09 December 2019 Military Aviation » Deliveries » Canberra  

English Electric Canberra

The English Electric Canberra was an all-metal, semi-monocoque construction with a canti-levered wing and a wooden vertical stabiliser. Between them, English Electric and Handley Page manufactured a total of 926 versions, with another 48 manufactured by the Government Aircraft Factory in Australia. In the United States, the Martin Company built another 403 for the United States Air Force, know as the B-57.


An interesting, non-military, movement was that of Canberra TT.18, WJ680/G-BURM, on a delivery flight from the UK to Australia on 11 May 2002.

WJ680 History

Built by Handley Page, English Electric Canberra WJ680 was delivered to the Royal Air Force as a B.2 on 25 March 1955, and joined 551 Wing, RAF Bomber Command. First allocation was to 104 Sq. at RAF Gutersloh on 16 January 1956, but when this squadron was disbanded, it was passed on to 103 squadron, just seven days later, on the 23rd, remaining at Gutersloh.

When with this squadron, WJ680 suffered the first of its many accidents, when damage from an unspecified accident in early February grounded the aircraft until repairs were completed on 10 December 1956.

After returning to service, and a transfer to 59 Sqd. the aircraft again suffered extensive damage from a bird strike during a low-level training mission on 14 May 1957. Its canopy was badly damaged, as were the engine cowlings, tailplane and the wooden fin fitted to UK built machines. The pilot made an emergency landing at RAF Gutersloh.

After repairs, WJ680 was flown back to the UK on 30 July 1957, were, with only 173 hours on the clock, the aircraft was placed in storage for almost ten years. In May 1967 the aircraft was flown to BAC Samlesbury for conversion to a TT.18 configuration, using the then recently developed Rushton Winch & Target System.

After this conversion, WJ680 was allocated to 27 Maintenance Unit (MU) until 1971, when it was transferred to Flight Refuelling at Tarrant Rushton for final equipping before returning to active service life with 7 Squadron at RAF St. Mawgan on 14 June 1971.

An incident that could have written off WJ680 occurred on 7 December 1972, when, during a Minor Servicing Air Test, the pilot, Flt. Lt. D. G. V. Burgess, found that he was unable to centralise the rudder. (The rudder hinge had broken, jamming the rudder to starboard.)

After carrying out handling checks, he ordered his navigator, Pilot Off. G.F. Burns, to eject. Flt. Lt. Burgess then made a flapless approach, 5Okts above the normal 100kt-approach speed, but was unable to brake due to the asymmetry caused by the rudder bearing breakage. Veering off the runway, he selected wheels up to try to slow the aircraft down.

The pilot was awarded the Air Force Cross for saving aircraft and crew, but repairs took over 2 years. It re-returned service with 7 Sq. during February 1975. But trouble continued to dog WJ680’s life, and later in the year, on 8 October, the aircraft suffered a total hydraulics failure, resulting in the aircraft making a wheels up landing. After completion of repairs, the Canberra returned to 7 Squadron in November 1976, until transfer to 100 Squadron when No. 7 was disbanded.

WJ680 apparently served without further incident until January 1988, when she was flown back to BAe Samlesbury for Major Servicing. By now coded CT, and the last Canberra to be refurbished by British Aerospace, WJ680 departed on 9 May 1988 for service with 100 Sq. at RAF Wyton.

It remained on strength with 100 Sq. until 18 December 1991 when it performed its last flight in RAF service. When the squadron re-equipped with Hawks in January 1992, the Ministry of Defence put up WJ680/CT for disposal.

Out on “Civvie” Street

Purchased by Canberra Flight, she was returned to the air as G-BURM on 16 February 1993, spending three years on the UK air show scene, until again put into long-term storage at Kemble in late 1996.

In mid-1999, she was moved into the DevonAir hangar, were Ron Mitchell, the new owner, had assembled a crew to once again return the aircraft to an airworthy status. After months of servicing and successful engine runs, David Piper (ex-45 Sq. and WK163 pilot) flew WJ680 out of Kemble on 7 January 2000 bound for RAF Marham.

