Tales from Australia

We recently acquired a print of a black and white photograph showing Treble Three taxying at, we think, Pershore not long after she had returned from Australia in July, 1969 when engaged on Torpedo trials. This is the photo:

We say mid to late 1969 since she is still in all white colours with what appears to be a “zap” on her tail. We felt it had Australian connections because a Kangaroo can clearly be made out but the rest of the inscription is not clear. We also know from another photo on this site (taken in late 1969), that the RRE flying unit crest was applied to her when still in the all white colour scheme so the photo above must have been taken shortly after her return from Australia on 21st July, 1969. We set about making some enquiries about the tail markings and…………………we ended up not only clarifying the badge but making contact with two of her R Australian AF crew who had flown her “down under”.

Thanks to the efforts of some really great people we made contact with a former RAAF pilot who had flown Treble Three when attached to No. 2 Air Trials Unit, RAAF Edinburgh. He was able to tell us that the “zap” probably looked like this:

But, of course, we could not leave it at that and he very kindly came up with some splendid photos of her during the trials. He told us that “As well as Treble Three we had a Canberra T.4 WD954 and a B.2 WK165 on the Unit. I ended up with over 2000 hrs on Canberras, mostly the Government Aircraft Factory Mk.20, in flying it on and off for ten years, but the B(I)8 was the best of them all. I flew 250 combat missions over Vietnam in Mk.20s in 1968. The B(I)8 would have been a far better aircraft to use there, with gun packs of course.”

WT333 at RAAF Edinburgh 1969 – note the black triangle under the wing along with the mounting for the carriage trials

“I believe that the black triangles were simply reference marks for tracking cameras. The aircraft was used for weapons carriage and drop trials over Woomera. The tip tanks were painted black. On the underside were big strobe lights, perhaps 20cm long and 5-10 cm deep. There were fairings inboard to protect the crew from the flash.”

RAAF Darwin 13th June, 1969. Note the black tip tanks fitted to Treble Three. A C-130 Hercules is parked behind her and another behind that with a Dakota in the distance.

Taxying in at RAAF Darwin after a sortie – again 13th June, 1969. Note the fairing on the tip tanks mentioned in the narrative.

Extract from our pilot’s log book showing entries relating to flying Treble Three (along with Canberra T.4 WD954 and Dakotas A65-84, ’86 & 105) in June 1969 when attached to No. 2 ATU, RAAF Edinburgh. In turn we were put in touch with a former RAAF navigator at No. 2 ATU and both flew as crew of Treble Three. He too was glowing in his praise for the abilities of the B(I)8.

“I arrived at No. 2 ATU in mid-1967 and Treble Three was already there, resplendent in the all-white finish that was common for the unit’s trials aircraft. (The others were a few Meteors, paid-off very soon after my arrival, and two other RAF Canberras).”

“As far as I’m aware all the Ikara trials for which we used WT333 were flown at Avalon airfield near Melbourne. The trials were always a pleasant day out: a 50 minute transit from Edinburgh to Avalon; a cup of tea while the scientists and engineers fitted the Ikara and a dummy torpedo under one of the wings; takeoff, set up in a circuit while the tracking/recording devices were calibrated; then drop the torpedo and land. Another cup of tea while we discussed things with the boffins, and then back to Edinburgh.”

“The ferry back to the UK was a marvellous experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. I did all of the planning, with some invaluable assistance from a couple of RAF navigators at No. 2 ATU (which had a mixed complement of RAAF and RAF crews). The flight went like clockwork. WT333 didn’t miss a beat, and we arrived in the UK pretty well to the minute. The route was as follows:-

  • 17 July 1969: RAAF Edinburgh-Darwin. Refuel then onto RAF Changi. A long day, about nine hours flying.
  • 18 July 1969: RAF Changi – RAF Gan. I was pleased to see Gan as there’s nothing else there if you miss it.
  • 19 July 1969: RAF Gan – RAF Bahrain
  • 20 July 1969: RAF Bahrain – RAF Akrotiri
  • 21 July 1969: RAF Akrotiri – Luqa. Refuel. Then on to RAF Lyneham for customs and immigration clearance (not available at Pershore). Then a quick low-level run to Pershore, arriving just in time to dash up to the Officer’s Mess and watch Neil Armstrong alight on the moon.”

“I thought WT333 was a wonderful aircraft, for the navigator at least. It was much more comfortable and enjoyable to work in than the RAAF’s Mk. 20 (which was similar to the RAF B.6). Shortly after returning from Pershore in July, 1969 I started pilot training with the RAAF and then spent most of the rest of my time in the Air Force flying Canberras, and I was always a little sorry that I never had the opportunity to fly a B(I)8 as a pilot.”

Our grateful thanks go to these two gentlemen for letting us hear of their reminisces from just over 40 years ago and helping us identify and record more of Treble Three’s activities. We are always interested in hearing more and our email address is shown below.