BAC TSR.2 XR220 at RAF Museum Cosford

The story of the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) TSR.2 remains perhaps the most tragic and controversial in British aviation history. Even today, over 50 years since it was cancelled, arguments rage on both sides as to whether it would have given Britain a lead in military aviation until at least 1980 or proven to have been an insanely expensive “white elephant” that Britain simply couldn’t afford. Arguments aside however for those with an appreciation for engineering and in particular aerospace technology it can’t be helped but to look on in awe at the aircraft that was undeniably years ahead of the competition. Fortunately two airframes escaped the scrapper’s torch and remains on display today as proof of just how far British engineering had come by the 1960s. Unfortunately politics seemed to still be lagging behind…Or ahead depending on your viewpoint.

All photos were kindly contributed to Defence of the Realm by Sam Lee. CLICK HERE to view his project to build a 1:48 scale cardboard Avro Vulcan.

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website.


Avro Vulcan XM569 Cockpit at the Jet Age Museum

A small collection of pictures of the cockpit of Avro Vulcan B.2 XM569 on display at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.
History: The Jet Age Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins

The cockpit of Avro Vulcan B.2 XM569 is currently on loan to the Jet Age Museum (according to the website) and is open to members of the public for tours. It was closed for repainting during my first visit to the museum back in April so I was eager to get in to it on this second visit. This is the second Vulcan cockpit I have had the privilege of taking a look inside after visiting Vulcan XM575 back in January. That time I only got to sit in the Air Electronic Operator’s seat (a fascinating position I assure you so do not misunderstand me on that) but this time the staff at the Jet Age Museum were kind enough to let me sit up top in the boss’ seat.

Once again the 12 year old boy inside of me escaped as I climbed the ladder up to the top level where the pilots sat. While my heart was of a 12 year old boy again my bumpy body reminded me that I do have a bit of weight to lose as I seemed to catch every protrusion on the way up. Sat in that seat I put my hands on the controls and really got a (albeit brief) feel for what it must have been like for the pilots of these magnificent aircraft. It didn’t matter that there was no aeroplane behind me my mind’s eye saw nothing but clouds ahead of me for a few brief seconds.

Back to reality; I spent several minutes with the tour guide (I forget his first name but his surname was Griffiths as he made a point to tell me of his Welsh routes hearing my accent). I then spent a few minutes taking pictures to share on DotR. Now here comes the confession; unfortunately my usual camera’s batteries died shortly after reaching the museum and with no time to go and get some new ones my wife kindly offered me her phone. Thus the quality of the pictures aren’t as good as I would like but I am sure I will be visiting again soon so I will take new ones with my camera then.

Armstrong-Whitworth (Gloster) Meteor NF.14 WS807 at the Jet Age Museum

A small collection of pictures of Gloster Meteor NF.14 WS807 on display at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.
History: The Jet Age Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins

WS807 was one of the last nightfighter models of Britain’s first frontline jet fighter. All the nightfighter versions were built by Armstrong-Whitworth as Gloster aviation had other commitments forcing them to outsource the work. The aircraft was built in 1954 and served in the RAF until 1967 when it was acquired by Meteor Flight based at Yalesbury. The aircraft is important to the Jet Age Museum because during its time in the RAF it provided the first experience of jet flight for the museum’s current chairman, John Lewer.

I took these pictures of the aircraft looking rather sorry for itself as it sat in open storage at the Jet Age Museum on July 11th 2015. Unfortunately these were the only pictures I could get as the aircraft is kept away from the public behind a barrier and when I asked could I cross it for some more angles I was politely told that were it not for Mr Insurance Man I would be more than welcome to. When I asked about whether it was to be restored or not I was told that it was on the to-do list but that other projects had a higher priority at the moment.

