Milt, here are the Vulcan hi res scans:





Brian Abraham
25th Feb 2008, 12:22
TarJak - You will find all the RAAF Canberras listed here.


Edited to add. Assuming the W**92 you have is correct the following will be the aircraft. Built by English Electric 07/10/55. Allocated RAF serial WT492. Fitted with Avon Engines RR 6966 and RR 6971. Delivered to RAAF 03/05/56. Arrived 12/05/56 at 82 Wing. Was at Wagga NSW. Allocated A84-502 on 14/05/56. Online with 82 Wing 28/05/56. Aircraft touched down short of threshold and was damaged 02/07/58. Forced landing at Amberley 30/09/58, with 6 Sqn. Gradual brake failure due to hydraulic leak 26/02/59. To 3 AD 04/03/59. To East Sale 21/07/59. To GAF Avalon for modification 06/11/61. To East Sale 29/11/62. Recommended that both T.4's be allocated to Dept of Supply (for sale to WRE) 04/10/63. The sale to WRE was not successful and as the aircraft were using up valuable storage space at East Sale they were moved to ARDU at Laverton 12/02/64. They were considered for sale to India between 18/03/64 to 21/07/64. Considered for use by ARL for fatigue testing 07/08/64. It was decided that one of the T4's was required at RSTT Wagga 11/05/66 and approved 13/09/66. To RSTT Wagga Wagga 14/10/66 as an instructional airframe No.1. Only the rear section of the fuselage was required, however the rest of the aircraft was stored in view of its historical value. It was decided on 06/08/73 that it was not required by the RAAF Museum. This aircraft could have been located at Point Cook in 1976. Reported as being in security compound at St Marys munition factory, NSW 11/93.
Currently located at the Australian Aviation Museum, Bankstown, NSW. Owned by HARS. Your photo though appears to be a B2 or B20 though with the plastic transparent nose.

Photos of her here


David Eyre
26th Feb 2008, 01:56
Operation Tasman Flight was a 'Flag waving' tour of Australia and New Zealand from 9 September to 1 October 1956, by Vulcan XA897.

The Canberra in the enlarged photo is clearly serialled WH797, a PR.7 belonging to the RAF (not RAAF).

The below text (quoted from this website: http://www.jet-flight.net/vvisits.html ) indicates that the Canberra was probably one of three RAF aircraft which supported the Vulcan on its tour. It doesn't indicate whether the Canberra flew the whole trip from the UK, or just the leg from Singapore.

Canberra WH797 was later based at RAF Tengah (Singapore). Here is a photo of it performing a final flypast with 81 Squadron at RAF Tengah in 1970:

Quote from this website: http://www.jet-flight.net/vvisits.html :

On the 27th June 1956 it was announced by the Minister for Air, Mr.Townley that an RAF Vulcan B Mk.1 aircraft would visit Australia for Air Force Week in September. This heralded the beginning of what would prove to be a long association between the RAF Vulcans and the RAAF. The ensuing years witnessed the involvement of Vulcan aircraft in weapons testing at Woomera, joint Air Defence Exercises (ADEX) in Darwin and at Butterworth and, of course, participation at numerous Air Shows in the Capital cities.

