The Early Operational Career and the Closest Call of Britain’s Last Dambuster

This article is an edited transcript of “Johnny” Johnson: The Last British Dambuster available on Our Site TV.

Of all the air raids carried out during World War Two, none are as famous as the attack by Lancaster Bombers against the dams of Germany’s industrial heartland. Commemorated in literature and film throughout the decades, the mission – which was codenamed Operation ‘Chastise’ – has come to epitomise British ingenuity and courage throughout the war.

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While I was a bomb aimer, I also had to man a gun. I had to fly in on the front turret on the way out, come down to drop the bombs at the target, hop back into the front turret on the way back as part of the rest of the crew.

I’m sure a majority of the bomber command air crew were there to do the job that they had been briefed for to the best of their ability.

That meant not only the job, their individual job, but their responsibility for the safety of the rest of the crew.

I was told I was joining this crew with an American pilot. My immediate reaction was, “Oh my God, bloody Americans again.” Then I met Joe McCarthy, six foot three and the breadth to go with the height.

Big in size, big in personality, but from our point of view, big in pilot ability, which meant tremendous competence. I never once thought that Joe wouldn’t bring me back and he thought much the same way.

617 Squadron (Dambusters) at Scampton, Lincolnshire, 22 July 1943. The crew of a Lancaster sitting on the grass. Left to right: Sergeant George Leonard “Jonny” Johnson; Pilot Officer D A MacLean, navigator; Flight Lieutenant J C McCarthy, pilot; Sergeant L Eaton, gunner. In the rear are Sergeant R Batson, gunner; and Sergeant W G Ratcliffe, engineer. Credit: Imperial War Museums / Commons.

My first memory of being above occupied Europe was a time that we were at night, for defensive reasons. It was dark on the way out. We flew at 10,000-15,000 feet, but you didn’t see anything until you got to the target area.

It was then you saw all the guns that you had to go through before you could get home. People say to me, were you frightened?

I think anyone who saw that for the first time, if they weren’t a bit apprehensive, they were either devoid of emotion or strangers to the truth.

If you looked up, you could see the flares that the pathfinders had dropped, and you could see anti-aircraft fire just swelling up all around you.

I found my concentration was purely on the bomb site and the target. Concentrating directing the pilot to get my bombs as close as I could to that particular target.

Whatever was going on around about me, I just didn’t see it. It didn’t concern me. I was doing my job, as I thought, to the best of my ability. That was what I thought I was there for.

Bombing of Lübeck in 1942. Credit: Bundesarchiv / Commons.

Honestly, strange as it may seem, I didn’t notice the flak all around.

I didn’t notice the other aircraft in the area until I dropped my bombs and we then had to fly straight and level for the camera to operate, so that when we got back the intelligence could see where we dropped our bombs, in spite of where we said we’d dropped them.

I didn’t see any of the Lancasters being hit and the crews bailing out, although I understand it happened. I know it happened. I know aircraft were shot down over the target area, either by anti-aircraft guns or by fighters, when they brought those in to face us in the target area.

My closest call

Basically, it was a pretty rough old journey. You didn’t have time to worry about it, or at least I didn’t. The only time I think I was more than a bit apprehensive, was before I joined Joe’s crew, I was flying with an entire NCO crew.

They were coming close to their last trip in the first tour and we’d been over the north of Germany. The weather was treacherous when we got there, so we were using aerial marking and you had no idea where your bombs were going.

You just bombed the target marker and that was it. As soon as you dropped below 10,000 feet, it was normally oxygen masks off and usually cigarettes on as well.

Of all the air raids carried out during World War Two, none are as famous as the attack by Lancaster Bombers against the dams of Germany’s industrial heartland. Commemorated in literature and film throughout the decades, the mission – which was codenamed Operation ‘Chastise’ – has come to epitomise British ingenuity and courage throughout the war.

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But on this occasion we just took our masks off and there was a God almighty flash, absolutely blind all around.

I couldn’t see a thing and I was in the front turret by that time and as the eyesight came back, it looked almost as though the Perspex had been burnt out.

It looked as though it was just the metal strips left, but as the eyesight came back, I could see the turret was completely intact.

The mid-level gunner was calling, “Are you alright, Colin?”

Colin was the pilot, obviously fighting like mad with the aircraft that was going down at some speed. The gunner kept asking and he said, “My God, they’ve all gone. I’m going to get out.”

The wireless operator got back to him and told him to stop being such a bloody idiot, and not quite as politely as that.

He went on, how could Colin possibly answer, since without his oxygen mask on, his microphone was away from his mouth and he was fighting like mad to save the aircraft, and us, and you, you stupid so-and-so.

When we got back and the gunner was in a rather pleasant mood, he said he’d seen the fire creeping up the aerial towards his turret. And then, woof, a lightning flash. We dropped from around 10,000 feet to 2,000 feet, just like that.

But Colin controlled it at 2000 feet. I didn’t bother to find out what had happened to the aircraft when we got back.

Camaraderie among the crew

We were really brought together by the experience of flying in those conditions, apart from the fact I was the odd one out in that I didn’t drink, believe it or not.

I’ve managed to change that habit now, but the reason for it then goes back to my childhood.

Members of Bomber Command, 2 October 1940. Credit: Imperial War Museums / Commons.

My father being farm foreman, during the lambing season, he stayed up most of the night nipping out to see that the lambs and the ewes were all right.

He’d had his beer, and fell asleep in his chair in between checking on the sheep. I tipped the dregs of the beer into the glass, and then, yuck. God, that is hell, it tasted horrible.

But the smell, that’s what really got me. It made me literally sick and that smell stayed with me.

If the standout documentary from our East Meets West season, 'WW2: China's Forgotten War' has left you wanting more then don't miss this companion interview with Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford.

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I couldn’t stand the smell of beer from then onwards. So I didn’t get into the bar or pubs or even in the mess bar, except for a quick trip at lunchtime to get me cigarettes and that was it.

I enjoyed my war. I think I felt I was doing what I joined for and I was doing it to the best of my ability, and that was what I was there for and I enjoyed doing it. A lot of that rested on my confidence in my pilot and the rest of the crew that I flew with.

We had a crew comedian in Dave Roger in the rear turret. He could always make some crafty comment whenever those situations were a bit grim.

When we were coming back from the dams raid, we were still flying low, and we went off course and we ended up in a railway yard.

Aerial photograph of an attack by eleven Royal Air Force De Havilland Mosquito B.IV bombers on the railroad network in Trier, Germany, 1 April 1943. Credit: Imperial War Museum / Commons.

Of course, it wasn’t a normal railway yard. It was the main marshalling yard where all the ammunitions that were made in the rear were distributed to the various areas where the war was being fought.

Obviously, not the healthiest place to be in May 1943. At one point Joe flew even lower, and from the rear turret we hear, “Who needs guns? At this height all they need to do is change the points.”

That was the sort of stuff Dave would come up with.

I never really thought about what was going on below. I think the only respect in which I thought about it, was in retaliation for what Hitler was doing and had done to us. I think that was what it was.

I think maybe from that childhood upbringing, emotion was basically knocked out of me. I didn’t think I had any particular strong emotion at all. That’s why I didn’t ever feel frightened about the flying or the actual bombing.

I didn’t really appreciate what it meant to those at the receiving end. I didn’t know that or find that out until after the war when I went back and talked to some German people.

Header image credit: A No 57 Squadron mid-upper gunner, Sergeant ‘Dusty’ Miller, ‘scans the sky for enemy aircraft’ from a Lancaster’s Fraser Nash FN50 turret. Credit: Imperial War Museums / Commons.

Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie, (born November 25, 1835, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland—died August 11, 1919, Lenox, Massachusetts, U.S.), Scottish-born American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He was also one of the most important philanthropists of his era.

When was Andrew Carnegie born?

Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland.

When did Andrew Carnegie die?

Andrew Carnegie died on August 11, 1919, in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Where did Andrew Carnegie go to school?

Andrew Carnegie lacked a lengthy formal education. Upon his arrival in the United States in 1848, Carnegie became enthusiastically Americanized, educating himself by reading and writing and attending night school in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

What was Andrew Carnegie best known for?

Andrew Carnegie was an industrialist best known for leading the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He was also one of the most important philanthropists of his era, establishing several trusts, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Carnegie’s father, William Carnegie, a handloom weaver, was a Chartist and marcher for workingman’s causes his maternal grandfather, Thomas Morrision, also an agitator, had been a friend of William Cobbett. During the young Carnegie’s childhood the arrival of the power loom in Dunfermline and a general economic downturn impoverished his father, inducing the Carnegies to immigrate in 1848 to the United States, where they joined a Scottish colony of relatives and friends in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh). Young Andrew began work at age 12 as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory. He quickly became enthusiastically Americanized, educating himself by reading and writing and attending night school.

At age 14 Carnegie became a messenger in a telegraph office, where he eventually caught the notice of Thomas Scott, a superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, who made Carnegie his private secretary and personal telegrapher in 1853. Carnegie’s subsequent rise was rapid, and in 1859 he succeeded Scott as superintendent of the railroad’s Pittsburgh division. While in this post he invested in the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company (the original holder of the Pullman patents) and introduced the first successful sleeping car on American railroads. He had meanwhile begun making shrewd investments in such industrial concerns as the Keystone Bridge Company, the Superior Rail Mill and Blast Furnaces, the Union Iron Mills, and the Pittsburgh Locomotive Works. He also profitably invested in a Pennsylvania oilfield, and he took several trips to Europe, selling railroad securities. By the age of 30 he had an annual income of $50,000.

During his trips to Britain he came to meet steelmakers. Foreseeing the future demand for iron and steel, Carnegie left the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1865 and started managing the Keystone Bridge Company. From about 1872–73, at about age 38, he began concentrating on steel, founding near Pittsburgh the J. Edgar Thomson Steel Works, which would eventually evolve into the Carnegie Steel Company. In the 1870s Carnegie’s new company built the first steel plants in the United States to use the new Bessemer steelmaking process, borrowed from Britain. Other innovations followed, including detailed cost- and production-accounting procedures that enabled the company to achieve greater efficiencies than any other manufacturing industry of the time. Any technological innovation that could reduce the cost of making steel was speedily adopted, and in the 1890s Carnegie’s mills introduced the basic open-hearth furnace into American steelmaking. Carnegie also obtained greater efficiency by purchasing the coke fields and iron-ore deposits that furnished the raw materials for steelmaking, as well as the ships and railroads that transported these supplies to his mills. The vertical integration thus achieved was another milestone in American manufacturing. Carnegie also recruited extremely capable subordinates to work for him, including the administrator Henry Clay Frick, the steelmaster and inventor Captain Bill Jones, and his own brother Thomas M. Carnegie.

In 1889 Carnegie’s vast holdings were consolidated into the Carnegie Steel Company, a limited partnership that henceforth dominated the American steel industry. In 1890 the American steel industry’s output surpassed that of Great Britain’s for the first time, largely owing to Carnegie’s successes. The Carnegie Steel Company continued to prosper even during the depression of 1892, which was marked by the bloody Homestead strike. (Although Carnegie professed support for the rights of unions, his goals of economy and efficiency may have made him favour local management at the Homestead plant, which used Pinkerton guards to try to break the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers.)

In 1900 the profits of Carnegie Steel (which became a corporation) were $40,000,000, of which Carnegie’s share was $25,000,000. Carnegie sold his company to J.P. Morgan’s newly formed United States Steel Corporation for $480,000,000 in 1901. He subsequently retired and devoted himself to his philanthropic activities, which were themselves vast.

Carnegie wrote frequently about political and social matters, and his most famous article, “ Wealth,” appearing in the June 1889 issue of the North American Review, outlined what came to be called the Gospel of Wealth. This doctrine held that a man who accumulates great wealth has a duty to use his surplus wealth for “the improvement of mankind” in philanthropic causes. A “man who dies rich dies disgraced.”

Chief among Carnegie’s writings are Triumphant Democracy (1886 rev. ed. 1893), The Gospel of Wealth, a collection of essays (1900), The Empire of Business (1902), Problems of To-day (1908), and Autobiography (1920).

Carnegie married Louise Whitfield in 1887. Until World War I, the Carnegies alternated between Skibo Castle in northern Scotland, their home in New York City, and their summer house “Shadowbrook” in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Leonard Cheshire was the son of Geoffrey Chevalier Cheshire, a barrister, academic and influential writer on English law. He had one brother, Christopher Cheshire, also a wartime pilot. Cheshire was born in Hoole, Chester, [2] but was brought up at his parents' home near Oxford. Cheshire was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, Stowe School and Merton College, Oxford. [3] At Stowe he was taught English by the fantasy novelist T. H. White. [4] Whilst at Oxford he became friends with John Niel Randle. On one occasion at Oxford he was bet half a pint of beer that he could not walk to Paris with no more than a few pennies in his pocket he won his bet. [5] He went to stay in Germany in 1936 with the family of Ludwig von Reuter in Potsdam [6] and whilst there, witnessed an Adolf Hitler rally. Cheshire caused considerable offence by pointedly refusing to give the Nazi salute. [5] [7] Cheshire graduated in jurisprudence in 1939.

Early training Edit

At Oxford the family expectation was that he would excel. [ citation needed ] His father was an exceptional jurist and legal scholar. Cheshire progressed through his schooling, but did not achieve a first. He stated he did not work hard enough, and may not have had the ability. [ citation needed ] During his university years, Cheshire was required to participate in one of the service clubs. He chose the cavalry, but soon found the early hours and physical demands were not to his liking, and he transferred to the Oxford University Air Squadron. [8] There he learned his basic piloting skills, and on 16 November 1937 he received his commission as a pilot officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. [9]

On 7 October 1939 Cheshire received his permanent commission with the RAF. [10] In selecting his preference Cheshire listed 1) Fighter Command 2) Light Bomber Force and 3) Army Cooperation force. [11] To his disappointment, he was assigned to Bomber Command, and sent for training at RAF Hullavington, and then to RAF Abingdon. [12] It was here that his career in the RAF was nearly ended before it even got started. Cheshire made a loud joking remark at a pub about German troops having arrived in England, which was reported. He was called in to the station commander, and was nearly sent to the infantry, but he apologised and was kept in. [11]

102 Squadron Edit

On 7 April 1940 Cheshire was promoted to flying officer and in June he was posted to 102 Squadron, flying the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. [13] 102 Squadron was in 4 Group of Bomber Command, and shared the airfield at RAF Driffield with 77 Squadron. [14] Cheshire remarked that upon arriving at Driffield he was filled with a fear that he would not measure up to what was expected of him, but soon found himself buoyed with the sense of being part of a tradition. [8] He became good friends with a number of pilots there, including Hugh "Lofty" Long and Jimmy Marks.

As a new pilot at Driffield, Cheshire was placed under the tutelage of Long. Cheshire found Long both demanding and encouraging. From the outset Long tested Cheshire on every aspect of the aircraft. He expected Cheshire to know the aircraft inside and out. His goal was to make flying the aircraft so second nature, that when the point of critical action arrived all of Cheshire's attention could be focused on the problem, as none of his concentration would be diverted by the task of flying. Long made Cheshire spend every spare minute he had learning the machine. "Lofty kept drumming into my head the fundamental lesson of never thinking that you have mastered your job, of applying your whole heart and mind to the task of perfecting as far as is humanly possible the techniques of operational flying. He made me practice and re-practice, study and re-study, experiment and re-experiment. I had to sit in the cockpit blindfold and go through the different drills, sit in the rear turret, in the navigator's and the wireless operator's seat, and try and see life from their point of view." [15]

Long knew every man supporting the aircraft, both in his flight crew and his ground crew, and the concerns and hardships each man faced. [11] Long took Cheshire along when he would speak to his men, and impressed upon Cheshire the importance of the commander being aware of their concerns. Cheshire credited him for making him a good captain. [11] [15] Thinking back upon those days, Cheshire noted "I do not think there could have been a single piece of equipment or a single aspect of flying on which he failed to question me. There was the ground crew also, to each of whom Lofty introduced me individually, talking of their problems, and the background from which they came and explaining the importance of building up a personal relationship with them." [15]

Cheshire's first ten missions were flown as second pilot to Long. On those early missions Long placed Cheshire in the pilot's seat early and often, giving Cheshire invaluable experience of flying through flak over a target. By June Cheshire was commanding his own aircraft. [16]

Distinguished Service Order (DSO) mission Edit

In the spring of 1940 Bomber Command began its campaign against German industry. [17] On the night of 12/13 November 1940, Cheshire was briefed to attack the synthetic oil plant at Wesseling, near Cologne. [15] While on route Cheshire found the target was obscured by bad weather, so decided to attack the railway yards at Cologne instead. Initially in his bombing run there was little flak, but suddenly two anti-aircraft rounds exploded near the aircraft. The two anti-aircraft shells had exploded almost simultaneously near the plane, one right above the cockpit, and the other just under the port wing. The flash from the first blinded Cheshire, and the second rent a huge tear in the fuselage, igniting one of the aircraft's flares. The aircraft was falling in a steep dive. Cheshire regained his senses and realised both engines were still working, and pulled the aircraft out at about 5,000 feet. The crew were able to extinguish the fire, though they had to take precautions not to fall out. By the time they did they realised they were flying deeper into Germany. Realizing he still had a functioning aircraft with a bomb load, Cheshire brought the aircraft around and returned to make another bomb run on the target. Arriving over Cologne he now was the sole bomber over the target and faced the concentrated flak of the city's defenders. Nevertheless, he made it to the marshalling yard, dropped his bomb load and managed to get the aircraft and crew safely back to base at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire. For bombing the yard in a badly damaged aircraft and still managing to get it back to England he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. [18]

Completing his first tour of operations in January 1941, Cheshire immediately volunteered for a second tour.

