Our thanks to Alan Young, Flt Lt RAF Ret'd, for sending in this memory of his time with Vulcans.
I joined my first Vulcan Crew as AEO in 1966. Ten years later I was on a 50 Sqn display crew based at Waddington. That was the year of the US bi-centennial celebrations. It was agreed that the Lincoln copy of the Magna Carta would be shipped to the States to be displayed in San Francisco Cathedral as part of the celebrations.
The original plan was for it to be flown by civil airlines. The Dean was concerned about its security in transit particularly with the number of people who would need to be made aware of the travel arrangements both in the UK and the US. These included Police, Airport Security staff and baggage handlers and several aircrews to list but a few.
In the end a special fire and water-proof box was constructed to contain this valuable cargo and as my crew, captained by Sqn Ldr John Prideaux, was programmed to display at the Castle AFB, California, Open day and it was decided that the box containing the Magna Carta would be taken by us. This had the advantage of cutting the numbers of those who ‘needed to know’ about the move from several hundreds to a mere dozen or so.
On 29th September 1976 an armed convoy arrived at our aircraft (XM 651). ‘The box’ was secured in the bomb-aimer’s compartment with the co-pilot and I each being presented with a key to one of the two securing locks. Five hours later we arrived a Goose Bay and had to remain in the aircraft until it had been moved into a hangar which was then locked and guarded by RCMP for the next 8 hours. Our 7 man crew, including 2 crew chiefs, guarded the aircraft in pairs overnight.
The following day, after a 6 hours flight we arrived at Castle AFB, California, to be surrounded by about 20 heavily armed USAF Military Police. A few minutes later the Deans of Lincoln and San Francisco Cathedrals and two armoured security vans arrived to take control of ‘the box’ for its transfer to San Francisco.
We 7 crew members were each presented with an engraved cut-glass crystal goblet commemorating this historic occasion. Several months later another Vulcan crew flew the Magna Carta back to Waddington. The crew members of that crew also received a commemorative crystal goblet.