English Electric Canberra T4

WJ874 was built in 1954 and held in reserve until January 1956 when it was issued to RAF Binbrook Station Flight where it remained for four years, it was then transferred to the RAF Coningsby Station Flight on in January 1960, it then moved to 231 Operational Conversion Unit (231OCU) at RAF Bassingbourn, where it remained in service until it was placed in store at RAF Shawbury 27 Maintenance Unit (27MU).

On 12th November 1969, WJ874 was transferred to the Royal Navy at Hurn airfield (now Bournemouth Airport) where it commenced service with the civilian Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU). As aeroplane ‘847’ WJ874 was operated on training duties for the two years with the FRU until it was moved to RNAS Lee-on-Solent in November 1971. Modifications were then carried out by the Naval Air Radio Installation Unit (NARIU), and the airframe returned to Hurn for a short time before it was sent to RAF St Athan for a major airframe inspection on 3rd February 1972.

In April 1974, WJ874 was re-introduced into the Fleet Air Arm and stationed at the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Training Unit (FRADTU) at RNAS Yeovilton. In 1975 it was allocated the fleet number ‘858’ and operated by FRADU (the word Training had been dropped during the previous year). In April 1986, WJ874 was withdrawn from FRADU service and was officially returned to the RAF at RAF Wyton with 231OCU.

Back in RAF ownership, WJ874 re-commenced its pilot training role with 231OCU until the Unit was disbanded in April 1993. The aeroplane then passed to the combined RAF/Royal Navy Canberra Unit, RAF 360 Sqn at RAF Wyton, where it remained in use until October 1994 when that too was disbanded. All the Canberra T.4s left in service were then absorbed by RAF 39 (1 PRU) Squadron based at RAF Marham, and rotated between service and storage.

In April 1999, WJ874 was selected to represent the prototype Canberra VN799 to mark 50th Anniversary of the Canberra.
The aeroplane was moved to Bournemouth Airport for re-finishing by Flight Refuelling Ltd, and it soon emerged in the classic overall petter blue scheme as worn by VN799 on its first flight on 13th May 1949. It took centre stage in the birthday celebrations at BAe Warton, and was later displayed at several events during the 1999 air show season, in between its regulation training duties with RAF 39 Sqn. WJ874 made its last operational flight on 1st September 2005, and was offered for disposal shortly afterwards.

On the 9th November 2005 it was flown to Coventry airport having been purchased by Air Atlantique Classic Flight. In September 2013 WJ874 was the subject of the Channel 5 programme Monster Moves which showed the aircraft being dismantled and moved to the Classic Air Force (CAF) at Newquay where it was re-assembled. In July 2015 the ownership of WJ874 was transferred to the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre.

Technical specification

  • Manufacturer: English Electric
  • Purpose: High-altitude, high-speed light bomber
  • In Service: 1951-2006
  • Power Plant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Avon R.A.7 Mk.109 turbojets, 7,400 lbf (36 kN) each
  • Maximum Speed: Mach 0.88 (580 mph, 933 km/h) at 40,000 ft.
  • Range: 3,380 mi (2,940 nm, 5,440 km)