35 Squadron Edit

Cheshire was posted to 35 Squadron in January 1941, where he joined Jimmy Marks, "Willie" Tait and George Holden. The squadron was converting to the new four-engine heavy bomber, the Handley Page Halifax. [19] His time in 35 Squadron included seven raids on Berlin. Cheshire was promoted to acting squadron leader on 1 March 1941, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) later that same month. [20] Losses among Bomber Command continued. Four months after Cheshire completed his DSO mission, "Lofty" Long was killed during a mission on 13 March 1941. [15] It was another close personal loss for Cheshire. "Whatever outward face I may have put on it, his loss affected me very deeply, and the memory of what I owed him and of all that he stood for remained with me throughout the war."

On 7 April 1941 he was promoted to flight lieutenant, and became commander of a flight. [21] [22]

Trip to America Edit

At the start of May 35 Squadron's Halifaxes were stood down to undergo modifications to address design flaws. Cheshire obtained a posting to the Atlantic Ferry Organisation to fly a Liberator across the Atlantic. [23] On 4 May 1941 Cheshire reported aboard a Norwegian steamer to begin his trip across the Atlantic. The convoy was not intercepted by the German capital ships, but did suffer multiple attacks from German U-boats, and a number of ships were lost. Luck was with Cheshire however, and he came through unscathed. [24]

Cheshire finally arrived in Canada to find the authorities there did not know who he was or what he was there for. He expected to fly a Liberator or Canadian-built Halifax back to England but he was not allowed to, as he did not have experience in navigation. He and his companion RAF officer decided to take a short trip to New York while things were sorted out. [25] While there he met former stage actress Constance Binney. In three weeks time the two were married. [23] Jimmy Marks was to witness the wedding, but was required to take an aircraft back to England before the wedding, so Cheshire and his bride had to use strangers as their witnesses. [25] After a three-week wait he was finally allowed to shuttle a Hudson back to England. When he returned he was met by a single crewman, and learned that all the others from his Whitley had been lost on missions over Germany. It was a hard blow to Cheshire. [26]

After his return Cheshire resumed flying the Halifax in missions over Germany. He completed his second tour early in 1942. [27] By the end of his time at 35 Squadron Cheshire had completed 50 sorties. [ citation needed ]

Flight instructor Edit

After completing his tour at 35 Squadron Cheshire was posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at Marston Moor. [11] Though in a training unit, he still flew operations from time to time when the training units were called upon to join the main force for full effort missions. The new commander in chief of Bomber Command, Arthur Harris, had taken over in February 1942, and was trying to hold his force together against competing interests from the other services. At the time he assumed command the bomber force was limited to about 400 aircraft, most of these being two-engine Whitleys and Wellingtons. To demonstrate what could be accomplished he planned to conduct several thousand-plane raids. The first of these was against Cologne on the night of 30/31 May 1942. Scraping together every aircraft he could, including the training units, he was able to get a thousand aircraft in the air. Cheshire was a part of the force. He twice flew on thousand plane raids while serving as an instructor pilot. [11] While completing his time as a pilot trainer, his younger brother Christopher, flying a Halifax for 76 Squadron, was shot down over Berlin on the night of 8/9 August 1942. [28] Cheshire happened to be flying that mission to Berlin as well. When he heard that Christopher's aircraft did not return from Berlin, he feared his brother had been killed.

76 Squadron Edit

In August 1942 Cheshire was promoted to acting wing commander and assigned as commanding officer of No. 76 Squadron RAF, stationed at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. [15] [29] The squadron was flying the Halifax bomber, and was reforming, having suffered heavy losses and low morale. [30] Cheshire and three crews that transferred in from 102 Squadron made up the core of the unit. [30] The crews billeted at Beningbrough Hall. [30]

As commanding officer Cheshire was only to fly operations once a month unless absolutely necessary. Cheshire found it absolutely necessary several times a month. He would always fly on the most dangerous operations, and never took the less dangerous ops to France. As commanding officer Cheshire had no crew of his own. When he would fly along with novice crews he would come along as "second pilot" to give them confidence. With more experienced crews he would take the pilot's seat, and move the crew's regular pilot to the second pilot spot. On one occasion 76 Squadron was ordered to Nuremberg, and were to cross the French coast at 2,000 ft. This was a very dangerous height for light flak, and Cheshire simply refused. With typical Cheshire obstinacy, he stated they would fly at 200 ft or 20,000 ft.

Cheshire tackled the morale problem by ordering changes to the aircraft to improve the performance. He was amongst the first to notice that it was very rare for a Halifax to return on three engines. There were reports the Halifax was unstable in a "corkscrew", the manoeuvre used by bomber pilots to escape the attacks of night fighters. Test pilot, Captain Eric Brown, was tasked with determining the cause. He and his flight engineer set to conduct a series of flight tests, when Brown was informed a representative from Bomber Command would fly along. [31] Brown remembers "We couldn't believe it, it was Cheshire! We were astonished to say the least. I asked him not to touch the controls, and to his everlasting credit he never commented at all. He just sat in the second pilot's seat and raised his eyebrows at what we were doing!"

A part of the problem was that the Halifax could not fly as high as the Lancaster, and so was subject to greater attention from flak and night fighters. To lighten the aircraft, Cheshire had the exhaust covers and part of the mid-upper and nose gun turrets removed. This allowed the bombers to fly higher and faster. Losses soon fell, and morale rose accordingly. [32]

During his time as the commanding officer of 76 Squadron Cheshire took the trouble to recognise and learn the names of every single man on the base. [33] This was a reflection on Long, the pilot whom he had first trained under at 102 Squadron. Cheshire was determined to increase the efficiency of his squadron and improve the chances of survival of its crews. To this end, he frequently lectured the crews during preflight briefings on the skills needed to stay alive. With a new crew he would fly with them and demonstrate how it was done himself. Speaking of those days, Flight Sergeant Tom Gallantry, DFC, offered the following: "He could do anything, and did. We all knew he wasn't supposed to go on so many operational trips, but he did. He took new crews and gave them the benefit of his experience. He taught them what predicted flak was, he taught them what a box barrage was, by flying through it. That's certainly more than I would have done." [30] With the ground crews he formed "The Plumbers Club" where they could come together and work out problems they were facing. Their motto was "You bend 'em, we mend 'em." [32]

Marston-Moor Edit

With the completion of his third tour Cheshire was officially ineligible for further operational flying. [11] Air Vice Marshal Roderick Carr, Cheshire's former Group Commander when he was at No. 102 Squadron, put much effort into securing Cheshire a promotion to acting group captain, which the Air Ministry finally approved in March. The promotion made Cheshire, at 25, the youngest group captain in the history of the RAF. [15] [34] On 1 April Cheshire returned to Marston Moor, now as the station commander. [35] The airfield was used by the 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) to convert pilots from the two engine Whitley and Wellington bombers to the four-engined Handley Page Halifax bomber. [36] Cheshire was in charge of 30 to 40 aircraft and 1,800 to 2,000 men. [11]

Cheshire's posting to Marston-Moor was not to his liking. He had been an operational pilot his whole career, and he had limited experience in RAF administrative processes. [35] He found himself frustrated at Marston Moor, not least of all by his adjutant, Bob Dales. Said Cheshire "I found myself promoted very rapidly to a position which I had not been trained to fulfill. To begin with, I had great trouble with the station's warrant officer, because he knew King's Regulations backwards and forwards, and he was perpetually quoting it at me, and I had no idea if they were right or wrong, and I just felt out of my depth." [11] Dales countered "Group Captain Leonard Cheshire was the most frustrated senior officer I ever knew. Almost every day he pressed for a return to an operational tour. I believe his father was a barrister, and through his hatch he would try to defeat me on some point of Air Force law, but I was well versed in King's Regulations and Air Ministry Orders." [37]

Cheshire did what he could to convey to the men being trained how what was being taught at the OCU would translate to saving lives once they began flying in earnest. In April he was awarded a bar to his DSO. [38] And yet the time was a personal crisis for Cheshire. He longed to get back to operational flying but could not, as he could not ask Air Vice Marshall Carr to reverse his promotion to Group Captain, and with such a rank no flying position was available. [39] A possible 'out' arose when the AOC of the PFF, Don Bennett, arrived at his airfield to tour his station. Cheshire approached Bennett and asked permission to transfer to the Pathfinder Force. Bennett was not receptive. He replied that at present no jobs were available. Regardless, he was not sure if Cheshire would be suitable and a trial would be necessary. [11] [40] Cheshire was not pleased, and said so. It is not known why Bennett did not want Cheshire in the Pathfinder Force. It was not the first time Bennett had passed on Cheshire. Bennett's primary recruiting officer, Hamish Mahaddie, found it a mystery. Mahaddie said "Chesh was the only person I selected for training with the Pathfinder Force that Bennett vetoed. I was never able to establish why." [41] In the end Cheshire viewed the refusal as a blessing in disguise. "He did me a good turn, because I got something better." [11]

In 1943, Cheshire published an account of his first tour of operations in his book, Bomber Pilot which tells of his posting to RAF Driffield and the story of flying his badly damaged bomber ("N for Nuts") back to base. It became a national best seller. [12]

617 Squadron Edit

No. 5 Group Commander Ralph Cochrane provided the avenue for Cheshire's escape. Cochrane's elite unit, 617 Squadron, was in difficulty. Guy Gibson had been withdrawn from flying and taken on a publicity tour. He was succeeded by Wing Commander George Holden. Soon thereafter the squadron attempted the disastrous raid against the Dortmund Ems Canal, which resulted in the loss of five of the eight Lancasters sent, including that of the new squadron commander, Holden. [42] Temporary command of the squadron had been passed to H. B. "Mick" Martin, one of the squadron's flight commanders. Of the original nineteen pilots that had flown the mission against the Möhne and Edersee Dams in Operation Chastise, only five remained alive. [43] In September Cochrane asked Cheshire if he would be willing to take the job. Returning to squadron commander would require Cheshire giving up his rank of group captain and taking the step down to wing commander. Cheshire agreed without hesitation. [44] Cochrane instructed Cheshire that first off he needed to complete a three-week conversion course on Lancasters at RAF Warboys.

Cheshire knew the new post would be a challenge for him. Arriving at 617 Squadron he was regarded as an outsider. [11] Though an experienced bomber pilot from the command's campaign against Germany, these missions were flown at high altitude and solo. Hundreds of aircraft were on each raid, but in the dark of night they rarely saw each other. Each plane was in isolation from the others, and flew in strict radio silence. 617 Squadron had become Bomber Command's masters of low flying. Low altitude had kept them under German radar, allowing them to approach their targets undetected. For months they had been flying together at low level, at night, in formation, and below tree level. They had learned to avoid obstructions, and to tuck their wings inside the leader's, a move that decreased turbulence but was very unnerving to attempt. [11] It was very dangerous flying that no other squadron could perform. [11] Here Cheshire benefited from a friendship that he formed with the man he superseded. Cheshire later said "Everything I know about low level flying I learned from Mick Martin." [45] He had been warned that Cochrane was strict, and that they would not get along. He found Cochrane to be very bright, and though strict, it was strictness in the best possible way. As an experienced pilot on the Halifax, Cheshire felt the training flying he had to do at Warboys was somewhat demeaning, but after his second day there he realised Cochrane had been quite right. [11]

It was at 617 Squadron where Cheshire came to real distinction as a remarkable air officer. It was here that his ability to lead, accept risk and think unconventionally resulted in the development of the most successful techniques the RAF developed to deliver extremely large bombs with remarkably deadly accuracy. [15]

V3 mission Edit

The mission Cochrane had recruited Cheshire for was the destruction of German V3 long-range guns. As their third and potentially most destructive vengeance weapon, the Germans had constructed a pair of extremely large guns and positioned them in northern France. They were buried deep in underground bunkers near Mimoyecques in the Pas-de-Calais region. Once operational these powerful guns would be able to fire a 500 lb (230 kg) shell into London every minute, and buried in the earth and protected by 50 feet of reinforced concrete, they were impervious to bombing attack. Such a target was far different than a marshaling yard. Area bombing the region where the guns were located would have no effect upon them.

British scientist and inventor Barnes Wallis had been asked to produce a bomb that could destroy these bunkers. The resulting bomb weighed 12,000 pounds, and if dropped from 20,000 feet would penetrate the earth and cause a small scale earthquake, destroying the target. He called this bomb the Tallboy. To be effective the bombs had to be dropped very accurately. He stated that, for accuracy requirements, one bomb out of fifteen dropped from 20,000 feet needed to land within twelve metres of the target. [8] This was an accuracy unheard of in daytime aerial bombing, let alone bombing at night. Cheshire suggested this was going to be a problem, but got no sympathy from Wallis, who replied "Well, if you're going to scatter my bombs all over northern France what's the point of my building them?" [8]

In January the need for a new marking technique became clear to Cheshire when 617 Squadron made an attack against a V-1 site in the Pas de Calais region. A Pathfinder aircraft working at the same altitude dropped a marker flare upon the target. 617 then proceeded to drop all their bombs within 94 yards of the marker, a remarkable feat of accuracy. The problem was the marker was 350 yards from the target, and the mission was a failure. [46]

In February 1944 Harris called a meeting at High Wycombe to discuss the destruction of the V3 site. The meeting included the AOC of Bomber Command Arthur Harris, the AOC of the Pathfinder Force, Air Vice Marshall Bennett and 5 Group AOC Cochrane, who brought along with him Cheshire. It was chaired by deputy air officer commanding-in-chief Robert Saundby. [11] Bennett was informed of the accuracy needed to mark the target. He dismissed the idea, stating that it could not be done. Cheshire offered that it could be achieved if attempted with a low-level marker aircraft. Bennett rejected this as well, stating that a low-level flight against a well-defended target would not be survivable. The problem was withdrawn from the Pathfinders, but was given to 5 Group to see if they could work out a solution. They were pleased to have the opportunity, as it was what they were hoping for. There would be a delay in the operation, as the large bomb that Barnes Wallis proposed to destroy the target at Mimoyecques was still under development. This allowed Cheshire and Martin time to develop a technique by which they could accurately mark and hit within yards of the target.

Cheshire set about working out a solution. Job one was marking the target. [8] The Pathfinder technique was to drop a group of markers. Cheshire chose to drop a single, very accurate marker, and have the rest of the force bomb that. However, Cochrane insisted that for air crew safety they could release their markers at no less than 5,000 feet.

Efforts to mark the target from 5,000 feet on the bombing ranges proved frustratingly difficult. Even when the marker was dropped dead on upon the target, the angular momentum of the marker caused it to slide or skip a hundred yards before coming to a rest. At 5,000 feet they never could get closer than 150 to 300 yards from target. Martin tried using a dive bomb technique, approaching at 5,000 feet and then dropping into a 30-degree dive, releasing the marker at 100 feet before pulling the big Lancaster up. Though the Lancaster was a cumbersome aircraft to attempt it in, the result was absolutely accurate. [47]

Cheshire could now mark the target using a method that was not permitted. Next he thought about what else he would need to accomplish the mission. To light the target area, an illumination flare would need to be dropped by parachute at 5,000 feet. With the target marked with one accurate target indicator flare the main force would come in, aim for the flare and destroy the target.

Limoges raid Edit

Cheshire and Martin discussed their proposed method with Cochrane, who agreed to allow them to try it. The target would be the Gnome et Rhône aero-engine factory at Limoges in France. The air defences would be lighter, but there were two problems with this target. The first was that the factory was surrounded by the homes of the factory's French workers. Secondly, the plant was running around the clock, so French workers would be in the factory when it was attacked at night. As it was a target in France the proposal to bomb it had to be sent to the War Cabinet for approval. The raid was approved, but with the condition that they were forbidden from taking any civilian lives. [11] It would be their one chance to prove low level marking in combat.

On the night of 8/9 February 1944 the Lancasters of 617 Squadron approached Limoges at 16,000 feet. Below, a Lancaster at 5,000 feet dropped shielded flares over the target. Cheshire and Martin came in at 2,000 feet, and could see as light as day. He identified the roof top of the Gnome-Rhone factory, and proceeded to make a series of low level passes at 20 feet, hoping the workers inside would take the hint. The 500 workers ran out of the building. Cheshire then dropped a marker flare right on the roof top. Approaching at 16,000 feet, the rest of 617 came in one at a time, each aircraft dropping its bomb load directly on the marker. The factory was devastated, and the only civilian casualty was a worker who was injured when she left and then came back to the factory to try and get her bicycle. It was Cheshire's first big success with 617. [48]

Anthéor railway viaduct Edit

The Anthéor railway viaduct was a rail link in southern France along the coast between Saint-Raphaël and Nice. The viaduct carried a double rail line that was being used to move supplies to German forces blocking the advance of the Allies in Italy. Though the rail line had been attacked and cut in a number of places before, each time the Germans repaired the tracks quickly. The viaduct was 185 feet in the air and spanned a brook that flowed between two coastal hills. If destroyed the line would be disrupted permanently. Attempts on the viaduct had been made twice earlier, but destroying it required a direct hit, and the previous attacks had been unsuccessful. [49]

On the night of 12/13 February 1944, 10 Lancasters from 617 Squadron flew across France to the viaduct. Cheshire and Martin approached to make a low level marking of the line, but it was soon discovered that since the last attempt the Germans had placed a large number of flak guns on the hills overlooking the viaduct. Cheshire made several attempts to mark it, but could not get close enough to drop his marker on the line. Martin followed, but just as his aircraft was releasing his marker it was hit, badly. Two of the Lancaster's engines were knocked out, the bomb aimer had been killed, and several others, including Martin, were wounded. A return trip to England was out of the question, and his aircraft limped south to an airfield on Sardinia. [N 1] Cheshire made five more attempts on the viaduct, but was unable to get close enough to leave his marker on the rail line. The squadron was called in and dropped their bombs off the nearest marker, but no direct hit was made and the viaduct was not destroyed. [51] [52] Cheshire returned in failure with a badly holed Lancaster. Despite his multiple runs at the target and the damage his aircraft sustained, it was the one mission of his career where he felt he had failed to press home his attack as he should have. [45]

Cheshire's low level technique came together in his mind following his failure at the Anthéor viaduct. [45] He established that for the force to be effective they had to wait upon good weather. There would need to be good night time visibility at the target. Coming over the target area, a marker aircraft would drop a hooded parachute flare at 5,000 feet, illuminating the target area. Next, a low level target marking aircraft would come in at 4,000 feet, identify the target building and make a 30-degree dive attack on it, releasing the marker flare at 100 feet directly upon the roof of the target. Though he had been doing this with the Lancaster, the heavy bomber was really not well suited to the job. Cheshire believed the low marker aircraft should be fast and more manoeuvrable. The Mosquito seemed an ideal choice. With the target marked, the main bombing force of Lancasters would come in, one by one, dropping their bombs on the marker. This meant communication between the leader and his bombing aircraft. This sort of ongoing radio communication over enemy territory was a big break from the Bomber Command method, which operated over the continent in strict radio silence. Cheshire noted that things change in the course of military operations, and the attacking force had to be able to adapt to the conditions faced. [11]

Following this failure 617 made a series of attacks with astonishing accuracy, destroying an aircraft factory at Albert 2 March, a needle bearing factory at St. Étienne 4 March, the Michelin plant at Clermont-Ferrand 16 March, [53] the Tuilieres power station at Bergerac 18 March, and then another power station at Lyon 25 March. [54] A version of Cheshire's low level marking technique was put to use in a series of devastating raids against Toulouse 5 April 1944, Saint-Cyr-l'École (fr) 10 April 1944, and Juvisy marshalling yards on 18/19 April.