Meteor NF.15 WS807 (1)

Meteor NF.15 WS807 (2)

Shorland SB300 at Fortress Wales 2015 Event

On display at the Fortress Wales 2015 event at Caldicot Castle was this Shorland SB300. The vehicle has quite an interesting history being built on a LWB Series IIa Land Rover chassis. It is No.9 of a total of 10 vehicles that were converted for use by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and it entered service in 1966. It was subsequently used during the 1969 riots to help restore order in Belfast during the beginning of what are now known as “the troubles” – the Irish Republican Army (IRA)’s campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland.

Following the Belfast Riots the vehicle was transferred to the 5th Battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) reflecting the Army’s increasing role in keeping peace in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s. The vehicle served until 1977 when it was struck off charge and is the only one of the original 10 vehicles not to be scrapped.

Gloster E28/39 at the Jet Age Museum

A collection of pictures of the Gloster E28/39 replica on display at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.
History: The Jet Age Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins

Powered by inventor Frank Whittle’s first jet engine the E28/39 was designed and built by the Gloster Aircraft Company. Its official first flight was at RAF Cranwell on 15 May 1941, but it had already left the ground during taxiing trials at Gloster’s Brockworth airfield on 8 April. The E28/39 at the Jet Age Museum is a full-size fibreglass model, assembled from mouldings produced by the Sir Frank Whittle Commemorative Group and paid for by the Reactionaries – former colleagues of Whittle – and a generous grant from Tewkesbury Borough Council.

Gloster Javelin FAW.9 XH903 at the Jet Age Museum

A collection of pictures of Gloster Javelin FAW.9 XH903 on display at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.
History: The Jet Age Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins

XH903 was the 65th of 85 Javelin FAW7s built by the Gloster Aircraft Company under contract Acft/11329/CB7(b) of 19 October 1954. It was completed in early 1959 and was delivered from the Gloster factory at Hucclecote on 27 February to RAF St Athan. After service acceptance checks with 19 MU it was assigned to 23 Squadron at RAF Coltishall and detached to RAF Horsham St Faith on 1 May.

XH903 came back to Gloster’s Moreton Valence factory on 1 June 1960 for changes to systems and equipment and replacing the Sapphire Sa7 engines with the reheated Sa7R . Now completed as a Javelin FAW9, it was delivered to St Athan on 5 January 1961 and on 14 February to 33 Squadron at RAF Middleton St George. Ten days later it went to RAF Leuchars on loan to 29 Squadron, returning to 33 Squadron on 3 March.

In October 1962, 5 Squadron, then flying the Javelin FAW5, began to convert to the FAW9 variant and took on charge most of 33 Squadron’s aircraft, including XH 903. Re-equipment was completed by 21 November and coincided with the Squadron’s move from RAF Laarbruch to RAF Geilenkirchen and assignment to 2 ATAF, XH 903 gaining the code “G” at this time.The aircraft flew with 5 Squadron until 20 September 1963 when it suffered a Cat3 accident. This resulted in its withdrawal from use until repairs were completed , the aircraft returning to 5 Sqn on 10 April 1964.

On 7 October 1965 5 Squadron disbanded as a Javelin unit and XH903 was flown to 27 MU at RAF Shawbury on 15 October for storage. It was struck off charge on 2 December 1966 and allocated to RAF Innsworth for display on 23 August 1967, receiving the maintenance serial 7938M.

Gloster Meteor F.8 WH364 at the Jet Age Museum

A collection of pictures of Gloster Meteor F.8 on display at the Jet Age Museum in Gloucestershire.
History: The Jet Age Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins

WH364 served with 601 Squadron between 1952 and 1957, then with the station flights at Safi, Takali and Idris. It last served with 85 Squadron, retiring in 1971 and going on the gate at RAF Kemble the following year. Twenty years later it was bought by Eddie and Paul Brown of Meteor Flight, but when they abandoned plans to get it flying again it was bought by former Gloster test pilot and Jet Age patron Peter Cadbury for the museum. Initially stored at Kemble, where it was restored for us by a team led by Paul Brown, it now has pride of place in the museum’s display hanger, Gloucestershire Airport, wearing its 601 Squadron red and black tail stripes.