During 2000, WJ680 resided in a hangar at Marham with work being carried out to bring the aircraft back into flying trim while the search for sponsors went on. When this failed, the decision was taken to sell the aircraft, the buyers being the Temora Aviation Museum, in Australia, who intend to repaint it to represent an aircraft flown by the Royal Australian Air Force during the Vietnam conflict. Located near Canberra, the museum plans to fly it in company with a Gloster Meteor F.8, both of which were once operated by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Leaving for Down Under

WJ680 left RAF Marham on 10 August 2001 bound for Bournemouth. After several more test flights, the aircraft departed Bournemouth on 10 May 2002 on its long deliver flight to Australia. The crew were Pilot Philip Shaw (Ex Royal Navy), Navigator Peter Dickins (Ex Royal Australian Air Force) and Engineer Stewart Ross (Ex Royal Air Force).

The following list gives a breakdown of the aircraft’s flight plan, and any problems that were encountered. It was planned to arrive at Temora on the 15th, but weather delayed her arrival by two days.

10.05 Departure from Bournemouth at 14.10 hrs for Genoa and then on to Malta. At Genoa, the weather forecast for Malta revealed a 600-foot ceiling with thunderstorms in the area. A decision was taken to remain at Genoa and continue the following morning.

11.05 Arrived at Luqa for re-fuelling, departing after an hour for Irakleion (Crete), then Horehnda (Egypt), for a night stop.

12.05 Horehnda (Egypt) to Muscat (Oman).

13.05 Departed for Bombay, then Calcutta (India)

14.05 Phuket, Thailand, then Jakarta

15.05 Arrived Bali (Indonesia)

16.05 Arrived Darwin, Australia at 13.00 hours. Due to lengthy customs clearance procedures, the aircraft night-stopped there. (Darwin is in the northern part of Northern Territory State, approx. 1300 miles from Temora, which is in New South Wales.)

17.05 G-BURM arrives at Temora Aviation Museum, after a re-fuelling stop at Alice Springs.

30.07 Re-registered VH-ZSQ, and repainted in the markings of No. 2 Squadron, RAAF, which flew the aircraft during the Viet Nam war.

Indian Air Force

Already familiar to the Maltese enthusiast due to the number stationed in Malta with 13 & 39 squadrons, a number of Canberras passed through Malta on delivery the Indian AF, starting as early as 1966.

Their designation (TT.418) and previous RAF military serials have been supplied by Hans ver Herk, military editor with Scramble, who also supplied me with the previous RAF serials of the Hunters and the current Indian AF B.707 serials (See Hunter tables).

IF919   __.08.66 __.08.66 RAF camouflage. B(I)58, 36 Sqdn, seen on 17.08.66, in company with four Indian AF Hunters.
IF1021   13.09.70 14.09.70 RAF camouflage. B.66
IF1020   11.10.70   B.66
IF1022   18.10.70 19.10.70 B.66
IF1023   13.11.70   B.66
F1024       Seen at Luqa on 14.01.71.
F1026       Seen at Luqa on 16.02.71.
F1027       Seen at Luqa on 12.03.71.
IF1028       Seen at Luqa on 27.01.71, B.66.
IF1029   02.12.70   B.66
P1098   30.06.71 31.06.71 Overall silver. PR.57
Q1791 WE193 18.06.75 19.06.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style. Coded ‘L’.
Q1792 WE195 23.07.75 24.07.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style. Cheetah’s head on fin, similar to 231 OCU’s badge.
Q1796 WJ868 04.08.75 05.08.75 RAF Camouflage (plus dayglo?)
Q1794 WT487 20.08.75 21.08.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style.
Q1793 WT485 09.09.75 10.09.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style.
Q1795 WH839 23.09.75 24.09.75 Silver dayglo, RAF style. Cheetah’s head on fin, similar to 231 OCU’s badge.

New Zealand AF

The RNZAF purchased a total of eleven B(I)12 Canberras, and two T.13 (equivalent to the RAF’s B(I)8 and T.4 respectively) to replace the Vampire. These were delivered between 1959-1961, and were withdrawn from service in 1970, being replaced by the A-4K Skyhawk.

This particular aircraft was sold back to BAC, departing New Zealand on 01.05.70. Two were lost in service, the remainder being sold to the Indian AF.

Between 12th November - 28th December 1964, Canberra NZ6110 was recorded at RAF Luqa. Was this a delivery flight?

NZ6106       Seen on 07.05.70.


RRAF200       The following were all seen at RAF Luqa on on 27.06.63.

Assorted Beaufighter Bonanza C-47 Canberra Casa Hawk Hunter LET 410 Meteor Mosquito Oxford/Consul Queen Air Sea Harrier Skymaster (Cessna O-2) Strikemaster Tornado Typhoon Vampire Demonstrators
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