Second meeting with Harris Edit

With the string of successes in low level marking Cochrane took Cheshire to see Harris to discuss their marking technique, request the use of Mosquito aircraft, and ask that 5 Group be allowed to mark for themselves against targets in Germany. Harris heard what they had to say, and though Cheshire's squadron had a good track record against lightly defended targets in France, it was likely going to be another story if they were to attempt such a technique against one of the heavily defended targets in Germany. There was a target in Germany that Harris felt he had yet to hit adequately – Munich. Said Harris "Mark me Munich and I will give you the Mosquitos. Miss Munich and you will lose the Mosquitos." [8] They would be allowed four Mosquito aircraft on loan from PFF. Using these four and the rest of 617 in Lancasters as back up, they were to mark the rail yard at Munich for 5 Group, who were tasked with the yard's destruction. [55]

Munich raid Edit

Though delighted with the opportunity, Harris had selected about the most difficult target for Cheshire to reach. It was a great distance to fly, and would be at the limit of the Mosquito's range. Their course had to be direct, with no flying around well defended targets. Even so, they would be cutting it pretty thin. With the fuel range limit of the Mosquito they would have 3 minutes time over the target, and 15 minutes of fuel left when they got back. [11] After he explained the mission to the four navigators who would be in the Mosquitos, there was general disbelief. The common belief was if they were lucky enough to survive the mission they would most likely be spending the rest of the war in a Luftwaffe prison camp. [56] The Mosquitos moved forward to RAF Manston, the nearest airfield for the mission. On the night of 24/25 April, four Mosquitos of 617 set out to mark the Munich rail yard for 5 Group. [55]

Cheshire and the three other Mosquitos caught up and got ahead of the Main Force heavies, arriving right on time at Zero minus 5 minutes. Pathfinder Force Lancasters were already above the rail yard, dropping their illumination flares over the target. The target area was well lit, though there was intense flak over the target. Not pausing, he dived straight for his target building near the rail yard, dropping his marker at rooftop height. He then circled about to observe the bombing. [57] [58] The heavies came in and the target area was destroyed. Their raid against Munich was successful, and all four Mosquitos made it back. [11] True to his word, Harris allowed Cheshire to keep them. [59]

Mailly-le-Camp Edit

As part of the preparatory effort against the German defences in northern France, the panzer training camp northeast of Paris at Mailly-le-Camp was targeted for destruction. The camp was French, built for their armoured formations, but since the fall of France the Germans had been using it to train replacement crews for units refitting from losses suffered in the east. Cheshire with his four marker Mosquitos from 617 were tasked with marking the target, and 346 Lancasters from 1 Group and 5 Group were tasked with destroying it. On the night of 3/4 May Cheshire approached the target for a typical low marking technique raid, with Cheshire and Shannon making the initial marking, and Lancasters from 83 Squadron and 97 Squadron serving as back-up marker aircraft. An assembly point marker was dropped 15 miles away from the target, and the aircraft of the two groups of heavy bombers were ordered to orbit it at stacked altitudes of 100 feet separation while awaiting instructions to attack. Unbeknownst to Cheshire, that night the US Armed Services Radio was broadcasting big band swing music on the same frequency Cheshire was using for his raid. Arriving over the target, an illumination flare provided excellent visibility and Cheshire swept in and marked it, but when the Main Force Controller went to call in the waiting Lancasters no one received his message. Meanwhile, Luftwaffe night fighters began to arrive. It was a clear night with a full moon, and soon the night fighters got in amongst the circling bombers. [60] The air combat over France that night was short, but intense. Crews reported seeing four or five Lancasters falling from the sky at a time. 5 Group lost 14 bombers, while 1 Group making up the second wave lost 28. After a delay of some 15 minutes the Deputy 'Main Force Controller' took over and ordered the bombers in. The training base at Mailly-le-Camp was hit heavily. 114 barrack buildings, 47 transport sheds, 65 vehicles and 37 tanks were all destroyed in the attack, while 218 soldiers were killed and 156 more were wounded. However Bomber Command suffered the loss of 42 Lancasters and their crews, with another Lancaster written off after it made it back to base. The training base was destroyed, but Bomber Command suffered a loss rate of 11.6%. [61]

D-day deception Edit

To support the D-day landings, 617 Squadron was given an unusual mission. It was tasked with pulling off a "spoof" raid. The squadron was to make a series of low level approaches to the Pas de Calais, dropping window with each pass. If delivered sequentially the window might simulate the approach of an invasion fleet and confuse the enemy about the real D-day landings in Normandy. [53] 617 was disappointed, and felt they should be used in a more conventional manner to destroy real targets, but they did as they were told. In fact, they were the only unit that could pull it off. On the night of 5/6 June 1944, 617 Squadron used precision flying to drop window over the channel at low level in succession, generating the radar appearance of large numbers of approaching ships. [62] This "spoof" raid simulated the approach for an amphibious landing in the Pas de Calais. In retrospect Cheshire felt they may have saved more lives with this mission than in any of the others they did. [11]

V weapon storage sites Edit

Following the invasion 617 went back to attacking the buried reinforced concrete V-1 and V-2 storage sites. [53] It flew against and destroyed the sites at Wizernes, and followed with Watten. [63]

On 14 June 1944, 617 squadron made a daylight attack upon the E boat pens at Le Havre. The pens protected fifteen E boats, which posed a threat to the invasion fleet. Attacking the pens with Tallboys, the roof was caved in, and all but one of the E boats were damaged beyond use. In addition, 617 attacked the German ships in Le Havre by dropping Tallboys into the waters of the harbour. The explosions were so strong that ten ships were blown straight out of the water and onto the quayside. [64] Commented Cheshire, "Barnes Wallis had a big bomb."

On 25 June Cheshire was tasked with a daylight raid against the Siracourt, a storage bunker and launch site for V-1 flying bombs made of reinforced concrete buried in the earth. Cheshire had lost his Mosquitos, as another squadron asserted a prior claim on them. [11] Desiring a manoeuvrable replacement aircraft to mark the target, he thought a Mustang ideal, but he knew he would never get the Royal Air Force to go along with giving him one. He obtained one from the Americans instead. The aircraft arrived boxed up in its packaging crate the day of the evening he was to fly the mission. [65] Flying the Mustang posed a number of problems for him, as he had not flown a single-seat aircraft since his training days. His major problem, however, was working out a course to the target. He had never flown without a navigator, and now he found himself in the position of having to ask for help. He asked for the squadron's navigators to help him work out a course, while his ground crew put together the Mustang. His ground crew finished the job by late afternoon, some two hours after the Lancasters had taken off. With no time for a test flight, off he went to chase down the Lancasters. The machine worked beautifully, with Cheshire arriving over the target just as the high illumination flares were ready to be dropped. He marked the target, and the Lancasters landed three Tallboys on it, destroying it utterly. [66]

Raid on the V3 site at Mimoyecques Edit

On 6 July 1944 the Mimoyecques V-3 site finally was attacked. [67] This was the mission he had been waiting for. In a daylight attack, Cheshire marked the target for the 617 Squadron heavies, which each carried a Tallboy. The caves collapsed, bringing the V3 threat to an end.

On the night of 7/8 July 617 Squadron with Cheshire in his Mustang flew against the limestone cave at St. Leu d’Esserent being used to store V-1s and V-2s. [64] It was his 100th mission, and would be his last with Bomber Command. [11] Tallboy strikes caused a partial collapse of the cave, and the tunnels were blocked off. The following day Cochrane took Cheshire off ops. At the same time he stood down Shannon, Munro and McCarthy, the surviving 617 Dams raids pilots. [68]

After the completion of his fourth tour of duty in July 1944 Cheshire was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Victoria Cross is usually bestowed for a particularly marked event of bravery. In Cheshire's case, the award was given for his behaviour over the course of his entire operational career. At the investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, both Cheshire and warrant officer Norman Jackson were to receive the VC from King George VI on that day. Despite the disparity in rank, Cheshire insisted they approach the King together. Upon reaching the King, Jackson recalled Cheshire offering "This chap stuck his neck out more than I did – he should get his VC first." The King kept to protocol and awarded the Group Captain first, but Jackson noted he would "never forget what Cheshire said." [69]

End of the war Edit

Cheshire and William Penney were official British observers of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. [3] [70] His vantage point was in the support B-29 Big Stink. He did not witness the event as close up as anticipated due to aircraft commander James Hopkins' failure to link up with the other B-29s. Hopkins was meant to join with the others over Yakushima but he circled at 39,000 ft (12,000 m) instead of the agreed height of 30,000 ft (9,100 m). He tried to justify this by the need to keep the VIP passengers out of danger but Cheshire thought that Hopkins was "overwrought".

Cheshire's adoption of the Roman Catholic faith had nothing to do with the bombing of Nagasaki. [11] "Many assumed that it was Nagasaki which emptied him as Cheshire kept pointing out, however, it was the war as a whole. Like Britain herself, he had been fighting or training for fighting since 1939". [71]

On 22 January 1946 Cheshire relinquished his commission in the RAF due to disability.

Cheshire as officer Edit

Cheshire was not a naturally talented pilot, and felt he had to keep flying to keep his skills up. All the same he was a good captain, had a flair, and most importantly he was lucky. It was commonly known among crews that he was lucky, and that is one reason he felt they liked to fly with him. [72] By the end of his operative flying almost all the pilots he had started out with in training were gone. [11] It was his good luck, he believed, that had kept him alive when so many other, better pilots had been killed. [73]

His method for dealing with dangerous situations was to go straight for them early. He saw no sense waiting to go in. He felt worrying about the dangers would only exhaust one's mind. Instead, he relied on the natural instinct for self-preservation to help him get out of tight spots. [74] To this was added his ability to close his mind completely to the dangers he was facing. [75] Though a very imaginative thinker, Cheshire possessed the ability to block out of his mind any thought to the risks. He approached each mission with an easy manner. [76]

Cheshire was a great leader of men. Unlike Guy Gibson, he was approachable, and made it a point to know the name and speak with every man on base, including his ground crews. [77] He would speak with the men over technical matters about the aircraft, and would share a cigarette over their personal concerns. [78] He knew all his men, and made them feel he knew them and liked them. He knew it was critical to the effectiveness of his squadron. He invoked great loyalty, as it was clear he was devoted to their needs and was willing to take practical steps to improve the safety and success of their missions. He always made a personal example of what was required, and relied on his example and the crews' determination not to let him down to lead them through some of the war's most difficult raids. [79]

Cheshire was resolute when dealing with any pilot or crew member in his squadron who would not fly missions. Lack of Moral Fibre might show up as a member feigning illness, frequent early returns with technical problems, or flying over the North Sea and dropping bombs into the ocean, then flying about till the time of return was about right. Though a brilliant and sympathetic leader, he later wrote "I was ruthless with LMF. I had to be. We were airmen, not psychiatrists. Of course we had concern for any individual whose internal tensions meant that he could no longer go on, but there was a worry that one really frightened man could affect others around him." Cheshire would take a crew member with confidence problems aboard his own aircraft till they sorted things out, but pilots he transferred out immediately. [11] [80]

Cheshire was soft-spoken, very considerate, thoughtful, unconventional in his thinking, unorthodox, independent minded and no great respecter of authority. On one mission near the end of his tour with 35 Squadron he looked at the route map to the target and noted there would be a great deal of flak over the chosen flight path. Said Cheshire wryly "We took a different route." [81] He was both the youngest group captain in the service and the most decorated. [82] Historian Max Hastings wrote: "Cheshire was a legend in Bomber Command, a remarkable man with an almost mystical air about him, as if he somehow inhabited a different planet from those about him, but without affectation or pretension." Said Flight Sergeant Tom Gallantry, DFC, who served under Cheshire in 76 Squadron: "I felt at the time, and I have always felt, that it was an honour to be a member of his squadron. Everyone felt the same way about him. Air crew. ground crew. He was a terrific character." [30]

Following the end of the war, Cheshire retired from the RAF on medical grounds on 22 January 1946, retaining his final rank of group captain. [83] Cheshire had been brought up a Christian in the Church of England, but had lapsed. In 1945, in the Vanity Fair club in Mayfair, he joined a conversation about religion. "It was absurd," he said, "to imagine that God existed, except as a convenient figure of speech. Man had invented God to explain the voice of conscience, but it was doubtful whether right or wrong existed outside the human mind. They were words affixed like labels to customs and laws which man had also invented to keep social order." To Cheshire's surprise, as he sat back, "pleased with his worldly wisdom," he was roundly rebuked for "talking such rot" by a woman friend who "was one of the last persons on earth he would have credited with" religious convictions. [84] After the war, Joan Botting (widow of Dambusters pilot Norman Botting) lived with Cheshire at the "VIP (for Vade in Pacem – Go in Peace) Colony" he established for veterans and war widows at Gumley Hall, Leicestershire – one of several new ventures he started after leaving the RAF in 1946. Joan followed him to Le Court, near Petersfield, Hampshire (a mansion which Cheshire had bought from his aunt) where, with three children of her own, Joan took charge of the nursery (Joan is not mentioned by name in The Face of Victory). [85] Cheshire and Joan Botting subsequently investigated many religions, from Seventh-day Adventist to Methodist to "High Anglo-Catholic" – but none of them provided the answers they were looking for. [86]

Cheshire's aim in establishing the VIP Colony was to provide an opportunity for ex-servicemen and women and their families to live together, each contributing to the community what they could, to help their transition back into civilian life. He hoped that training, prosperity and fulfilment would result from united effort and mutual support. He saw the community as one way of continuing to work towards world peace. The community, however, did not prosper and the project came to an end in 1947. [87]

At the beginning of 1948, Cheshire heard about the case of Arthur Dykes, who had been one of Cheshire's original "VIP" community at Le Court, and was suffering from cancer. Dykes asked Cheshire to give him some land to park a caravan until he recovered, but Cheshire discovered that Dykes was terminally ill and that this diagnosis was concealed from him. He told Dykes the real position and invited him to stay at Le Court. Cheshire learned nursing skills and was soon approached to take in a second patient, the 94-year-old bedridden wife of a man who had just been taken off to hospital after suffering a stroke. She was followed by others, some coming to stay and others to help. Although Le Court had no financial support, and his situation was financially perilous most of the time, money somehow always seemed to arrive in the nick of time to stave off disaster. Dykes died in August 1948. After completing the arrangements for his funeral, Cheshire idly picked up a book a friend had sent him. It was One Lord, One Faith by Vernon Johnson, a former High Anglican clergyman who had converted to Roman Catholicism because, as he put it, "I could not resist the claim of the Catholic Church to be the one true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ to guard and teach the truth . She alone possesses the authority and unity necessary for such a Divine vocation." [88] In the meantime, Joan Botting had converted to Jehovah's Witnesses. [89]

On Christmas Eve, 1948, Cheshire was received into the Catholic Church.

In 1948, Cheshire founded the charity now named Leonard Cheshire Disability, which provides support to disabled people throughout the world. At the beginning of 1949, eight patients were staying at Le Court. [90] Six months later, there were 28. [91] Cheshire dedicated the rest of his life to supporting disabled people, combining this with lecturing on conflict resolution. [92]

Other organisations set up by Leonard Cheshire are:

  • The Ryder-Cheshire Foundation, [93] set up by Leonard Cheshire and his wife Sue Ryder at the time of their marriage in 1959. It now mainly operates in two fields: the rehabilitation of disabled people, through ENRYCH [94] and the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, through Target Tuberculosis. [95]

In 1953, Cheshire founded the Raphael Pilgrimage to enable sick and disabled people to travel to Lourdes. [96]

In 1990, Cheshire founded the UK charity the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief. Cheshire is acknowledged on the album The Wall – Live in Berlin by former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters. The concert launched and benefited the charity. [97] [98] Cheshire opened this concert by blowing a Second World War whistle.

Cheshire was also concerned about future remembrance and was influential in the concept of the National Memorial Arboretum, founded by David Childs. The amphitheatre at the Arboretum is dedicated to the memory of Leonard Cheshire. He was absolutely determined to be present at the unveiling of Arthur "Bomber" Harris's memorial on the 31 May 1992. He was to die only two months later and attended against the advice of his doctors, he said "I would have gone even if I had to be carried on a stretcher". [99]

In 1985, Cheshire featured in a documentary, Nagasaki – Return Journey. [100] [101]

On 15 July 1941, Cheshire married the American actress Constance Binney (21 years his senior), but the marriage was short-lived and childless. Their divorce was ratified in January 1951. [102]

On 5 April 1959, in Bombay's Roman Catholic Cathedral, he married Sue Ryder, also a Roman Catholic convert and humanitarian. He and Baroness Ryder were one of the few couples who both held titles in their own right. They had two children, Jeromy and Elizabeth Cheshire, and lived in Cavendish, Suffolk.