Vulcan B Mk.1 XA897, departed Boscombe Down in Wiltshire on 9th September on the first leg of a journey to Australia and New Zealand. Staging via Aden and Singapore, XA897 arrived overhead RAAF Avalon about 1700 hours on the 11th September, 1956, having logged a flying time of 22 hours 30 minutes. Onboard the Vulcan was the Commander-in-chief of RAF Bomber Command, Air Marshall Sir Harry Broadhurst. Sir Harry was taking turns in the 'right hand seat' with regular Vulcan pilot, Squadron Leader James Stroud. The aircraft was under the command of Squadron Leader Donald Howard. The othe crew comprised Squadron Leader Edward Eames, Navigator, Squadron Leader Albert Gamble, the Air Electronics Officer and a civilian, Avro's construction chief, Mr. Frederick Bassett. The aircraft flew the 3730 mile United Kingdom to Aden leg in 7 hours 20 minutes, the 4105 mile sector from Aden to Singapore in 8 hours 20 minutes and the final sector to Avalon in 6 hours 50 minutes. Soon after arriving overhead Avalon, the Vulcan circled the field and then flew on to Melbourne returning via Port Phillip Bay to Avalon, only to return again to Melbourne before finally landing at Avalon RAAF near Geelong. Among the VIP's waiting on the tarmac to greet Sir Harry, were Air Marshall Sir John McCauley, Chief of Air Staff, RAAF.and Air-Vice Marshall W.L.Heley. The following day, Wednesday 12th September, Sir Harry Broadhurst attended the Parade of the Queen's Colour at Point Cook RAAF Base. As the order for the general salute was given, three De Havilland Vampire jets appeared overhead. The Vulcan remained at Avalon whilst Sir Harry flew to Canberra for talks with Air Force staff and politicians. On his arrival at RAAF Fairbairn, he was greeted by the Minister for Air Mr. Townley, the Commanding Officer of Fairbairn, Group Captain A.D.Garrisson and Mr. J.R.Fraser, the representative of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom. The following morning, at 0930 hours, Sir Harry laid a Wreath at the War Memorial before attending a sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. He was a guest at a Cabinet luncheon before returning to Melbourne to rejoin the Vulcan for the trip to Sydney. Flying low over Canberra , en route, the Vulcan arrived at Sydney's Kingsford-Smith Airport where it taxied to a heavily guarded enclosure near the old A.N.A. terminal. The aircraft was on public display the following day, albeit, from a secure distance. Whilst in Melbourne, Sir Harry Broadhurst created quite a controversy over statements he had made concerning the Avon Sabre. He was quoted in the press as saying, "the Sabre was well suited to its task when first built, but has been completely outdated by recent developments". This statement produced a quick response from the Minister for Defence, Sir Philip McBride. The Sydney press were quick to revive the issue when they interviewed Sir Harry. In an attempt to quell the debate, Sir Harry denied saying the Avon Sabre could not stop an atomic attack by a bomber like the Vulcan. "What I said was, the Vulcan, flies at night, and there was not a night fighter in the world today which could stop her." "By day, however, the Vulcan is vulnerable and can be caught by a fighter like the Avon Sabre." On Saturday, 15th September, the Avro Vulcan had to share the limelight when a B.O.A.C. Bristol Britannia, on her inaugural visit to Australia, landed at Mascot. The Britannia was , at the time, the world's largest turbo-prop commercial transport. Whilst a 24 hour guard was maintained on the Vulcan, which was, of course, one of Britain's top secret aircraft, Sir Harry attended a Battle of Britain Commemorative Service at the Cenotaph. During this service there was a flypast by six Gloster Meteors, followed by a second run of Sabres. Air Force Week concluded on the Sunday with an open day at RAAF Richmond. Having completed the ceremonial duties, Sir Harry boarded a RAAF Douglas Dakota at Richmond to fly to Mascot to rejoin the Vulcan. After take-off from Mascot, XA897 flew to Richmond where it gave a 5 minute display before flying to Adelaide where it would undergo a routine service before the flight to New Zealand.

The crowds that had flocked to RAAF Mallala for the Air Force Week air display were not disappointed when, as expected, the Vulcan arrived to give a display before landing at Edinburgh. Servicing complete, the Vulcan departed Edinburgh on the 18th for the trip to Christchurch, New Zealand. The route to New Zealand was via Launceston and Hobart. Landing at Christchurch's Harewood airport saw the trip sucessfully completed with an elapsed time of 4 hours 35 minutes. Avro claimed a point-to-point record for the 1,200 mile sector, Hobart to Christchurch, of 635 m.p.h. An Avro Shackleton aircraft landed at Amberley, Queensland, on the 19th September, in preparation for the return of the Vulcan to Australia. This was one of three aircraft accompanying the Vulcan and carrying spares and maintenance personnel. Anticipation was running high in Brisbane as the time for the Vulcan's visit approached. This enthusiasm having been generated by the local press coverage of the aircraft's visit to the Southern Capitals. Variously described as the 'flying triangle' and a 'giant bat' by the newspaper journalists, XA897 arrived over Brisbane from Ohakea Air Base in New Zealand, on the morning of 22nd September. A traffic jam was created as an estimated 20,000 people motored to Amberley Air Force Base to inspect the Vulcan. The following day, after a farewell circuit of Brisbane, the aircraft set course for Darwin, the last Australian port of call on the homeward journey.

The departure of XA897 from Darwin completed a celebrated and notable visit to Australia and New Zealand. It is ironic that tragedy would strike at the very zenith of its destinguished voyage. In poor weather conditions Vulcan B Mk.1 XA897 crashed at London Heathrow. The aircraft was totally destroyed and the crew, except for the pilot, Squadron Leader Donald Howard and Air Marshall Sir Harry Broadhurst, who successfully ejected, were killed. In poor visibility and misty rain whilst on a Ground Controlled Approach to Runway 10L, the aircraft landed 2000 feet short of the threshold. In the attempted overshoot the aircraft uncontrollably banked slowly to starboard then dived into the ground at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees. The RAF Court of Inquiry and a subsequent Government ordered independant investigation by Dr. A. G. Touch are well recorded in Robert Jackson's book, "Avro Vulcan".

Some photos of the Vulcan XA897 at other Australian airports during the visit (including some colour photos):


The accident report on XA897 for its crash at Heathrow:


26th Feb 2008, 08:52
Thanks David for your response. It's given me more than enough information for my needs. I never realised how interesting the story behind the photo's would be. Being a PR variant, I can only assume the Canberra was there to take aerial photo's during the journey. I would like to know whether the Canberra went the whole way or just from Singapore though.

Cornish Jack
26th Feb 2008, 10:46
I took what, I think, may well be the last photo of the Vulcan as it taxied out at Khormaksar, en-route to UK. Many of us in Auntie Mary's employ at the time were VERY unimpressed with the sequence of events at LHR:mad: