16th December 2012 saw a very notable ceremony which commemorated no less than three special dates in the lifetime of the Handley Page Victor. Bob Tuxford takes up the story:
On 16th December 2012, the members of the support team for XM715 met at Bruntingthorpe Airfield. In the presence of Mr Dave Walton, the owner of the Cold War Jets collection at the Leicestershire airfield, a specially designed anniversary decal was applied to the port side of the Victor’s forward fuselage to commemorate three very special dates in the marque’s history.
Developed under the Handley Page designation of the HP-80, the first prototype in the guise of WB771 took to the skies on 24th December 1952. Following the initial production run of the B1 bomber variant, work began on the much-improved Mk 2 in the late 50’s. Of the 34 B2s that came off the production line, XM715 was one of the last batch aircraft. She made her first flight in the hands of John Allam at Radlett on 31st December 1962. By 1964, the Mk 1 aircraft were undergoing a tanker conversion in the wake of the Valiant fatigue problem, and it was inevitable that the Mk 2s would follow suit.
Ultimately, some 24 B2s were eventually upgraded into the tanker variant, designated the K2. The Falklands War brought the Mk 2 Tanker Fleet to prominence, highlighted by their involvement in the memorable Black Buck bombing missions mounted from Ascension Island in South Atlantic. Supporting a lone Vulcan B2 on an 8000 mile mission to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands and back, up to 18 tankers were needed to provide the intensive air-to-air refuellings. Victor K2 XL189 in the hands of Sqn Ldr Bob Tuxford and crew was instrumental in ensuring the success of Black Buck 1 in the face of considerable adversity on the night of 30th April/1st May 1982.
It was these three significant milestones in the history of the Handley Page Victor that the Bruntingthorpe jet was chosen to display a suitable decal commemorating the dates: the top airframe profile depicts the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the prototype WB771; the centre profile commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the host aircraft XM715, and the 3rd profile reflects the 30th anniversary of the Black Buck 1 mission flown by XL189. Each of the three aircraft represented on the decal carry the distinctive livery of the airframes at the time of these celebrated events.
Positioned above the lower camouflaged aircraft are the badges of Nos 55 and 57 Sqns, the two participating tanker squadrons involved during the Falklands War. Atop XM715 on the left hand side is the historic No 214 Sqn badge of the celebrated tanker squadron first associated with Air-to-Air Refuelling (Victor Mk 1s and the Valiant). The centre badge is that of the operational conversion unit – No 232 OCU. To the right is the badge of No 543 Sqn, representing the strategic reconnaissance role undertaken by the Victor SR2. Along the top row of badges are two of the early B1 squadrons, Nos 10 and 15 Sqn, together with No 100 and No 139 (Jamaica) Sqns that were equipped with the B2 version.
The Handley Page Victor Anniversary Year
This is a significant milestone for the Victor and in particular for XM 715. 2012 is the 60th anniversary of the first flight of Victor WB 771, the 50th anniversary of Victor XM 715 and more recently the 30th anniversary of the Black Buck 1 Operation in the Falklands.
To mark this occasion a new decal will be created.
The decal designs below are some ideas in motion. If you have any design ideas to display here, please email them to Mike Beer or Eugene Lobo.
It is hoped that this new decal will eventually finds its way on Victor XM 715 to commemorate the occasion.