Cheshire was a lifelong tennis fan, a member of the All England Club, and a formidable amateur player well into his seventies.

Cheshire died of motor neurone disease aged 74 on 31 July 1992.

  • Cheshire was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1960 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in central London.
  • On 17 July 1991, Cheshire was created a life peer as Baron Cheshire of Woodhall in the County of Lincolnshire, [70][103] sitting as a cross-bencher. paid personal tribute to him in her Royal Christmas Message in December 1992. [104]
  • In the 2002 BBC poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons, Cheshire attained position number 31. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London.
  • In 2019, his old school, Stowe, opened a new girls' day house named Cheshire. [105] Its boys' equivalent is named Winton after Nicholas Winton, another wartime Old Stoic humanitarian. , a private school in Sydney, Australia, has a house named after Cheshire.
  • A house at Xavier College, a private school in Melbourne, Australia, is also named after Cheshire.
Victoria Cross (VC) 8 September 1944
Member of the Order of Merit (OM) 13 February 1981 [106]
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and Two Bars 6 December 1940
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) 7 March 1941 [107]
1939–45 Star
Air Crew Europe Star With 1 clasp Atlantic
Burma Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939–1945 with oak leaf for being Mentioned in Despatches
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (1953)
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977)

It was announced in 2017 that the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia will promote Leonard Cheshire's cause for canonisation as a saint. [108]

  • Bomber Pilot. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1943 St. Albans, Herts, UK: Mayflower, 1975. ISBN0-583-12541-7 London: Goodall Publications 0-907579-10-8
  • The Holy Face: An Account of the Oldest Photograph in the World (16-page pamphlet). Newport, Monmouthshire, UK: R. H. Johns, 1954.
  • Pilgrimage to the Shroud. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1956.
  • The Story of the Holy Shroud. Associated Television Ltd: ATV Library, 1957. Text of broadcast.
  • The Face of Victory. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1961.
  • Death (22-page pamphlet). London: Catholic Truth Society, 1978.
  • The Hidden World: An Autobiography and Reflections by the Founder of the Leonard Cheshire Homes. London: Collins, 1981. 0-00-626479-4.
  • The Light of Many Suns: The Meaning of the Bomb. London: Methuen, 1985. 0-413-59240-5
  • Where Is God in All This? (Interview by Alenka Lawrence). Slough, Berks, UK: St Paul Publications, 1991. 0-85439-380-3
  • Crossing the Finishing Line: Last Thoughts of Leonard Cheshire VC (Edited by Reginald C. Fuller). London: St. Pauls, 1998. 0-85439-527-X.

Photographs, private and service letters, intelligence reports, crew lists and official documents about Leonard Cheshire’s service in Bomber Command have been digitised and are currently available online [109]


Following a multitude of ad-hoc firefighting arrangements and the Great Fire of London, various insurance companies established firefighting units to tackle fires that occurred in buildings that their respective companies insured. As demands grew on the primitive firefighting units they began to coordinate and co-operate with each other until, on 1 January 1833, the London Fire Engine Establishment was formed under the leadership of James Braidwood, who had founded the first professional, municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh. [9] He introduced a uniform that, for the first time, included personal protection from the hazards of firefighting. With 80 firefighters and 13 fire stations, the unit was still a private enterprise, funded by the insurance companies and as such was responsible mainly for saving material goods from fire.

Several large fires, most notably at the Palace of Westminster in 1834 [10] and the 1861 Tooley Street fire (in which Braidwood died in action, aged 61), [9] [11] spurred the insurance companies to lobby the British government to provide the brigade at public expense and management. After due consideration, in 1865 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed, [9] creating the Metropolitan Fire Brigade under the leadership of Eyre Massey Shaw, a former head of police and fire services in Belfast. In 1904 it was renamed as the London Fire Brigade. [9] The LFB moved into a new headquarters built by Higgs and Hill [12] on the Albert Embankment in Lambeth in 1937, where it remained until 2007. [13]

During the Second World War the country's brigades were amalgamated into a single National Fire Service. The separate London Fire Brigade for the County of London was re-established in 1948. [9] With the formation of Greater London in 1965, this absorbed most of the Middlesex Fire Brigade, the borough brigades for West Ham, East Ham and Croydon and parts of the Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent brigades. [9]

In 1986 the Greater London Council (GLC) was disbanded and a new statutory authority, the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority (LFCDA), was formed to take responsibility for the LFB. [9] The LFCDA was replaced in 2000 by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. [14] At the same time, the Greater London Authority (GLA) was established to administer the LFEPA and coordinate emergency planning for London. Consisting of the Mayor of London and other elected members, the GLA also takes responsibility for the Metropolitan Police Service, Transport for London and other functions.

In 2007 the LFB vacated its Lambeth headquarters and moved to a site in Union Street, Southwark. In the same year, the Department for Communities and Local Government announced that LFB Commissioner Ken Knight had been appointed as the first Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser to the government. [15] Knight was succeeded as Commissioner at that time by Ron Dobson, who served for almost ten years. Dany Cotton took over in 2017, becoming the brigade's first female commissioner. [3]

Commissioners and chief officers Edit

As of 1 January 2020 Andy Roe is the commissioner of the LFB. He succeeds Dany Cotton, who in 2017 had become the first woman to hold the top role Cotton resigned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire after 32 years' service in the brigade. Prior to Cotton, Ron Dobson was the commissioner and he had served in the LFB since 1979 he was awarded a CBE for his distinguished contribution to the fire service. [16]

  • 1833 to 1861: James Braidwood (director of the London Fire Engine Establishment, died in action) [17]
  • 1861 to 1891: Capt.Eyre Massey Shaw (superintendent, later chief officer)
  • 1891 to 1896: James Sexton Simmonds
  • 1896 to 1903: Capt. Lionel de Latour Wells
  • 1903 to 1909: RAdm. James de Courcy Hamilton
  • 1909 to 1918: Lt. Cdr. Sir Sampson Sladen
  • 1918 to 1933: Arthur Reginald Dyer [18]
  • 1933 to 1938: Maj. Cyril Morris [19]
  • 1938 to 1941: Cdr. Sir Aylmer Firebrace
  • 1939 to 1941: Maj. Frank Jackson
  • 1941 to 1948: all fire brigades nationalised
  • 1948 to 1962: Sir Frederick Delve
  • 1962 to 1970: Leslie Leete
  • 1970 to 1976: Joseph Milner
  • 1976 to 1980: Peter Darby
  • 1980 to 1987: Ronald Bullers
  • 1987 to 1991: Gerald Clarkson
  • 1991 to 2003: Brian Robinson (first commissioner)
  • 2003 to 2007: Sir Ken Knight
  • 2007 to 2016: Ron Dobson
  • 2017 to 2019: Dany Cotton
  • 2020 to present: Andy Roe

Historically, the London Fire Brigade was organised into two divisions: Northern and Southern, divided in most places by the River Thames and each commanded by a Divisional Officer. Both divisions were divided into three districts, each under a Superintendent with his headquarters at a "superintendent station". The superintendent stations themselves were commanded by District Officers, with the other stations under Station Officers. [20]

On the creation of the Greater London Council in 1965, the brigade was enlarged and took over almost all of the Middlesex Fire Brigade, part of west Kent, North Surrey and South West Essex, together with the small County Borough brigades of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham.

The internal LFB organisation consists of three directorates that all report to the Commissioner. They are: [21]

The LFB's headquarters since 2007 is located in Union Street in Southwark, adjacent to the brigade's former training centre, which was both the original headquarters of the Massey Shaw fire brigade and his home, Winchester House, as well as the London Fire Brigade Museum. [22] The brigade was previously headquartered in Lambeth between 1937 and 2007.

Fire and rescue authorities in England come under the government department formerly known as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). This department was responsible for legislation covering fire authorities however, in 2006, a structural change to central government led to the creation of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and subsequently the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). It is now responsible for fire and resilience in England, including London. [23]

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 changed many working practices [24] it was brought in to replace the Fire Services Act 1947 and repealed several existing acts, many going back fifty years. The full list of acts repealed can be found here: [25]

The 2004 Act was drafted in response to the Independent Review of the Fire Service, [26] often referred to as the Bain Report, after its author Professor Sir George Bain. It recommended radical changes to many working procedures and led to a national firefighter strike in 2002–2003.

Further changes to the legislative, organisational and structural fabric of the brigade, which could include varying the attendance time, the location of frontline appliances and number of personnel, plus mandatory performance targets, priorities and objectives are set by the MHCLG in the form of a document called the Fire and Rescue Service National Framework. The framework is set annually by the government and applies to all brigades in England. Responsibility for the rest of the UK fire service is devolved to the various parliaments and assemblies. On country-wide issues, the Chief Fire Officers Association provides the collective voice on fire, rescue and resilience issues. [27] Membership is made up from senior officers above the rank of Assistant Chief Officer, to Chief Fire Officer (or the new title of Brigade Manager).

Rank structure Edit

London Fire Brigade, along with many UK fire and rescue services, adopted a change in rank structure in 2006. The traditional ranks were replaced with new titles descriptive of the job function. [28] [29]

On 17 October 2019, London Fire Brigade announced a return to the traditional rank titles, in a policy named "Role to Rank". [30] The rank structure of the Brigade is now as in the following table: [31]

Rank title Rank markings
Leading Firefighter
Station Officer
Station Commander
Group Commander
(or Borough Commander)
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assistant Commissioner
Deputy Commissioner

Historical ranks Edit

1833–1938 1938–1965 1965–1992 1992–2001 2001–2003 2003-2019
Fireman 4th Class Fireman Fireman/Firewoman Firefighter
Fireman 3rd Class Senior Fireman Leading Fireman/Firewoman Leading Firefighter Crew Commander Crew Manager
Fireman 2nd Class Sub-Officer Sub-Officer Sub-Officer Watch Manager A
Fireman 1st Class Station Officer Station Officer Station Officer Watch Commander (B) Watch Manager B
Junior Fireman Assistant District Officer Assistant Divisional Officer
(Station Commander from 1986)
Assistant Divisional Officer
(or Station Commander)
Station Commander (or Deputy Group Commander)
Senior Fireman District Officer Divisional Officer Divisional Officer Divisional Officer
(or Group Commander)
Senior District Officer Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Assistant Chief Officer (or Area Commander)
Deputy Superintendent Deputy Chief Officer Deputy Chief Fire Officer Deputy Chief Officer
Assistant Chief Fire Officer
(or Area Commander)
Superintendent Chief Officer

Recruitment and training Edit

In the last 24 months, [ clarification needed ] the LFB have run three firefighter recruitment campaigns, however in previous years have seen fewer or even none. There are many factors as to why they would run a recruitment drive, as there is actually no set recruitment drive for firefighters. [32] Professional firefighter training usually takes place at various London venues. On successful completion, the newly qualified firefighter is posted to a fire station to work on a shift pattern – currently two day shifts (ten and half hours), followed by two night shifts (thirteen and half hours), followed by four days off. Working patterns were the subject of scrutiny in Professor Bain's Independent Review of the Fire Service. [33]

After training school, firefighters serve a one-year period of probation qualification and full pay are not reached until the candidate completes a development folder which usually takes around 12–18 months. Ongoing training – both theoretical and practical – continues throughout the firefighter's career. [34]

Shift pattern Edit

In December 2010 the LFB and Fire Brigades Union (FBU) agreed on a new shift pattern for front-line firefighters: two 10½-hour day shifts then two 13½-hour night shifts followed by four days off. [35]

The agreement followed two 8-hour daytime strikes by the FBU [36] in protest at the LFB's intention to change the shift pattern from two 9-hour day shifts then two 15-hour night shifts followed by three days off, to two 12-hour day shifts then two 12-hour night shifts followed by four days off. [37]

A London Fire Brigade report published in March 2012 stated that the shift changes have improved safety in the city. Compared with the 12 months prior to the shift changes, the 12 months following them saw firefighters able to spend more time on training, community safety work, and home safety visits (including the free fitting of smoke alarms). [38]

Promotion Edit

In order for a firefighter to gain promotion he or she must go through an assessment centre and reach the required standard set out by the Brigade. This process will be followed for each subsequent role the individual applies for, up to and including Assistant Commissioner. Appointments above the role of Assistant Commissioner are overseen by elected members of The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. [39]

Some promotion exams can be substituted by qualifications from the Institution of Fire Engineers. Firefighters and civilians such as building inspectors, scientists, surveyors and other practising professionals, take these qualifications either by written test or research.

Future promotion exams will be set using the Integrated Personal Development System (IPDS). [40]

In 2010/11, the LFB handled a total of 212,657 emergency calls, including 5,241 hoax calls (although it only mobilised to 2,248 of those malicious false alarms). During the same period, it dealt with 13,367 major fires. There were 6,731 dwelling fires, including 748 that had been started deliberately 73 people died in 58 fatal fires.

In addition to conflagrations, LFB firefighters respond to "special services". [41]

A special service is defined as every other non-fire related emergency, such as: [42]

    releases (9,395 in 2010/11)
  • Effecting entry/exit (7,276 in 2010/11) (6,956 in 2010/11) (3,604 in 2010/11)
  • Spills and leaks (1,479 in 2010/11)
  • Assisting other agencies (855 in 2010/11)
  • "Making safe" operations (782 in 2010/11)
  • Animal rescues (583 in 2010/11)
  • Hazardous materials incidents (353 in 2010/11)
  • General evacuations (322 in 2010/11)
  • Suicides or attempts (229 in 2010/11) and
  • Waterborne rescues (38 in 2010/11).

The full scope of the brigade's duties and powers is enshrined in the Fire and Rescue Act 2005.

Firefighters and, in some cases, specialist teams from the brigade's fire investigation unit, based at Dowgate, also investigate arson incidents, often working alongside the police and providing evidence in court. In 2008/09, deliberate fires accounted for 28% of all those attended by the LFB, a 28% reduction on the previous year. [43]

The other core duty of the brigade is to "prevent damage", and day-to-day fire prevention duties.

Firefighting cover Edit

The LFB provides fire cover according to a system of four risk categories which have traditionally been used across the UK, where every building is rated for its risk on a scale from "A" down to "D". The risk category determines the minimum number of appliances to be sent in a pre-determined mobilisation.

Category "A" includes areas with a high density of large buildings and/or population, such as offices or factories. Three fire engines are to arrive at "A" risks within eight minutes, the first two within five minutes.

Areas with a medium density of large buildings and/or population, such as multi-storey residential blocks, will generally be classified "B" risk. Two fire engines will be deployed, with one to arrive within five minutes and the second within eight minutes.

Category "C" covers lower density, suburban areas and detached properties. One fire engine should arrive at a "C" risk incident within ten minutes. More rural areas not covered by the first three categories will be considered "D" risk. One fire engine should arrive at "D" risks within 20 minutes.

Response times Edit

In 2007/08, the first fire engine mobilised to a 999 call arrived within five minutes 58.8% of the time, and within eight minutes 90% of the time. The second fire engine deployed arrived within eight minutes 81.9% of the time, and within ten minutes 92.4% of the time.

In 2010/11, the average response time of the first appliance to the scene was 5 minutes 34 seconds (6 minute target), and the second appliance was 6 minutes 53 seconds (8 minute target). [42]

In 2015/16, the average response time for the first appliance to the scene was 5 minutes 33 seconds (6 minute target), and the second appliance to the scene was 6 minutes 55 seconds (8 minute target). [6]

Mutual assistance Edit

The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 gives the UK fire services the ability to call upon other services or fire authorities in what is known as mutual assistance. [45] For example, the LFB played a comprehensive role in assisting Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service at the Buncefield fire in 2005. Much earlier, the Hampton Court fire of 1986, which was on the border with Surrey, was attended by both the LFB and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

In 2015/16 the LFB assisted at 567 "over the border" incidents. [7]

The other fire services that adjoin the LFB are:

The LFB also mobilises to support airport firefighters at London Heathrow Airport, London City Airport and The London Heliport.

Determining the size of an incident Edit

The LFB, along with all other UK fire and rescue services, determines the size of a fire or special service by the final number of appliances mobilised to deal with it. For example, two appliances are despatched to a "B" risk area in response to a fire call in a residential house. The officer-in-charge can request additional appliances by transmitting a radio message such as, "make pumps four", or if persons are believed to be involved or trapped, "make pumps four, persons reported". [46] The control room will then deploy a further two appliances making a total of four. Informally, firefighters refer to such fires as 'a make up' or 'a four-pumper' [47] when the fire is out, if no other pumping appliances were despatched, this would be recorded as a 'four-pump fire'.

If an incident is more serious, it can be escalated straight to a six-, eight- or ten-pump fire and beyond – in London this is usually completed in even numbers, though it is not uncommon for a ten-pump fire to be 'made up' to 15 if necessary. A call to, say, a large warehouse ablaze could be escalated straight to a ten-pump fire. The 2007 Cutty Sark fire required eight pumps [48] as a serious incident escalates, the brigade deploys senior officers, Command Units and any specialist appliances required.

Examples of 25-pump fires include the blaze at Alexandra Palace in 1980, [49] and at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea in 2008, the latter also involving four aerial appliances. The King's Cross fire in 1987 was a 30-pump fire, [50] as was the blaze in numerous shops on Oxford Street in April 2007. The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 was a 40-pump fire. [51]

Pumping appliances can only operate with a minimum crew of four, and a maximum of six (although this is rare) so it is possible to estimate the number of firefighters attending an incident by multiplying the number of pumps by five. For example, the Cutty Sark fire was described as "an eight-pump fire attended by 40 firefighters". [48]

Special services Edit

Core services are paid for by London's council tax payers and through central government funding known as a grant settlement each council tax payer's bill will include a precept – a specific part of their bill that contributes to the funding of the fire brigade. Those in need of the LFB's services in an emergency do not pay, but the brigade can provide additional special services for which it may charge where there is no immediate threat to life or imminent risk of injury.

