CHRISTMAS ISLAND BOMBERS
Vickers Valiant Bomber
MIGHTY VALIANT ON THE MOVE
18 August 2005
This Web site contains
information on the only surviving example of a Vickers Valiant Bomber
which took part in the nuclear testing at Christmas Island, Line Islands,
Republic of Kiribati. It also gives a little information on Air Formation
Signals, including the role they played in the Christmas Island Bomb Tests
In its heyday, the Valiant served as
a long range jet bomber through most of the 1950s and into the early 1960s.
Along with the Victor and Vulcan, it was one of Britain's three V-Bombers during
the Cold War era.
The aircraft currently being dismantled at the Museum's site in London (Valiant
XD818), was the aircraft which dropped the first hydrogen bomb at Christmas
It is the only surviving example which has, up till now, taken its place in the
Bomber Hall at the Museum's London site. Now it is being dismantled and
relocated to the Museum's site in Cosford. Here it will take its place alongside examples of the other two V Bombers in the UK's largest exhibition
dedicated to telling the Cold War.
The Valiant measures in at an incredible 9.8 meters in height, 33 meters in
length, with a wingspan of 34.8 meters. The aircraft is being dismantled by a
team from RAF St Athan. Due to the diesel fumes from the cranes being used, the
hall is being temporarily closed to the public. Visitors to the Museum
who wish to see one of the exhibits in the Bomber Hall should first contact the
The Valiant move was completed at the end of August, however, after that, the Liberator
was moved from Cosford to replace it.
Vickers Valiant at Hendon
Air Formation Signals
During the First World War, the
Royal Engineer Signal Service provided all ground communications, other than
wireless, for the Air Forces in overseas theatres, but in the period between the
wars it became clear that the communication needs of the Royal Air Force would
be considerable and that special training would be required. The Royal Corps of
Signals was formed in 1920, and in 1924 the War Office agreed to create
independent Royal Signals units specifically to meet these Royal Air Force
commitments. In 1937 these became Air Formation Signals, and by the outbreak of
the Second World War two regiment sized units had been formed and trained.
These two units were among the
first to go to France with the BEF on the outbreak of war and by the end of the
war over 21,000 members of the Royal Corps of Signals were engaged in providing
and maintaining landline communications and a dispatch rider letter service for
the RAF in Europe and in the Near and Far East.
During the period from the end
of the Second World War to the present day, the role of Air Formation Signals
has not changed dramatically, but the technology has. The motor cycle dispatch
rider has given way to multi-channel radio. Manual telephone exchanges have been
replaced successively by electro-mechanical and fully electronic switches.
Copper cables have frequently been replaced by fibre optic and the circuits
carried now include data as well as speech and telegraph.
Air Formation Signals are to
be found wherever the Royal Air Force serves, or exercises, overseas and the
cover illustration shows Air Formation Signallers at work on Christmas Island
during the nuclear weapons tests in 1957-58. The Valiant aircraft XD818 that
dropped the first British H-Bomb on 15th May 1957 is now in the RAF Museum at
Hendon, fully restored in its anti-flash colours. The nuclear test programme was
dubbed 'Operation Grapple' and the cancellation stamp shows the Grapple logo - a
Cormorant (a bird equally at home on land or the sea or in the air) holding a
Grapple (the four prongs representing the Navy, Army, Air Force and Atomic
Warfare Research Establishment).
The 'Red Beaufighter' badge was first adopted by Air
Formation Signallers in North Africa and the Far East, where the Beaufighter was
especially effective, and is still worn by Air Support signallers who carry on
the traditions of Air Formation Signals.
Click on the above for a much larger image!
Click on the above for a larger image!
Christmas Island Valiant Bombers
Christmas Island Bomb Tests
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