Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ash trays away!

This is something we meant to do yesterday, but is better done today, on the 25th anniversary of the epic bombing raid by a Vulcan on Stanley airfield on the Falklands Islands. At 7.38am on May 1, 1982, those 21 1,000lb bombs carried more than 4,000 miles from Ascension Island by Vulcan 607 were Britain's first military strike in the campaign to restore the sovereignty of the Falklands.

The raid is recalled in yesterday’s edition of The Daily Telegraph but we are particularly indebted to journalist Ben Fenton for this delightful nugget:

The V-bomber was intended only for low-level attacks carrying nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union. To adapt the Vulcan to air-to-air refuelling and to conventional bombing - required finding various bits and pieces that had not been used for decades. Some were reclaimed from museums. "One part they needed for the bomb-aiming equipment was being used as an ashtray in the engineers' mess at Waddington," said Mr (then Flt Lt – one of the Vulcan crew) Withers, who is now a pilot for Zoom, a new no-frills airline flying across the Atlantic from Gatwick. "Elements of the preparation for those flights were Heath Robinson in character."
Of course, in today's climate, this would have been cited by the hacks as evidence of the scandalous underspending on our Armed Forces which, when you think about it, was as true then as it is today.

However, there is something quintessentially British about having to salvage an ashtray from the engineer's mess in order to carry out (then) the longest range bombing mission in history.

Good to know, incidentally, that plans are proceeding to restore a Vulcan to flying condition. Air shows have never been the same since that beast fell silent.

Pic: MoD - click to enlarge.


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