Examples of these special services which may be charged for include the clearing of flooded commercial premises, the use of brigade equipment for supplying or removing water, and making structures safe in cases where there is no risk of personal injury to the public.

Safety and fire prevention Edit

LFB firefighters and watch officers often visit residential and commercial premises to advise on hazard risk assessment and fire prevention. They also provide safety education to schools and youth groups. Each of the London boroughs has a central fire safety office that collates and coordinates fire prevention work in accordance with legislation, and they are supported by a dedicated team of specialist officers.

In 2010/11, the LFB made 70,016 home fire safety visits. Over 100,000 children are seen each year by the brigade's schools team. Around half of all serious fires occur in the home, and many house fires attended by the LFB no smoke alarm was fitted, despite the LFB fitting tens of thousands in homes every year.

As of 2014, the LFB has 103 fire stations, including one river station, across the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. [52] They are staffed 24 hours a day by full-time employees of the brigade, and are linked to a control centre in Merton. [53] This centre was opened in 2012 calls to it are fed from 999 operators at BT, Cable & Wireless and Global Crossing.

Central London stations can attend up to 8,000 calls per year, inner-city stations about 3,000 to 4,000 calls per year (these tend to be the stations that are busy serving the densely populated areas), and outlying or suburban fire stations may attend around 1,500 calls which include road traffic accidents, grass fires and house fires. [54]

Some UK fire authorities use retained (part-time) firefighters who live and work near their local station and are on-call, but the LFB is one of only three UK fire services where all operational staff are full-time employees.

Each station has four shifts, or 'watches': red, white, blue and green, with a Sub Officer (single appliance stations) or Station Officer (multi appliance stations) in charge of each. The overall management of the station falls to the Station Commander, who will also attend serious incidents, as well as spending time on call.

A group of one (City of London) to five (Tower Hamlets) stations within a borough are managed by a Borough Commander (Group Commander) who interacts strategically on a local level with the Borough Commander for the police and ambulance services and the chief executive of the local authority.

Stations and districts Edit

Upon the founding of the London County Council in 1965, the new authority was organised into 11 divisions, of roughly 10 to 12 stations each, designated 'A' Division through to 'L' Division, dispatched by three 999 mobilising control rooms. 'A' (West End), 'D' (West London), 'G' (North West London) and 'J' (North London) mobilised from Wembley (the former Middlesex headquarters) 'B' (Central London south of the river), 'E' (South East London and Kent), 'H' (South London and Surrey) and 'K' (South West London south of the river and Surrey) mobilised from Croydon (the former Croydon County Borough headquarters) finally, 'C' (City and Inner East London), 'F' (East London including Docklands) and 'L' (North East London and South West Essex), mobilised from Stratford (the former West Ham County Borough headquarters). Each of these divisions were, to a degree, autonomous of each other and had their own divisional management hierarchy. This arrangement lasted until 1989 when the brigade was re-organised into the current arrangement.

The LFB is currently formed into five divisions: Northern, Eastern, Western, Southeastern and Southwestern. As of 2013, 21 fire stations were located in the Northern Division and have call signs prefixed "A" 26 were in the Eastern Division with call signs prefixed "F" Western Division consisted of 21 stations with "G"-prefixed call signs 22 were under the Southeastern Division with an "E" prefix and the remaining 22 were based in the Southwestern Division, call signs prefixed "H". [55] As part of this organisation, many stations were re-coded.

Below is a complete listing, as of 2014, of the 102 fire stations of the London Fire Brigade according to district and station radio callsign. The LFB is divided into five districts, each designated by a letter of the alphabet: the Northern District Command is designated as "A" the Southeastern District Command is designated as "E" the Eastern District Command is designated as "F" the Western District Command is designated as "G" the Southwestern District Command is designated as "H". [55]

The Northern District Command is designated as "A" or "Alpha". There are currently 17 fire stations in the Northern District. The Northern District serves the following boroughs of London: Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, Islington, the City of Westminster and the City of London.

The Southeastern District Command is designated as "E" or "Echo". There are currently 19 fire stations in the Southeastern District. The Southeastern District serves the following boroughs of London: Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lewisham, and Southwark.

The Eastern District Command is designated as "F" or "Foxtrot". There are currently 23 fire stations in the Eastern District. The Eastern District serves the following boroughs of London: Barking and Dagenham, Hackney , Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, and Waltham Forest.

The Western District Command is designated as "G" or "Golf". There are currently 21 fire stations in the Western District. The Western District serves the following boroughs of London: Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, and Kensington and Chelsea.

The Southwestern District Command is designated as "H" or "Hotel". There are currently 22 fire stations in the Southwestern District, including the independent River Station, the quarters of the Fireboat. The Southwestern District serves the following boroughs of London: Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Merton, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton, and Wandsworth.


Origins Edit

The origin of the Vulcan and the other V bombers is linked with early British atomic weapon programme and nuclear deterrent policies. Britain's atom bomb programme began with Air Staff Operational Requirement OR.1001 issued in August 1946. This anticipated a government decision in January 1947 to authorise research and development work on atomic weapons, the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (McMahon Act) having prohibited exporting atomic knowledge, even to countries that had collaborated on the Manhattan Project. [3] OR.1001 envisaged a weapon not to exceed 24 ft 2 in (7.37 m) in length, 5 ft (1.5 m) in diameter and 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) in weight. The weapon had to be suitable for release from 20,000 to 50,000 ft (6,100 to 15,200 m). [4]

In January 1947, the Ministry of Supply distributed Specification B.35/46 to UK aviation companies to satisfy Air Staff Operational Requirement OR.229 for "a medium range bomber landplane capable of carrying one 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) bomb to a target 1,500 nautical miles (1,700 mi 2,800 km) from a base which may be anywhere in the world." A cruising speed of 500 knots (580 mph 930 km/h) at heights between 35,000 and 50,000 ft (11,000 and 15,000 m) was specified. The maximum weight when fully loaded should not exceed 100,000 lb (45,000 kg). Alternatively, the aircraft was to be capable of carrying a conventional bomb load of 20,000 lb (9,100 kg). The similar OR.230 required a "long range bomber" with a 2,000 nautical miles (2,300 mi 3,700 km) radius of action with a maximum weight of 200,000 lb (91,000 kg) when fully loaded this requirement was considered too exacting. [5] A total of six companies submitted technical brochures to this specification, including Avro. [6]

Required to tender by the end of April 1947, work began on receipt of Specification B.35/46 at Avro, led by technical director Roy Chadwick and chief designer Stuart Davies the type designation was Avro 698. It was obvious to the design team that conventional aircraft could not satisfy the specification. No worthwhile information about high-speed flight was available from the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) or the US. [7] Avro were aware that Alexander Lippisch had designed a delta wing fighter and considered the same delta configuration would be suitable for their bomber. [8] The team estimated that an otherwise conventional aircraft, with a swept wing of 45°, would have doubled the weight requirement. Realising that swept wings increase longitudinal stability, the team deleted the tail (empennage) and the supporting fuselage, it thus became a swept-back flying wing with only a rudimentary forward fuselage and a fin (vertical stabilizer) at each wingtip. The estimated weight was now only 50% over the requirement a delta shape resulted from reducing the wingspan and maintaining the wing area by filling in the space between the wingtips, which enabled the specification to be met. [9] Though Alexander Lippisch is generally credited as the pioneer of the delta wing, Chadwick's team had followed its own logical design process. [10] The initial design submission had four large turbojets stacked in pairs buried in the wing either side of the centreline. Outboard of the engines were two bomb-bays. [9]

In August 1947, Chadwick was killed in the crash of the Avro Tudor 2 prototype and was succeeded by Sir William Farren. [11] Reductions in wing thickness made it impossible to incorporate the split bomb bays and stacked engines, thus the engines were placed side by side in pairs either side of a single bomb-bay, with the fuselage growing somewhat. The wingtip fins gave way to a single fin on the aircraft's centreline. [9] Rival manufacturer Handley Page received a prototype contract for its crescent-winged HP.80 B.35/46 tender in November 1947. [11] Though considered the best option, contract award for Avro's design was delayed whilst its technical strength was established. [12] Instructions to proceed with the construction of two Avro 698 prototypes was received in January 1948. [11] As an insurance measure against both radical designs failing, Short Brothers received a contract for the prototype SA.4 to the less-stringent Specification B.14/46. However the SA.4, later named Sperrin, was not required. In April 1948, Vickers also received authority to proceed with their Type 660 which, although falling short of the B.35/46 Specification, being of a more conventional design would be available sooner. This plane entered service as the Valiant. [13]

Avro 707 and Avro 710 Edit

As Avro had no flight experience of the delta wing, the company planned two smaller experimental aircraft based on the 698, the one-third scale model 707 for low-speed handling and the one-half scale model 710 for high-speed handling. Two of each were ordered. However, the 710 was cancelled when it was considered too time-consuming to develop a high-speed variant of the 707 was designed in its place, the 707A. [15] The first 707, VX784, flew in September 1949 but crashed later that month killing Avro test pilot Flt Lt Eric Esler. The second low-speed 707, VX790, built with the still uncompleted 707A's nose section (containing an ejection seat) [16] and redesignated 707B, flew in September 1950 piloted by Avro test pilot Wg Cdr Roland "Roly" Falk. The high speed 707A, WD480, followed in July 1951. [17]

Due to the delay of the 707 programme, the contribution of the 707B and 707A towards the basic design of the 698 was not considered significant, [18] though it did highlight a need to increase the length of the nosewheel to give a ground incidence of 3.5 degrees, the optimum take-off attitude. [19] The 707B and 707A proved the design's validity and gave confidence in the delta planform. A second 707A, WZ736 and a two-seat 707C, WZ744 were also constructed but they played no part in the 698's development. [17]

Vulcan B.1 and B.2 Edit

Prototypes and type certification Edit

More influential than the 707 in the 698's design was wind-tunnel testing performed by the RAE at Farnborough, which indicated the need for a wing redesign to avoid the onset of compressibility drag which would have restricted the maximum speed. [20] Painted gloss white, the 698 prototype VX770 flew for the first time on 30 August 1952 piloted by Roly Falk flying solo. The prototype 698, then fitted with only the first-pilot's ejection seat and a conventional control wheel, was powered by four Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon engines of 6,500 lbf (29 kN) thrust there were no wing fuel tanks, temporary tankage was carried in the bomb bay. [21] VX770 made an appearance at the 1952 Society of British Aircraft Constructors' (SBAC) Farnborough Air Show the next month when Falk demonstrated an almost vertical bank. [22] After its Farnborough appearance, the future name of the Avro 698 was a subject of speculation Avro had strongly recommended the name Ottawa, [N 1] in honour of the company's connection with Avro Canada. [12] [23] Flight magazine suggested Albion after rejecting Avenger, Apollo and Assegai. The chief of the air staff preferred a V-class of bombers, and the Air Council announced the following month that the 698 would be called Vulcan after the Roman god of fire and destruction. [24] In January 1953, VX770 was grounded for the installation of wing fuel tanks, Armstrong Siddeley ASSa.6 Sapphire engines of 7,500 lbf (33 kN) thrust and other systems it flew again in July 1953. [25]

The second prototype, VX777, flew in September 1953. More representative of production aircraft, it was lengthened to accommodate a longer nose undercarriage leg, featured a visual bomb-aiming blister under the cabin and was fitted with Bristol Olympus 100 engines of 9,750 lbf (43.4 kN) thrust. At Falk's suggestion, a fighter-style control stick replaced the control wheel. Both prototypes had almost pure delta wings with straight leading edges. During trials in July 1954, VX777 was substantially damaged in a heavy landing at Farnborough. It was repaired and fitted with Olympus 101 engines of 11,000 lbf (49 kN) thrust before resuming trials in October 1955. While exploring the high speed and high altitude flight envelope, mild buffeting and other undesirable flight characteristics were experienced while approaching the speed of sound, including an alarming tendency to enter an uncontrollable dive. This was unacceptable to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. The solution included the "phase 2" wing, featuring a kinked and drooped leading edge and vortex generators on the upper surface, first tested on 707A WD480. An auto-mach trimmer was introduced to give a nose-up pitching moment, but more than was necessary just to counteract the diving tendency, so that the control column had to be pushed rather than pulled to maintain level flight. This artificial pitch-up made the Vulcan appear more like other aircraft as the speed increased. [26]

Meanwhile, the first production B.1, [N 2] XA889, had flown in February 1955 with the original wing. [28] In September 1955, Falk, flying the second production B.1 XA890, amazed crowds at the Farnborough Air Show by executing a barrel roll [29] on his second flypast in front of the SBAC president's tent. After two days flying, he was called in front of service and civil aviation authorities and ordered to refrain from carrying out this "dangerous" manoeuvre. [29] Now fitted with a phase 2 wing, XA889 was delivered in March 1956 to the A&AEE for trials for the type's initial Certificate of Airworthiness which it received the following month. [30]

Further developments Edit

The first 15 B.1s were powered by the Olympus 101. Many of these early examples in a metallic finish remained the property of the Ministry of Supply being retained for trials and development purposes. Those entering RAF service were delivered to No 230 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), the first in July 1956. [31] Later aircraft, painted in anti-flash white and powered by the Olympus 102 with 12,000 lbf (53 kN) thrust, began to enter squadron service in July 1957. [32] The Olympus 102s were quickly modified to the Olympus 104 standard, ultimately rated at 13,500 lbf (60 kN) thrust. [33] As far back as 1952, Bristol Aero Engines had begun development of the BOl.6 (Olympus 6) rated at 16,000 lbf (71 kN) thrust [34] but if fitted to the B.1, this would have re-introduced the buffet requiring further redesign of the wing. [35]

The decision to proceed with the B.2 versions of the Vulcan was made in May 1956, being developed by Avro's chief designer Roy Ewans. It was anticipated that the first B.2 would be around the 45th aircraft of the 99 then on order. [36] As well as being able to achieve greater heights over targets, it was believed that operational flexibility could be extended by the provision of in-flight refuelling equipment and tanker aircraft. [37] The increasing sophistication of Soviet air defences required the fitting of ECM equipment and vulnerability could be reduced by the introduction of the Avro Blue Steel stand-off missile, then in development. [38] In order to develop these proposals, the second Vulcan prototype VX777 was rebuilt with the larger and thinner phase 2C wing, improved flying control surfaces and Olympus 102 engines, first flying in this configuration in August 1957. [39] Plans were in hand to equip all Vulcans from the 16th aircraft onwards with in-flight refuelling receiving equipment. [40] A B.1, XA903, was allocated for Blue Steel development work. Other B.1s were used for the development of the BOl.6 (later Olympus 200), XA891 a new AC electrical system, XA893 and ECM including jammers within a bulged tail-cone and a tail warning radar, XA895. [41]

The 46th production aircraft and first B.2, XH533, first flew in September 1958 fitted with Olympus 200 engines, six months before the last B.1 XH532 was delivered in March 1959. [42] Rebuilding B.1s as B.2s was considered but rejected over cost. Nevertheless, to extend the B.1's service life, 28 were upgraded by Armstrong Whitworth between 1959 and 1963 to the B.1A standard, including features of the B.2 such as ECM equipment, [43] in-flight refuelling receiving equipment, [44] and UHF radio. [45] The second B.2, XH534, flew in January 1959. Powered by production Olympus 201s with 17,000 lbf (76 kN) thrust, it was more representative of a production aircraft, being fitted with an in-flight refuelling probe and a bulged ECM tail cone. Some subsequent B.2s were initially lacking probes and ECM tail cones, but these were fitted retrospectively. The first 10 B.2s outwardly showed their B.1 ancestry, retaining narrow engine air intakes. Anticipating even more powerful engines, the air intakes were deepened on the 11th (XH557) and subsequent aircraft. Many of the early aircraft were retained for trials and it was the 12th B.2, XH558, that was the first to be delivered to the RAF in July 1960. Coincidentally, XH558 would also be the last Vulcan in service with the RAF, before being retired in 1992. [46]

The 26th B.2, XL317, the first of a production batch ordered in February 1956, was the first Vulcan, apart from development aircraft, capable of carrying the Blue Steel missile 33 aircraft were delivered to the RAF with these modifications. [47] When the Mk.2 version of Blue Steel was cancelled in favour of the Douglas GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile in December 1959, [48] fittings were changed in anticipation of the new missile, one under each wing. Though Skybolt was cancelled in November 1962, many aircraft were delivered or retrofitted with "Skybolt" blisters. [49] Later aircraft were delivered with Olympus 301 engines with 20,000 lbf (89 kN) thrust. Two earlier aircraft were re-engined (XH557 and XJ784) for trials and development work another seven aircraft were converted around 1963. [50]

The last B.2 XM657 was delivered in 1965 and the type served until 1984. Whilst in service the B.2 was continuously updated with modifications including rapid engine starting, bomb-bay fuel tanks, wing strengthening to give the fatigue life to enable the aircraft to fly at low level (a tactic introduced in the mid-1960s), upgraded navigation equipment, terrain following radar (TFR), standardisation on a common weapon (WE.117) and improved ECM equipment. [51] The B.1As were not strengthened, thus all were withdrawn by 1968. [52] Nine B.2s were modified for a maritime radar reconnaissance (MRR) role [53] and six for an airborne tanker role. [54] An updated bomb rack assembly allowed the carriage of 30 1,000 lb bombs, up from 21 [55] and the updated wing profile increased range to 4,000 nm (7,400 km). [56]

Proposed developments and cancelled projects Edit

The Avro 718 was a 1951 proposal for a delta-winged military transport based on the Type 698 to carry 80 troops or 110 passengers. It would have been powered by four Bristol Olympus BOl.3 engines. [57]

The Avro Type 722 Atlantic was a 1952 proposal (announced in June 1953) for a 120-passenger delta-winged airliner based on the Type 698. [57]

The Avro 732 was a 1956 proposal for a supersonic development of the Vulcan and would have been powered by 8 de Havilland Gyron Junior engines. Unlike the proposed Avro 721 low-level bomber of 1952 or the Avro 730 supersonic stainless steel canard bomber dating from 1954 (cancelled in 1957 before completion of the prototype), the Type 732 showed its Vulcan heritage. [57]

In 1960, the Air Staff approached Avro with a request into a study for a patrol missile carrier armed with up to six Skybolt missiles capable of a mission length of 12 hours. Avro's submission in May 1960 was the Phase 6 Vulcan, which would have been the Vulcan B.3. The aircraft was fitted with an enlarged wing of 121 ft (37 m) span with increased fuel capacity additional fuel tanks in a dorsal spine a new main undercarriage to carry an all-up-weight of 339,000 lb (154,000 kg) and reheated Olympus 301s of 30,000 lbf (130 kN) thrust. An amended proposal of October 1960 inserted a 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m) plug into the forward fuselage with capacity for six crew members including a relief pilot, all facing forwards on ejection seats, and aft-fan versions of the Olympus 301. [58]

Export proposals Edit

Other countries expressed interest in purchasing Vulcans but, as with the other V-bombers, no foreign sales materialised. [59]

As early as 1954, Australia recognised that the English Electric Canberra was becoming outdated and evaluated aircraft such as the Avro Vulcan and Handley-Page Victor as potential replacements. [60] Political pressure for a Canberra replacement came to a head in 1962 at which point more modern types such as the BAC TSR-2, General Dynamics F-111C, and North American A-5 Vigilante had become available. The RAF would have transferred several V-bombers, including Vulcans, for interim use by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) if they had purchased the TSR-2, but the RAAF selected the F-111C. [61] [62] [63]

In the early 1980s, Argentina approached the UK with a proposal to buy a number of Vulcans. An application, made in September 1981, requested the 'early availability' of a 'suitable aircraft'. With some reluctance, British ministers approved the export of a single aircraft, but emphasised that clearance had not been given for the sale of a larger number. A letter from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Ministry of Defence in January 1982 stated that little prospect was seen of this happening without ascertaining the Argentine interest and whether such interest was genuine: 'On the face of it, a strike aircraft would be entirely suitable for an attack on the Falklands.' [64] Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands less than three months later, after which a British embargo on the sale of any military equipment was quickly imposed.

