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Investigating historical pictures

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: Education

the clues explained.

This article is from Craig Bulman, author and Vulcan historian/researcher, who was inspired to write in by seeing this photograph in our newsletter last Friday. (Issued on 18th October, and kindly provided by Anthony Tarney).

When I received last weeks 'Newsletter' my attention was drawn to the black and white photo of a Vulcan B.Mk2 at RAF St Athan following the completion of a major service. Thankfully during this week I have a few days off work, therefore I have had some time to take a close look at the small image in your newsletter to try and identify - which Vulcan B.Mk2 this is?

The first noticeable point is that this is a Blue Steel aircraft, evident by the lack of wing attachment points/fairings, i.e. smooth under-surface to the wing. With this in mind, we therefore have an initial short list of 33 such aircraft but then reducing to 24 (XL or the very first XM serial number, but not XL391). The paint scheme applied to this particular B.Mk2 was introduced during the Spring months of 1967 and is recognisable by the 'solid' edge to the green camouflage, which is Polyurethane based and was more durable than the previous 'epoxy' type. It is possible to determine the TFR mod/fairing on the tip of the aircraft's nose, therefore helping to confirm that this aircraft has already been to the manufacturer's facilities at Bitteswell for the appropriate modification during 1966/67. Looking at the profile of the upper fuselage, it would appear that this Vulcan has not yet received the red 'dome' shaped anti-collision light covers, which would therefore provide us with a cut-off date - by the end of 1968.

The next step to take is to find similar images of the aircraft on our shortlist in that era and rule them in or out with regards to the unique pattern of camouflage and position of stencilling markings; most predominant around the aircraft's nose section in the St Athan photo. One example for instance is XL443 seen in this No.83 Sqn photo at Scampton in 1969 - and I am sure you will agree with me that this is 'not' the aircraft in our St Athan photo, most evident by the band of green camouflage to the right of the nose roundel, together with the position of stencil markings.

After taking a look at each of the shortlisted aircraft it is possible to confirm the identity of the Vulcan as XL387 and is seen in the photo below showing the aircraft together with its Blue Steel missile at the RAF Benson, Battle of Britain at Home Day on 19th September 1970, prior to being converted to free-fall.

The date for the St Athan photo would therefore be August - October 1968, showing XL387 of the Scampton Wing, following the completion of its major service.




This is the same Vulcan, which attended RAAF Edinburgh, Australia, for the 50th Anniversary of the RAAF and flew in formation with seven Mirage aircraft on 19th April 1971 over Sydney Harbour Bridge. Coincidently - The Sydney Harbour Bridge was designed and built by a British firm - Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough in 1932; the very same town, which I myself originate from and continue to work in day by day!!!















All this and much, much more, can be gleaned from the excellent Vulcan reference book written by Craig and available now from our web store.



An excellent stocking filler for any member of Vulcan air or ground crew that is sure to bring back many memories. It has also been found to be invaluable in tracing family histories as people research their family trees and the careers of their relatives.
















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