Canberra 60th Anniversary

13th May, 2009 saw the 60th Anniversary of the prototype Canberra making its first flight at the hands of Roly “Bee” Beamont from the English Electric airfield at Warton.

The Team decided early in the year that this occasion should be celebrated and set to work designing some 60th Anniversary marking that could be applied to Treble Three. With the expert help of Andy Hay, some artwork was prepared and the signs were made up. Applying them on the curved wingtip tanks was interesting to say the least.

In the meantime Jonathon Westwood had produced a superb painting of Treble Three showing The Team at work during an engine start. Prints of this are available from The Team.

From this inspiration came thick and fast. Some stamp covers were produced as large sized postcards and with the help of Cotswold & Stuart Covers of York a special 60th Anniversary Handstamp was commissioned from the Post Office ready for the 13th May, 2009. These were to be carried on the aircraft at the first Cold War Jets Open Day of the year at Bruntingthorpe on 3rd May, 2009. Some souvenir merchandise was also produced and all proceeds went towards the upkeep of Treble Three. See below for details of what can be purchased to assist in maintaining WT333.

Dennis Brooks, retired Squadron Leader and former OC Lightning Training Flight has of late been our usual man up front in running the aircraft on such Open Days.

However, he was unable to be with us on 3rd May but we were very fortunate to obtain the services of Paul Dixon, former Canberra and Phantom pilot, who like Dennis, is an Air Experience pilot at RAF Cranwell at weekends. Paul’s first job was to sign the 100 Stamp Covers to be carried on the aircraft that day.

So after a lot of preparation in the days leading up to the Open Day Treble Three was turned out for her public carrying the specially designed and applied 60th Anniversary markings.

For once the weather was sunshine but with the now compulsory cross wind. We did two runs that day and Paul was delighted with the handling of the aircraft.

As mentioned previously, on both runs 100 commemorative stamp covers were carried on the aircraft ready for the 60th Anniversary on 13th May. Courier for the Covers was the Team Mascot – Elwood Bear

Photo: Elwood Bear

Not all stamp covers were sold and a few are still available from The Team.

13th May dawned grey and damp. Notwithstanding this a small but hardy band of Canberra enthusiasts and ex Canberra crew made their way to Bruntingthorpe for this auspicious occasion. At 1046 hrs – 60 years to the minute since Roly Beamont lifted off VN799 from Warton’s runway – Treble Three’s engines sprang into life in salute.

There was even nibbles, a birthday cake and, of course, tea for all assembled to consume.

Finally, as a surprise for David Walton, the Team presented him with a signed print of Jon Westwood’s painting “53 – Not out!” of Treble Three being started up. This was in recognition of the support and assistance received from David and his staff over the years as owners of Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground.

Back to normal

Treble Three was booked to run at the Lightning Preservation Group’s QRA Open Day on 26th July and the remaining Cold War Jets running day on 30th August. This meant having to return to normal maintenance working and the project for the year of repainting the top of the wings. You realise just how big the surface area of those wings are when you start rubbing them down. Clive (the Gloster painter) was joined by Westy (Jonathan Westwood) who gave up his artist’s brush for a roller and, over several visits and curses at the weather, the necessary coats were applied. TT Timbo (Tim) managed to find us some proper engine and exhaust covers after we had ordered tailor made ones. Unfortunately, they were not quite tailor made for Treble Three when they arrived and so Tim’s covers have proved very handy. El Capitaine (Andy) wielded spanners and his constant companion – his “GS” – on the aircraft whilst Timbutdim (t’other Tim) quietly provided the necessary muscle and labour with those tasks the rest of us were too puny to face.

Some corrosion on the bomb bay doors and battery hatch has been attended to. Amidst all of this there was much polishing and cleaning of the exterior by El Presidenté (Roger) and The Adjutant (Stephen) when he wasn’t brewing up or serving chocolate biscuits to keep the crew from revolting.