Overview Edit

Despite its radical and unusual shape, the airframe was built along traditional lines. Except for the most highly stressed parts, the whole structure was manufactured from standard grades of light alloy. The airframe was broken down into a number of major assemblies: the centre section, a rectangular box containing the bomb-bay and engine bays bounded by the front and rear spars and the wing transport joints the intakes and centre fuselage the front fuselage, incorporating the pressure cabin the nose the outer wings the leading edges the wing trailing edge and tail end of the fuselage and there was a single swept tail fin with a single rudder on the trailing edge. [65]

A five-man crew was accommodated within the pressure cabin on two levels the first pilot and co-pilot sitting on Martin-Baker 3K (3KS on the B.2) ejection seats whilst on the lower level the navigator radar, navigator plotter and air electronics officer (AEO) sat facing rearwards and would abandon the aircraft via the entrance door. [66] [67] The original B35/46 specification sought a jettisonable crew compartment, this requirement was removed in a subsequent amendment, the rear crew's escape system was often an issue of controversy, such as when a practical refit scheme was rejected. [68] [69] A rudimentary sixth seat forward of the navigator radar was provided for an additional crew member [70] the B.2 had an additional seventh seat opposite the sixth seat and forward of the AEO. The visual bomb-aimer's compartment could be fitted with a T4 (Blue Devil) bombsight, [71] in many B.2s this space housed a vertically mounted Vinten F95 Mk.10 camera for assessing simulated low-level bombing runs. [72]

Fuel was carried in 14 bag tanks, four in the centre fuselage above and to the rear of the nosewheel bay and five in each outer wing. The tanks were split into four groups of almost equal capacity, each normally feeding its respective engine, though cross-feeding was possible. The centre of gravity was automatically maintained by electric timers which sequenced the booster pumps on the tanks. [66] [73] B.2 aircraft could be fitted with one or two additional fuel tanks in the bomb-bay. [74]

Despite being designed before a low radar cross-section (RCS) and other stealth factors were ever a consideration, [75] a RAE technical note of 1957 stated that of all the aircraft so far studied, the Vulcan appeared by far the simplest radar echoing object, due to its shape: only one or two components contributed significantly to the echo at any aspect, compared with three or more on most other types. [76] [N 3]

Colour schemes Edit

The two prototype Vulcans were finished in gloss white. Early Vulcan B.1s left the factory in a natural metal finish the front half of the nose radome was painted black, the rear half painted silver. Front-line Vulcan B.1s had a finish of anti-flash white and RAF "type D" roundels. Front-line Vulcan B.1As and B.2s were similar but with pale roundels. [81]

With the adoption of low-level attack profiles in the mid-1960s, B.1As and B.2s were given a glossy sea grey medium and dark green disruptive pattern camouflage on the upper surfaces, white undersurfaces and "type D" roundels. (The last 13 Vulcan B.2s, XM645 onwards, were delivered thus from the factory [82] ). In the mid-1970s Vulcan B.2s received a similar scheme with matte camouflage, light aircraft grey undersides, and "low-visibility" roundels. B.2(MRR)s received a similar scheme in gloss and the front half of the radomes were no longer painted black. Beginning in 1979, 10 Vulcans received a wrap-around camouflage of dark sea grey and dark green [83] [84] because, during Red Flag exercises in the US, defending SAM forces had found that the grey-painted undersides of the Vulcan became much more visible against the ground at high angles of bank. [85]

Avionics Edit

The original Vulcan B.1 radio fit was: two 10-channel VHF transmitter/receivers (TR-1985/TR-1986) and a 24-channel HF transmitter-receiver (STR-18). [86] The Vulcan B.1A also featured a UHF transmitter-receiver (ARC-52). [45] The initial B.2 radio fit was similar to the B.1A [87] though it was ultimately fitted with the ARC-52, a V/UHF transmitter/receiver (PTR-175), and a single-sideband modulation HF transmitter-receiver (Collins 618T). [88]

The navigation and bombing system (NBS) comprised an H2S Mk9 radar and a navigation bombing computer (NBC) Mk1. [86] Other navigation aids included a Marconi radio compass (ADF), GEE Mk3, Green Satin Doppler radar to determine the groundspeed and drift angle, radio and radar altimeters, and an instrument landing system. [86] TACAN replaced GEE in the B.1A [89] and B.2 in 1964. Decca Doppler 72 replaced Green Satin in the B.2 around 1969 [90] A continuous display of the aircraft's position was maintained by a ground position indicator (GPI). [90]

Vulcan B.2s were eventually fitted with the twin-gyro free-running gyroscopic heading reference system (HRS) Mk.2, based upon the inertial platform of the Blue Steel missile, which had been integrated into the system when the missile had been carried. [90] With the HRS a navigator's heading unit (NHU) was provided which enabled the navigator plotter to adjust the aircraft heading, through the autopilot, by as little as 0.1 degrees. The B.2 (MRR) was additionally fitted with the LORAN C navigation system. [53]

The original ECM fit of the B.1A and B.2 was: one Green Palm voice communications' jammer two Blue Diver metric jammers three Red Shrimp S-band jammers a Blue Saga passive warning receiver with four aerials (PWR) a Red Steer tail warning radar and chaff dispensers. [91] The bulk of the equipment was carried in a large extended tail cone, and a flat ECM aerial counterpoise plate mounted between the starboard tailpipes. [92] [N 4] Later equipment on the B.2 included: an L band jammer (replacing a Red Shrimp) the ARI 18146 X-band jammer [94] replacing the Green Palm the improved Red Steer Mk.2 infra-red decoys (flares) and the ARI 18228 PWR with its aerials that gave a squared top to the fin. [87] [95]

Controls Edit

The aircraft was controlled by a fighter-type control stick and rudder bar which operated the powered flying controls (PFCs). Each PFC had a single electro-hydraulic powered flying control unit (PFCU) except the rudder which had two, one running as a back-up. Artificial feel and autostabilisation in the form of pitch and yaw dampers were provided, as well as an auto mach trimmer. [96]

The flight instruments in the B.1 were traditional and included G4B compasses [97] Mk.4 artificial horizons [98] and zero reader flight display instruments. [99] The B.1 had a Smiths Mk10 autopilot. [100] In the B.2, these features were incorporated into the Smiths Military Flight System (MFS), the pilots' components being: two beam compasses two director-horizons and a Mk.10A or Mk.10B autopilot. [101] From 1966, B.2s were fitted with the ARI 5959 TFR, built by General Dynamics, [102] its commands being fed into the director-horizons. [103]

The B.1 had four elevators (inboard) and four ailerons (outboard). [104] In the B.2, these were replaced by eight elevons. [105] The Vulcan was also fitted with six electrically operated three-position (retracted, medium drag, high drag) airbrakes, four in the upper centre section and two in the lower. [106] There were originally four lower airbrakes but the outboard two were deleted before the aircraft entered service. [107] A brake parachute was installed inside the tail cone. [108]

Electrical and hydraulic systems Edit

The main electrical system on the B.1/B.1A was 112 V DC supplied by four 22.5kW engine-driven starter-generators. Backup power was provided by four 24 V 40 Ah batteries connected in series providing 96 V. Secondary electrical systems were 28 V DC, single-phase 115 V AC at 1600 Hz, and three-phase 115 V AC at 400 Hz, driven by transformers and inverters from the main system. The 28 V DC system was backed up by a single 24 V battery. [109]

For greater efficiency and higher reliability, [110] the main system on the B.2 was changed to three-phase 200 V AC at 400 Hz supplied by four 40 kVA engine-driven constant speed alternators. Engine starting was then by air-starters supplied from a Palouste compressor on the ground. Standby supplies in the event of a main AC failure were provided by a ram air turbine (RAT) driving a 17 kVA alternator that could operate from high altitudes down to 20,000 ft (6,100 m), and an airborne auxiliary power plant (AAPP), [111] a Rover [35] gas turbine driving a 40kVA alternator, which could be started once the aircraft was below an altitude of 30,000 ft (9,100 m). Secondary electrical supplies were by transformer-rectifier units (TRUs) for 28 V DC and rotary frequency converters for the 115 V 1600 Hz single phase supplies. [111]

The change to an AC system was a significant improvement. Each PFCU had a hydraulic pump which was driven by an electric motor. [112] Because there was no manual reversion, a total electrical failure would result in a loss of control. The standby batteries on the B.1 were designed to give enough power for 20 minutes of flying time but this proved to be optimistic and two aircraft, XA891 and XA908, crashed as a result. [113]

The main hydraulic system provided pressure for undercarriage raising and lowering and bogie trim nosewheel centring and steering wheelbrakes (fitted with Maxarets) bomb doors opening and closing and (B.2 only) AAPP air scoop lowering. Hydraulic pressure was provided by three hydraulic pumps fitted to Nos. 1, 2 and 3 engines. An electrically operated hydraulic power pack (EHPP) could be used to operate the bomb doors and recharge the brake accumulators. A compressed air (later nitrogen) system was provided for emergency undercarriage lowering. [114]

Engine Edit

The Rolls-Royce Olympus, originally known as the "Bristol BE.10 Olympus", [115] [N 5] is a two-spool axial-flow turbojet that powered the Vulcan. Each Vulcan had four engines buried in the wings, positioned in pairs close to the fuselage. The engine's design began in 1947, intended to power the Bristol Aeroplane Company's own rival design to the Vulcan. [117]

As the prototype Vulcan VX770 was ready for flight prior to the Olympus being available, it first flew using Rolls-Royce Avon RA.3 engines of 6,500 lbf (29 kN) thrust. These were quickly replaced by Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire ASSa.6 engines of 7,500 lbf (33 kN) thrust. [118] VX770 later became a flying test bed for the Rolls-Royce Conway. [119] The second prototype VX777 first flew with Olympus 100s of 10,000 lbf (44 kN) thrust. It was subsequently re-engined with Olympus 101 engines. [120] When VX777 flew with a Phase 2C (B.2) wing in 1957, it was fitted with Olympus 102 engines of 12,000 lbf (53 kN) thrust. [121]

Early B.1s were engined with the Olympus 101. Later aircraft were delivered with Olympus 102s. All Olympus 102s became the Olympus 104 on overhaul and ultimately 13,500 lbf (60 kN) thrust on uprating. [122] The first B.2 flew with the second-generation Olympus 200, [123] design of which began in 1952. [124] Subsequent B.2s were engined with either the uprated Olympus 201 or the Olympus 301. The Olympus 201 was designated 202 on being fitted with a rapid air starter. [125] The engine would later be developed into a reheated (afterburning) powerplant for the cancelled TSR-2 strike/reconnaisance aircraft and the supersonic passenger transport Concorde. [85]

At around 90 percent power, the engines in the Vulcan would emit a distinctive "howl"-like noise [126] due to the air intake arrangement which was an attraction at public airshows. [127] [128]

Introduction Edit

In September 1956, the RAF received its first Vulcan B.1, XA897, which immediately embarked upon a round-the-world tour. The tour was to be an important demonstration of the range and capabilities of the aircraft, but it also had other benefits in the form of conducting goodwill visits in various countries during their service Vulcans routinely visited various nations and distant parts of the former British Empire as a show of support and military protection. [129] This first tour, however, was struck by misfortune on 1 October 1956, while landing in bad weather at London Heathrow Airport at the completion of the world tour, XA897 was destroyed in a fatal accident. [130]

The first two aircraft were delivered to 230 OCU in January 1957 and the training of crews started on 21 February 1957. [113] The first OCU course to qualify was No. 1 Course, on 21 May 1957, and they went on to form the first flight of No. 83 Squadron. [113] No. 83 Squadron was the first operational squadron to use the bomber, at first using borrowed Vulcans from the OCU, and on 11 July 1956 it received the first aircraft of its own. [113] By September 1957, several Vulcans had been handed over to No. 83 Squadron. [131] The second OCU course also formed a Flight of 83 Squadron, but subsequent trained crews were also used to form the second bomber squadron, 101 Squadron. [113] The last aircraft from the first batch of 25 aircraft had been delivered by the end of 1957 to 101 Squadron. [113]

In order to increase the mission range and flight time for Vulcan operations, in-flight refuelling capabilities were added in 1959 onwards several Valiant bombers were refurbished as tankers to refuel the Vulcans. [132] Continuous airborne patrols proved untenable, however, and the refuelling mechanisms across the Vulcan fleet fell into disuse in the 1960s. [132] Both Vulcans and the other V-force aircraft routinely visited the Far East, in particular Singapore, where a fully equipped nuclear weapons storage facility had been constructed in 1959. [133] These deployments were part of the UK contribution to SEATO operations, often to test the defenses of friendly nations in joint exercises. [133] During the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation Britain planned to deploy three squadrons of V-bomber aircraft and 48 Red Beard tactical nuclear weapons to the region, although this was ultimately decided against. Vulcans trained in the region for both conventional and nuclear missions. [133] In the early 1970s, the RAF decided to permanently deploy two squadrons of Vulcans overseas in the Near East Air Force Bomber Wing, based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The Vulcans were withdrawn in the mid-1970s however as Cypriot intercommunal violence intensified. [134]

Vulcans flew some very long range missions. In June 1961, one flew 18,507 km from RAF Scampton to Sydney in just over 20 hours, facilitated by three air refuellings. Vulcans frequently visited the United States during the 1960s and 1970s to participate in air shows and static displays, as well as to participate in the Strategic Air Command's (SAC) Annual Bombing and Navigation Competition at such locations as Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and the former McCoy AFB, Florida. Vulcans also took part in the 1960, 1961, and 1962 Operation Skyshield exercises, in which NORAD defences were tested against possible Soviet air attack, the Vulcans simulating Soviet fighter/bomber attacks against New York, Chicago and Washington. The results of the tests were classified until 1997. [135] The Vulcan proved quite successful during the 1974 "Giant Voice" exercise, in which it managed to avoid USAF interceptors. [136]

Nuclear deterrent Edit

As part of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, the Vulcan initially carried Britain's first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube gravity bomb. [137] Blue Danube was a low-kiloton yield fission bomb designed before the United States detonated the first hydrogen bomb. These were supplemented by U.S.-owned Mk 5 bombs (made available under the Project E programme) and later by the British Red Beard tactical nuclear weapon. [138] The UK had already embarked on its own hydrogen bomb programme, and to bridge the gap until these were ready the V-bombers were equipped with an Interim Megaton Weapon based on the Blue Danube casing containing Green Grass, a large pure-fission warhead of 400-kiloton-of-TNT (1.7 PJ) yield. [139] [N 6] This bomb was known as Violet Club. [139] Only five were deployed before the Green Grass warhead was incorporated into a developed weapon as Yellow Sun Mk.1. [139]

The later Yellow Sun Mk 2, was fitted with Red Snow, [139] a British-built variant of the U.S. W28 warhead. Yellow Sun Mk 2 was the first British thermonuclear weapon to be deployed, and was carried on both the Vulcan and Handley Page Victor. The Valiant retained U.S. nuclear weapons assigned to SACEUR under the dual-key arrangements. Red Beard was pre-positioned in Singapore for use by Vulcan and Victor bombers. [142] From 1962, three squadrons of Vulcan B.2s and two squadrons of Victor B.2s were armed with the Blue Steel missile, a rocket-powered stand-off bomb, which was also fitted with the 1.1 Mt (4.6 PJ) yield Red Snow warhead. [143]

Operationally, RAF Bomber Command and the SAC cooperated in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) to ensure coverage of all major Soviet targets from 1958 108 of the RAF's V-Bombers were assigned targets under SIOP by the end of 1959. [144] From 1962 onwards, two jets in every RAF bomber base were armed with nuclear weapons and on standby permanently under the principle of Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). [144] Vulcans on QRA were to be airborne within four minutes of receiving an alert, as this was identified as the amount of time between warning of a USSR nuclear strike being launched and it arriving in Britain. [145] The closest the Vulcan came to taking part in potential nuclear conflict was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, where Bomber Command was moved to Alert Condition 3, an increased state of preparedness from normal operations however, it stood down in early November. [146]

