Sunday, April 18, 2021 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 visiting for exercises and being based in Malta with 13 & 39 squadrons, a number of Canberras passed through Malta on delivery the Indian AF, starting as early as 1958.

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).

BF597 B(I)58   __.05.63 __.05.63 Noted at Luqa on the 5th. Preserved at HAL Museum.
BF598 B(I)58   __.05.63 __.05.63 Noted at Luqa on the 5th.
IF973 B(I)58   __.09.58 __.09.58 This suffered from damage to its engine nose cowling between the 13-14th at Luqa. c/n 71620.
IF983 B(I)58   25.08.58 26.08.58  
IF919 B(I)58   __.08.66 __.08.66 RAF camouflage. 36 Sqdn, seen on 17.08.66, in company with four Indian AF Hunters.
F1021 B.66 WH954 13.09.70 14.09.70 RAF camouflage.
F1020 B.66 WT210 11.10.70    
F1022 B.66 WH959 18.10.70 19.10.70  
F1023 B.66 WH961 13.11.70    
F1024 B.66 WT303     Seen at Luqa on 14.01.71.
F1026 B.66 WT302     Seen at Luqa on 16.02.71.
F1027 B.66 WT373     Seen at Luqa on 12.03.71.
F1028 B.66 WJ776     Seen at Luqa on 27.01.71.
F1029 B.66 WJ778 02.12.70    
P1098 PR.67 WH800 30.06.71 31.06.71 Overall silver.
Q1791 T.414 WE193 18.06.75 19.06.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style. Coded ‘L’.
Q1792 T.414 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 T.414 WJ868 04.08.75 05.08.75 RAF Camouflage (plus dayglo?)
Q1794 T.414 WT487 20.08.75 21.08.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style.
Q1793 T.414 WT485 09.09.75 10.09.75 Camouflage – light grey/dayglo, RAF style.
Q1795 T.414 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.


The following were all seen at RAF Luqa on 27.06.63. It is not clear if the aircraft were on their way to Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), or going to the UK.

RRAF200 B.2 WH867     c/n SH1624. To RRAF on 02.06.59. Previously serialled RRAF159, 200, then R2005. Broken up at Thornhill AB Gwelo.
RRAF202 B.2 WH662     To RRAF on 10.03.59. Real c/n unknown. Previously RRAF161, it later became R2502. WFU & stored 18.04.80, Thornhill AB Gwelo.
RRAF207 B.2 WH883     c/n SH1640. To RRAF on 07.04.59. Previously RRAF166. Written off on 1966 – no further details known.
RRAF212 B.2 WK108     c/n RO-032. To RRAF 02.06.59. Previously RRAF171, later R5212. Written off on 28.10.69, after running out of fuel in bad weather. Crew ejected over Wankie National Park, spending the night in a tree, surrounded by lions.
RRAF213 B.2 WJ612     c/n HP179B. To RRAF 07.04.59. Previously RRAF172. Broken up & scrapped at Thornhill AB Gwelo.

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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