The Vulcans were intended to be equipped with the Skybolt missile to replace the Blue Steel, with Vulcan B.2s carrying two Skybolts under the wings. The last 28 B.2s were modified on the production line to fit pylons to carry the Skybolt. [147] [148] A B.3 variant with increased wingspan to carry up to six Skybolts was proposed in 1960. [149] When the Skybolt missile system was cancelled by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on the recommendation of his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara in 1962, precipitating the Skybolt Crisis, Blue Steel was retained. To supplement it until the Royal Navy took on the deterrent role with Polaris ICBM-equipped submarines, the Vulcan bombers adopted a new mission profile of flying high during clear transit, dropping down low to avoid enemy defences on approach, and deploying a parachute-retarded bomb, the WE.177B. [150] However, since the aircraft had been designed for high-altitude flight, at low altitudes it could not exceed 350 knots. RAF Air Vice Marshal Ron Dick, a former Vulcan pilot, said "it is [thus] questionable whether it could have been effective flying at low level in a war against . the Soviet Union." [151]

After the British Polaris submarines became operational and Blue Steel was taken out of service in 1970, the Vulcan continued to carry WE.177B in a tactical nuclear strike role as part of the British contribution to Europe's standing NATO forces, although they no longer held aircraft at 15 minutes' readiness in peacetime. [150] Two squadrons were also stationed in Cyprus as part of the Near East Air Force and assigned to Central Treaty Organization in a strategic strike role. With the eventual demise of the WE.177B and the Vulcan bombers, the Blackburn Buccaneer, SEPECAT Jaguar, and Panavia Tornado continued with the WE.177C until its retirement in 1998. [152] While not a like-for-like replacement, the multi-role Tornado interdictor/strike bomber is the successor for the roles previously filled by the Vulcan. [153]

Conventional role Edit

Although in operational use the Vulcan typically carried various nuclear armaments, the type also had a secondary conventional role. While performing conventional combat missions, the Vulcan could carry up to 21 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs inside its bomb bay. [154] From the 1960s, the various Vulcan squadrons would routinely conduct conventional training missions the aircrews were expected to be able to perform conventional bombing missions, in addition to the critical nuclear strike mission. [155]

The Vulcan's only combat missions took place towards the end of the type's service in 1982. During the Falklands War, the Vulcan was deployed against Argentinian forces which had occupied the Falkland Islands. The missions performed by the Vulcan became known as the Black Buck raids, each aircraft had to fly 3,889 mi (6,259 km) from Ascension Island to reach Stanley on the Falklands. Victor tankers conducted the necessary air-to-air refuelling for the Vulcan to cover the distance involved approximately 1,100,000 imp gal (5,000,000 l) of fuel was used in each mission. [156]

Engineering work to prepare the 5 Vulcans which would conduct the missions began on 9 April. [157] [158] Each aircraft required modifications to the bomb bay, the reinstatement of the long out-of-use in-flight refuelling system, the installation of a new navigational system derived from the Vickers VC10, and the updating of several onboard electronics. Underneath the wings, new pylons were fitted to carry an ECM pod and Shrike anti-radar missiles at wing hardpoint locations.

On 1 May, the first mission was conducted by a single Vulcan (XM607) that flew over Port Stanley and dropped its bombs on the airfield concentrating on the single runway, with one direct hit, making it unsuitable for fighter aircraft. The Vulcan's mission was quickly followed up by strikes against anti-air installations, flown by British Aerospace Sea Harriers from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. [159] A further two missions saw missiles launched against radar installations and two additional missions were cancelled. [156] At the time, these missions held the record for the world's longest-distance raids. [154] [160] The Vulcans' ECM systems proved to be effective at jamming Argentine radars while a Vulcan was within the theatre, other British aircraft in the vicinity had a reduced chance of coming under effective fire. [161]

On 3 June 1982, Vulcan B.2 XM597 of No. 50 Squadron took part in the "Black Buck 6" mission against Argentinian radar sites at Stanley airfield on the Falkland Islands. While attempting to refuel for its return journey to Ascension Island, the probe broke, leaving the Vulcan with insufficient fuel, forcing a diversion to Galeão Air Force Base, Rio de Janeiro in neutral Brazil. En route, secret papers were dumped along with the two remaining AGM-45 Shrike missiles, although one failed to launch. After a mayday call, the Vulcan, escorted by Brazilian Air Force Northrop F-5 fighters, was permitted an emergency landing at Rio with very little fuel left on board. [162] The Vulcan and her crew were detained until the end of hostilities nine days later. [163]

Reconnaissance Edit

In November 1973, as a result of the planned closure of the Victor SR.2 equipped No. 543 Squadron, No. 27 Squadron reformed at RAF Scampton equipped with the Vulcan as a replacement in the maritime radar reconnaissance role. [164] [N 7] The squadron carried out patrols of the seas around the British Isles, including the strategically important GIUK gap between Iceland and the United Kingdom, flying at high level and using the Vulcan's H2S radar to monitor shipping. In peacetime, this could be followed up by visual identification and photography of targets of interest at low level. In the event of war, a Vulcan would leave visual identification of potential targets to Buccaneers or Canberras, and could coordinate attacks by Buccaneers against hostile shipping. [166] Though initially equipped with a number of B.2 aircraft, [167] the Squadron eventually operated nine B.2 (MRR) aircraft (also known by the unofficial designation SR.2). [53] [168] The aircraft were modified for the role by removing the TFR (and its thimble radome) and adding the LORAN C radio navigation aid. The main external visual difference was the presence of a gloss paint finish, with a light grey undersurface, to protect against sea spray. [53]

The squadron also inherited its secondary role of air sampling from No. 543 Squadron. [53] This involved flying through plumes of airborne contamination and using onboard equipment to collect fallout released from both above ground and underground nuclear tests for later analysis at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston. [169] Five aircraft had small pylons fitted to the redundant Skybolt hardpoints, which could be used to carry sampling pods modified from drop tanks. [N 8] These pods would collect the needed samples on a filter, while an additional smaller "localiser" pod was fitted to the port wing, inboard of the main pylons. [165] [168] [170]

The squadron disbanded at Scampton in March 1982, passing on its radar reconnaissance duties to the RAF's Nimrods. [168]

Aerial refuelling role Edit

After the end of the Falklands War in 1982, the Vulcan B.2 was due to be withdrawn from RAF service that year. [171] However, the Falklands campaign had consumed much of the airframe fatigue life of the RAF's Victor tankers. While Vickers VC10 tanker conversions had been ordered in 1979 [172] and Lockheed TriStar tankers would be ordered after the conflict, [173] as a stopgap measure six Vulcans were converted into single point tankers. The Vulcan tanker conversion was accomplished by removing the jammers from the ECM bay in the tail of the aircraft, and replacing them with a single Hose Drum Unit. [158] An additional cylindrical bomb-bay tank was fitted, giving a fuel capacity of almost 100,000 lb (45,000 kg). [158] [174]

The go-ahead for converting the six aircraft was given on 4 May 1982. [175] Just 50 days after being ordered, the first Vulcan tanker, XH561, was delivered to RAF Waddington. [158] [175] The Vulcan K.2s were operated by No. 50 Squadron, along with three Vulcan B.2s, in support of UK air defence activities until it was disbanded in March 1984. [176]

Vulcan Display Flight Edit

After the disbandment of No. 50 Squadron, two Vulcans continued flying with the RAF in air displays as part of the Vulcan Display Flight, based at Waddington but administered through No. 55 Squadron, based at RAF Marham. Initially displaying using XL426, in 1986 that aircraft was sold, having been replaced by XH558, which began displays in 1985. The VDF continued with XH558 until 1992, finishing operations after the Ministry of Defence determined it was too costly to run in light of budget cuts. Both aircraft subsequently entered preservation and survived, although a third, XH560, kept in reserve in the first years, was later scrapped.

Engine test beds Edit

  • The first prototype VX770 had its Sapphire engines replaced with four 15,000 lbf (67 kN) Rolls-Royce Conway RCo.7 turbofans in 1957. It was transferred to Rolls-Royce as the Conway test bed. [177] It flew with the Conways, the first turbofans in the world, until its fatal crash in September 1958. [178]
  • The first Vulcan B.1 XA889 was used for the flight clearances of the Olympus 102 and 104. [179]
  • Vulcan B.1 XA891 was fitted with four Olympus 200 engines in the spring of 1958 for intensive flying trials. The aircraft crashed in July 1958 during a routine test flight. [180]
  • Vulcan B.1 XA894 flew with five Olympus engines, the standard four Mk.101s, plus a reheated Olympus 320 destined for the BAC TSR-2 in an underslung nacelle. This aircraft was destroyed in a ground fire at Filton on 3 December 1962. [178]
  • Vulcan B.1 XA896 was withdrawn from RAF service in June 1964 and transferred to be converted to the test bed for the Bristol Siddeley BS100 vectored thrust turbofan for the Hawker Siddeley P.1154. The P.1154 was cancelled in February 1965 and XA896 was scrapped before being converted. [181]
  • Vulcan B.1 XA902 was withdrawn from RAF service after a landing accident in 1958. After rebuilding, it replaced VX770 as the Conway test bed, fitted with four RCo.11s. The two inner Conways were replaced with Rolls-Royce Speys, flying for the first time in this configuration on 12 October 1961. [178]
  • Vulcan B.1 XA903, surplus to Blue Steel trials, was converted to a similar layout to XA894 to flight test the Olympus 593 Concorde installation. The first flight was on 1 October 1966 and testing continued through to June 1971. [182] In April 1973, XA903 started flying with an underslung Rolls-Royce RB.199 turbofan destined for the Panavia Tornado. XA903 was the last B.1 to fly, being retired in February 1979. [183]
  • Vulcan B.2 XH557 was used by BSEL for developing the Olympus 301 and first flew with the larger engine in May 1961. It was returned to Woodford in 1964 to be refurbished for the RAF. [184]

Production Edit

A total of 134 production Vulcans were assembled at Woodford Aerodrome, 45 to the B.1 design and 89 were B.2 models, the last being delivered to the RAF in January 1965. [190]

Contract Date Quantity Variant Notes
6 July 1948 2 Prototypes Two prototypes delivered in August 1952 and September 1953 [195]
14 August 1952 25 Vulcan B.1 First flight of production aircraft 4 February 1955, delivered between June 1955 and December 1957. [195] [196]
30 September 1954 20 Vulcan B.1 Delivered between January 1958 and April 1959. [195] [197]
30 September 1954 17 Vulcan B.2 Delivered between September 1959 and December 1960 [195] [197]
31 March 1955 8 Vulcan B.2 Delivered between January and May 1961 [195] [198]
25 February 1956 24 Vulcan B.2 Delivered between July 1961 and November 1962 [195] [199]
22 January 1958 40 Vulcan B.2 Delivered between February 1963 and January 1965, one aircraft not flown and used as a static test airframe [195] [200]
Total 136

    aircraft used for trials and evaluation
      (B.2 from 1962 to 1982) [201] (B.2 from 1962 to 1967) [202] (B.2 from 1961 to 1972 and the B.2 (MRR) from 1973 to 1982) [203] (B.2 from 1962 to 1982) [204] (B.1/B.1A from 1960 to 1967 and the B.2 from 1966 to 1982) [205] (B.1/B.1A from 1961 to 1966, the B.2 from 1966 to 1984 and the K.2 from 1982 to 1984) [206] (the first Vulcan squadron operated the B.1/B.1A from 1957 to 1960 and the B.2 from 1960 to 1969) [207] (B.1/B1A from 1957 to 1967 and the B.2 from 1967 to 1982) [208] (OB.1/B1A from 1958 to 1961 and the B.2 from 1961 to 1981) [209][210] from 1956 to 1981. The first unit to operate the Vulcan, it provided conversion and operational training for Vulcan aircrew
    • Bomber Command Development Unit

    Bases Edit

      in Cyprus: two B.2 squadrons from 1969 to 1975
      • 9 Squadron 1969–1975, moved from Cottesmore in 1969 it returned to the UK in 1975 to Waddington. [212]
      • 35 Squadron 1969–1975, moved from Cottesmore in 1969 it returned to the UK in 1975 to Scampton. [204]
      • 9 Squadron 1962–1964, formed in 1962 to operate the B.2 it moved to Cottesmore in 1964. [201]
      • 12 Squadron 1962–1964, formed in 1962 to operate the B.2 it moved to Cottesmore in 1964. [202]
      • 35 Squadron 1962–1964, formed in 1962 to operate the B.2 it moved to Cottesmore in 1964. [204]
        : three squadrons from 1964 to 1969
        • 9 Squadron 1964–1969, moved in from Coningsby in 1964, it moved to Akrotiri in 1969. [201]
        • 12 Squadron 1964–1967, moved in from Coningsby in 1964 until it disbanded in 1967. [201]
        • 35 Squadron 1964–1969, moved in from Coningsby in 1964, it moved to Akrotiri 1969. [204]
        • 101 Squadron 1957–1961, formed in 1957 to be the second operational B.1 squadron, moved to Waddington in 1961. [208]
        • 230 OCU 1961–1969, moved from Waddington in 1961, moved to Scampton in 1969.
        • 27 Squadron 1961–1972, formed in 1961 to operate the B.2 until it disbanded in 1972. Reformed in 1973 to operate the B.2 (MRR) variant until 1982. [203]
        • 35 Squadron 1975–1982, moved from Akrotiri in 1975 and operated the B.2 until it disbanded in March 1982.
        • 83 Squadron 1960–1969, a former B.1/B.1A squadron at Waddington, reformed in 1960 to operate the B.2 until disbanded in 1969. [207]
        • 617 Squadron 1958–1981, formed in 1958 to operate the B.1, reformed to operate the B.2 in 1961 until disbanded in 1981. [209]
        • 230 OCU 1969–1981, moved from Finningley in 1969 until disbanded in 1981.
        • 9 Squadron 1975–1982, moved in from Akrotiri in 1975 until it was disbanded 1982. [201]
        • 44 Squadron 1960–1982, formed in 1960 to operate the B.1/B.1A, it converted to the B.2 in 1966 and disbanded in 1982. [205]
        • 50 Squadron 1961–1984, formed in 1961 to operate the B.1/B.1A, it converted to the B.2 in 1966, from 1982 it also flew the tanker version until disbanding in 1984. [206]
        • 83 Squadron 1957–1960, formed in 1957 to be the first operational squadron to operate the B.1 until 1960, it reformed at Scampton later in the year as a B.2 unit. [207]
        • 101 Squadron 1961–1982, moved from Finningley in 1961 with the B.1/B.1A, converted to B.2 in 1967 and disbanded in 1982. [208]
        • 230 OCU 1956–1961, formed in 1956 to train Vulcan crews it moved to Finningley in 1961. A final move to RAF Scampton was made in 1970.

        V-Bomber dispersal airfields Edit

        In the event of transition to war, the V Bomber squadrons were to deploy four aircraft at short notice to each of 26 pre-prepared dispersal airfields around the United Kingdom. In the early 1960s the RAF ordered 20 Beagle Basset communication aircraft to move the crews to dispersal airfields the importance of these aircraft was only brief, diminishing when the primary nuclear deterrent switched to the Royal Navy's Polaris Missile. [213]

        • On 1 October 1956, Vulcan B.1 XA897, the first to be delivered, crashed at London Heathrow Airport during Operation Tasman Flight, a flag-waving trip to Australia and New Zealand. After a ground-controlled approach in bad weather, it struck the ground 700 yd (640 m) short of the runway just as engine power was applied. [130] The impact probably broke the drag links on the main undercarriage, allowing the undercarriage to be forced backwards and damaged the wing's trailing edge. [130] After the initial impact, XA897 rose back in the air. [130] The pilot, Squadron Leader D. R. Howard, and co-pilot Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst, AOC-in-C Bomber Command, both ejected and survived, the other four occupants (including a spare pilot and an Avro representative) were killed when the aircraft hit the ground again and broke up. [130][214][215]
        • In 1957, a Vulcan B.1 XA892 attached to the A&AEE at Boscombe Down for acceptance testing was unintentionally flown to an Indicated Mach Number (IMN) above 1.04, alarming the crew that it had reached supersonic speed. XA892's commander, Flt Lt Milt Cottee (RAAF), and co-pilot, Flt Lt Ray Bray (RAF), were tasked to fly at 478 mph (769 km/h) and 0.98 IMN, taking the aircraft to a load factor of 3 g. It climbed to 35,000 ft (11,000 m) and then dived, intending to reach the target speed at 27,000 ft (8,200 m). Approaching the target altitude, the throttles were closed and full up-elevator applied, but XA892 continued to pitch nose-down. Cottee contemplated pushing forward to go inverted and then rolling upright instead, he opened the speed brakes. Although the airspeed was above their maximum operating speed, the speed brakes were undamaged and did slow the aircraft, which came back past the vertical at about 18,000 ft (5,500 m) and leveled off at 8,000 ft (2,400 m). There were no reports of a sonic boom, it is unlikely a true Mach Number of 1.0 was reached. [N 10] Afterwards, a rear bulkhead was found to be deformed. [216]

        Several Vulcans survive, housed in museums in both the United Kingdom and North America (USA and Canada). One Vulcan, XH558 (G-VLCN) Spirit of Great Britain, was used as a display aircraft by the RAF as part of the Vulcan Display Flight until 1993. After being grounded, it was later restored to flight by the Vulcan To The Sky Trust and displayed as a civilian aircraft from 2008 until 2015, before being retired a second time for engineering reasons. In retirement, XH558 is to be retained at its base at Doncaster Sheffield Airport as a taxiable aircraft, a role already performed by two other survivors, XL426 (G-VJET) based at Southend Airport, and XM655 (G-VULC), based at Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield.

        PTSD in the Civil War

        Nostalgia was a phenomenon noted throughout Europe and the 𠇍isease” reached American soil during the U.S. Civil War (1861�). In fact, nostalgia became a common medical diagnosis that spread throughout camps. But some military doctors viewed the illness as a sign of weakness and one that only affected men with a �le will”𠅊nd public ridicule was sometimes the recommended 𠇌ure” for nostalgia.

        While nostalgia described changes in veterans from a psychological perspective, other models took a physiological approach.

        After the Civil War, U.S. doctor Jacob Mendez Da Costa studied veterans and found that many of them suffered from certain physical issues unrelated to wounds, such as palpitations, constricted breathing, and other cardiovascular symptoms. These symptoms were thought to arise from an overstimulation of the heart’s nervous system, and the condition became known as “soldier’s heart,” “irritable heart,” or � Costa’s syndrome.”

        Interestingly, PTSD-like symptoms weren’t restricted to soldiers in the 1800s. During the Industrial Revolution, rail travel became more common𠅊s did railway accidents.

        Survivors of these accidents displayed various psychological symptoms (anxiety and sleeplessness, for instance), which collectively became known as “railway spine” and “railway brain” because autopsies suggested railway accidents caused microscopic lesions to the central nervous system.


        The last one flew for the final time last October as it proved too costly to run. It was taken on a £75,000 farewell tour of the UK before being retired to a hangar at Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport.

        In response and in tribute to the hugely popular aircraft, Capt Carr built his miniature version.

        The body of the plane is made from depron foam, a lightweight rigid material, which he acquired from an underfloor heating company.

        Capt Carr, an aeronautical engineering graduate from Bristol University, then covered it in wallpaper and spray painted the outside in traditional early 1970s colours of dark green and grey.

        Capt Carr built the model out of depron foam polystyrene sheets, pictured, before covering it with wallpaper from B&Q

        He spent four months in his garden shed building the remote control model, which weighs just 20lbs and has a wingspan of 10ft

        The model, pictured in flight above Corfe Castle, Dorset, is powered by one 3,000 watt electric ducted fan and lithium battery

        It can reach a top speeds of 30mph. a peak altitude of 200ft and can fly half-a-mile away from the remote control before losing signal

        Capt Carr said he built the model, pictured, because it is 'the closest we can come to seeing the real thing in the sky'

        The retired pilot, pictured with the model, added his creation is 'so big and realistic' that he thinks it could be mistaken for the real thing

        Capt Carr said: 'I built this model because it is the closest we can now come to seeing the real thing in the sky. It is so big and realistic that it could easily be mistaken for a real Vulcan.

        'It makes a very authentic jet-like sound as well because the fan is quite loud. Having flown the real thing, it is nice to get it into the air again. Everyone who has come across it so far has loved it.'

        Capt Carr, of Corfe Castle, Dorset, flew Vulcan bombers for seven years and even took one all the way to Australia.

        After retiring from the RAF he travelled to air shows just to watch the classic aircraft fly.

        He added: 'The hairs on my arms would stand on end when a Vulcan came overhead, I'd get goosebumps when I saw it coming.

        'Its shape, sound and maneuverability make it the ultimate crowd-pleaser, everyone misses it.

        'Hopefully my model can bring back those memories for people. It certainly reminds me of my days flying the real thing. It was wonderful plane to handle, it had tremendous power.'

        Following a decade and a half of service Capt Carr worked as a secondary school physics teacher and is now retired with his wife, Ruth.

        The last real Vulcan, pictured, took part in its last ever flight last October in Doncaster before being retired at the town's airport

        It took part in conventional bombing raids during the Falklands War in 1982 and could carry a payload of up to 21 1,000lb bombs

        His XH558 model is controlled from the ground by a remote control with two joysticks, one to set the plane's speed and one to determine its direction.

        The RAF veteran says that the resemblance between his miniature and the real thing is remarkable.

        He said: 'I get that same incredible feeling when I watch my model fly overhead as I did when I saw the real thing in action.

        'It's nice for me, someone who actually flew a Vulcan, to be able to do it again.

        'The movement of my model and the way it glides through the air is very similar to that of the real thing. Because of its size it floats in the sky at a very realistic speed.

        'If someone in a passing car were to see it in the sky they would think that a Vulcan had taken flight again.'

        The grandfather added: 'People got very upset when they watched its final flight.

        'I built this model so that people could experience the bomber even after it's retirement.'


        The Vulcan was commissioned into service by the RAF in 1956 and formed a key part of Britain's nuclear deterrent until 1984.

        It was designed as a strategic bomber that could deliver a nuclear payload and carried the Blue Danube, Britain's first ever operational nuclear bomb.

        After a prototype was created and flown in 1952, the B1 and B2 versions of the aircraft were then built and used by the RAF from 1956, with 136 Vulcan-type aircrafts believed to have been built in total.

        They were powered by four Rolls Royce Olympus turbojet engines, which were placed on the wings in pairs close to the fuselage.

        The Vulcan, pictured during active service, had no defensive weaponry and depended upon its high altitude capability to evade attack

        Under the control of a joint RAF and US command, 108 Vulcans were on standby to attack major Soviet targets by the end of 1959, and from 1962, two jets were stationed in every RAF base carrying nuclear weapons.

        The closest they ever came to using such weapons was the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis where Bomber Command was moved to 'Alert Condition 3', an increased state of preparedness from normal operations. But it was stood down by November of that year.

        During the Falklands War they were used for conventional bombing raids, but each plane had to fly 3,900 miles from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean to Stanley in the Falklands, meaning the planes had to undergo air-to-air refuelling, using about 1.1million gallons of fuel per trip.

        In the 1970s Vulcans were shifted into a reconnaissance role, flying at high altitudes and monitoring shipping around the UK.

        But they were eventually retired in 1984, with two aircraft kept by the RAF to take part in display flights.

        The plane's five crew included a pilot, copilot, tactical navigator, radar operator and air electronics officer.

        Vulcans had no defensive weaponry and so depended upon its high altitude capability to evade attacks by other aircraft.

        Historical Events on November 16

          An auto de fe, held in the Brasero de la Dehesa outside of Ávila, concludes the case of the Holy Child of La Guardia with the public execution of several Jewish and converso suspects. City of Havana moved to its current location to avoid mosquito infestations

        Victory in Battle

        1532 Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro captures Inca Emperor Atahualpa after a surprise ambush at Cajamarca in the Peruvian Andes

          Troops under Don Frederik (the Spanish General Fadrique Alvarez de Toledo) occupy and plunder Zutphen, Netherlands

        Ivan the Terrible Kills His Son

        1581 Tsar Ivan the Terrible attacks his son and heir, Ivan Ivanovich, with a scepter after an argument leading to the latter's death three days later

        Victory in Battle

        1632 Battle of Lützen: Significant battle of Thirty Years' War - Swedish and Saxon forces defeat the Holy Roman Empire, at cost of the death of Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus

        Event of Interest

        1669 French state funeral for Henrietta Maria, princess of France, widow of English King Charles I, at St Denis with famous oration by Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

          1st colonial prison organized in Nantucket, Massachusetts French troops occupy Freiburg Monarch of Brandenburg becomes king of Prussia English journalist John Wilkes injured in a duel Native Americans surrender to British in Indian War of Chief Pontiac West Indian Company & Amsterdam divide up Suriname 1st gun salute for an American warship in a foreign port - US Andrew Doria at Fort St Eustatius (Dutch Caribbean isalnd)

        Historic Publication

        1835 Extracts from Letters to Henslow, a collection of letters written by Charles Darwin during his voyage on the Beagle, is published

          New Zealand officially becomes a British colony Life preservers made of cork are patented by Napoleon Guerin (NYC) Russian court sentences Fyodor Dostoevsky to death for anti-government activities linked to a radical intellectual group his sentence is later commuted to hard labor Amsterdam post office at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal opens Aleksandr Ostrovsky's play "Groza" (The Storm) premieres in Moscow Battle of Campbell's Station TN, 492 causalities Confederate retreat at Lovejoy, Georgia Spanish Parliament, "the Cortes" formally elects Italian Prince Amedeo Ferdinando Maria as King Amadeo I of Spain National Rifle Association is first chartered in the State of New York Battle of Gundet: Ethiopian emperor Yohannes beats Egyptians William Bonwill, patents dental mallet to impact gold into cavities British gunboat HMS Flirt fires at & destroys Abari village in Niger 6,000 Armenians massacred by Turks in Kurdistan French captain Henri Decoeurs troops reach Nikki, West Africa

        Event of Interest

        1916 Eugene O'Neill's "Bound East for Cardiff" premieres in NYC

          I. Berlin, V. Herbert, H. Blossoms musical premieres in NYC Russian La Satannaya ammunition factory explodes, killing 1,000 British occupy Tel Aviv and Jaffa Hungarian People's Republic declared Admiral Miklós Horthy, head of the Hungarian National Army, seizes Budapest and will later become regent of the restored Kingdom of Hungary Australia's Qantas airways founded in Winton, Queensland as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited 1st postage stamp meter is set in Stamford Conn

        Event of Interest

        1922 Pope Pius XI calls on Belgian people to unite

        End of the Ottoman Empire

        1922 Ottoman Caliph, Sultan Mehmed VI asks the British army for help

        The last Ottoman sultan, Mehmed VI, departs his palace in Istanbul after the abolition of the monarchy
          Cleveland Bulldogs (formerly Canton) lose to Frankford Yellowjackets, ends 31-game undefeated streak (NFL & major-league football record) American Association for Advancement of Atheism forms (NY)

        Event of Interest

        1933 Brazilian President Getulio Vargas declares himself dictator

        Music Premiere

        1935 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's musical "Jumbo" premieres in NYC

        Event of Interest

        1935 Cole Porter's musical "Anything Goes" closes at 46th Street Theatre, NYC, after 420 performances

          German air force begins bombing of Madrid K B Regiment refuses round-table conference in East-India LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) is first synthesized by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland

        Event of Interest

          German U-boat torpedoes tanker Sliedrecht near Ireland World War II: In response to Germany's leveling of Coventry, England two days before, the Royal Air Force bombs Hamburg. German troops conquer Kertsh (probably) Assault of US B-17 Flying Fortresses on airport at Sidi Ahmed World War II: American bombers strike a hydro-electric power facility and heavy water factory in German-controlled Vemork, Norway. US 9th division & 1st Army attacks at Geilenkirchen Yeshiva College (University), chartered in NY, 1st US Jewish College Founding of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Two new elements discovered by Glenn Seaborg, James, Morgan and Albert Ghiorso were are announced: americium (atomic number 95) and curium (atomic number 96) 15,000 demonstrate in Brussels against mild sentence of Nazis

        NBA Record

        1957 Celtic Bill Russell sets NBA record of 49 rebounds beat Philadelphia 111-89

        Murder of Interest

        1957 American murderer and bodysnatcher Ed Gein kills his last victim

        All Eyes on Birthplace of British Rock 'n' Roll

        1957 BBC’s 1st pop music show, the "Six-Five Special", is broadcast from the tiny 2i’s Coffee Bar in London

          "The Sound of Music" musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, opens at Lunt Fontanne Theater, NYC, for 1443 performances NL batting champion Dick Groat wins MVP United Kingdom limits immigration from Commonwealth countries

        Event of Interest

        1961 US President JFK decides to increase military aid to South Vietnam without committing US combat troops

        Event of Interest

        1962 Wilt Chamberlain of NBA SF Warriors scores 73 points vs NY Knicks

          Toledo, OH newspaper strike began Radio CJCX Sydney Nova Scotia (Canada) starts shortwave transmission USSR performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR

        Event of Interest

        1966 Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente is named NL MVP

          "Greatest Hits" album by The Temptations is released (Billboard Album of the Year 1967) The Derry Citizens Action Committee defies a ban on marches in Derry, Northern Ireland, by marching with an estimated 15,000 people 1968 Mỹ Lai massacre of between 347 and 504 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians by US soldiers is first reported US President Nixon becomes first president to attend a season NFL game while in office: the Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins 41-28 Two men are shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky defends operations in Cambodia because communist forces could overrun South Vietnam "within 24 hours" if troops operating there were withdrawn The Compton inquiry is published, acknowledging that there was ill-treatment of internees, but rejected claims of systematic brutality or torture (Northern Ireland) The US increase air activity to support the Cambodian government as fighting neared Phnom Penh "Dear Oscar" opens at Playhouse Theater NYC for 5 performances

        Event of Interest

        1972 British Prime Minister Edward Heath warns against a Unilateral Declaration of Independence

        RAFBF to hold Dambusters charity cycle challenge

        To celebrate the forthcoming 100th birthday of the last Dambuster, Sqn Ldr George ‘Johnny’ Johnson MBE DFM on 25 November 2021, the RAF Benevolent Fund charity is holding a sponsored 56 or 100-mile cycle ride at various venues around the country. Most of these will be held on 15-16 May, the weekend nearest the 78th anniversary of the Dams Raid. The 100 miles celebrates Johnny’s impending centenary, while the 56 miles commemorates those aircrew who did not return (53 lost in action, 3 taken prisoner). The planned event at the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa has been delayed until 3 July due to the pandemic, but you can still sign up to the virtual challenge and cycle your 56 or 100 miles anywhere else in the world on 15-16 May. Full details are here on the RAFBF website.

        Several ex-RAF 617 Squadron members are planning rides, including some who are taking on a particularly arduous route around Lossiemouth in Scotland. These include Clive Mitchell, Colin McGregor, Nige Tiddy, and Ben Dempster (100 miles) and Pete Beckett and Ronnie Lawson on the more modest 56 miles distance.

        Their route is shown above. If you live in the area, please consider turning out to support them. And if you don’t feel up to the cycling challenge yourself, and you don’t have anyone particular to sponsor, then the 617 Squadron Association is asking you to back Clive Mitchell, whose sponsorship page you can find on this link.

        Here’s how the ‘Bloody Angle’ turned into the worst fighting of the Civil War

        Gen. Ulysses S. Grant faced a quandary in his Overland Campaign driving towards Richmond. Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee were dug into what seemed like an invulnerable network of trenchworks and rifle pits near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia. Several initial attacks had been bloodily repulsed, and even the weakest point of the Confederate line, a bulge around Laurel Hill known as the Muleshoe, seemed like an impossible nut to crack.

        Grant, seeing that an assault on the Muleshoe was his best bet despite its formidable fortifications, decided try the unorthodox suggestion of Col. Emory Upton, a brash young officer who had distinguished himself earlier in the war. Standard infantry tactics of the day had long lines of infantry attacking in a wave, with reserves to exploit whatever breach happened in the enemy line.

        Col. Emory Upton (Photo: Nat’l Archives)

        Upton instead arranged his 12 regiments, composed of roughly 5,000 men, in one long tight column of only four ranks, with three regiments to a rank. They would charge at full speed toward the west side of the Muleshoe, without stopping to reload or help the wounded until they breached the Confederate fortifications. They would essentially function as a human battering ram.

        Just after 6 p.m. on May 10, 1864, the plan went forward. With a wild yell, the column sprung from its concealment in the woods and charged over 200 yards across open ground. The enemy rifle pits studding the fortifications only had time to get off a few volleys before the Union column breached their earthworks, and they even overran the half-built second line 75 yards behind the first. Lack of coordination with supporting Union units to exploit the breach and a ferocious Confederate counterattack forced Upton to retreat, but the attack had netted over a thousand Confederate prisoners and seemed to prove that Upton’s tactics could work.

        Grant was impressed with the initial success of the attack and decided to repeat Upton’s idea, but on a far grander scale and with better coordination. Over 20,000 men from Gen. Winfield Hancock’s 2nd Corps would attack the northern tip of the Muleshoe, each of his three divisions forming a similar long column to overwhelm a single point of the Confederate line.

        The attack launched during a pouring rain on the dawn of the May 12. The Confederate troops guarding the northern point had heard the rumble of thousands of troops assembling the night before and were on alert, but the pouring rain prevented many of their muskets from firing and they were overwhelmed by the sheer force of the bayonet assault. More than 4,000 Confederate prisoners were taken and Hancock’s attack seemed on the verge of splitting the Confederate army in half, but a Confederate reserve division desperately thrown into the mix managed to stop the Union assault, which had become hopelessly tangled and confused in the elaborate fortifications. Lee himself came riding up to personally lead the counterattack, but his frantic troops, terrified that the famed general would be killed or captured, urged him back to the rear.

        The supporting Union attack composed of 15,000 troops hit the northwest point of the salient 300 yards from Hancock’s attack, moving against where the Confederate fortifications formed an angle to support 2nd Corps. This 200-yard stretch of ground turned into a hand to hand slugfest in pouring rain and mud several feet deep in some points. Waves of troops fired point blank into each other’s faces and clubbed each other with muskets, with many wounded drowning in the mud. The ferocious fighting continued for over 20 hours long into the night. The survivors of the engagement later called the spot the ‘Bloody Angle.’

        Engagements at Laurel Hill & NY River, VA (By Kurz & Allison. – Library of Congress, Public Domain)

        Lee had quietly begun withdrawing troops to a hasty new line in the rear, and by 3 a.m. the fighting had ended with Union soldiers too exhausted to pursue. In the abattoir of the Bloody Angle there had been over 17,000 casualties from both sides, and though there were other skirmishes in the coming days Grant eventually withdrew his battered army to the southwest to force Lee out of his fortifications, for a later battle under hopefully more favorable circumstances.

        The Bloody Angle was an example of an innovative idea that had turned into a disaster when implemented on a larger scale. Attacks in long columns against heavy fortifications were too apt to get tangled up amongst enemy obstacles and their own numbers, leaving them extremely vulnerable to enemy counterattack unless supporting assaults were perfectly coordinated. Enemy defenses in depth blunted whatever initial gains could be made. Upton’s tactics, however promising, could not solve the perennial Civil War problem of the superiority of defensive firepower against the frontal assault, a problem that would loom its head again 50 years later in World War I.

        Monument at the site of the attack.