Vickers Varsity
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Darcy Waldron, e-mail, 24.11.2020 23:09

Hello Robert,
I am sending this mail in the hope that your contact details have not changed. As a matter of interest I was stationed at Thorney Island from 64 to 65 working out of the sunshine hanger covering Beverlies, Hastings and Argosies along with visiting aircraft. The primary reason I wanted to contact you was, as an airframe person, to ask whether the Varsity had a Magnesium main spar? I am a volunteer at Brooklands museum covering the Varsity and am contemplating rubbing down and retreating areas on this item and wanted to be aware as to what I was dealing with. Thanks in anticipation of your response. Regards.

Henry Robert Parkinson, e-mail, 20.09.2020 15:03

I converted onto the Varsity in 1964 after Jet Provost to wings training at Syerston and before going onto the Shackleton. At one point, after a blazing argument with my instructor, over the movie, "The Great Escape" of all things, I was close to being suspended. I was given a "make-or-break" flight with the Chief Instructor, Wing Commander Stanislaus Wandzilak. Thanks to his guidance and support I passed with flying colours. I remember him and the Varsity with great affection.

neal wyrill, e-mail, 27.04.2020 17:51

Dear Sir
i run a Facebook group about swinderby and have come across this document , sent to me , from flight magazine in 1952 called The work of an advanced Flying school Varsity T. 1. and Valletta T3 , do you have any information that i could use please for my page which is
Kind Regards
Neal Wyrill

Tony Lively, e-mail, 15.09.2017 17:43

I worked on Varsitys and Valettas (fondly or otherwise known as "pigs") at Cranwell on Nav Squadron from 1960 to 1962. As an instrument fitter if anything needed changing under the cowlings, they just opened up like flower petals, all the room in the world. Great to fly in also.

Tom osborne, e-mail, 06.07.2017 22:26

Did my flight engineer training on Varsitys at RAF Topcliffe 1972. Great times and trip to Portugal & Gib.for final checkout.

Bruce Allen, e-mail, 21.12.2016 17:37

I was posted out of Cosford B/E as a AWM to RAF Stradishal 1 ANS 63 -65. Did several NAVX's as supenumary crew to Gib, Malta & Tripoli. One occasion we had a double Mag drop on landing at Nice (South of France) for refueling & had to stay there for a week waiting for spares to be flown out! BEA paid for the hotel, billing the RAF we had enough dosh from the imprest to struggle through. Tough duty!

Robert (Clem) Clements, e-mail, 11.09.2016 02:55

National service 1952 to 1954 at 2ANS Thorney Island as Airframe Mechanic. Worked on Wellington, Valletta, Varsity & Anson. Many trips in Varsity. Longest in 1953 to Tripoli. Will always remember lying in bombaimers spot during this lying on the clouds, incredible feeling. Putting these aircraft to rest involved much marshalling & recall some difficult times at night using light wands. Many hours at night spent when 'circuit & bumps' in operation when tyres etc had to be checked on each landing.

Frank Twyman, e-mail, 03.06.2016 01:48

Fond memories of this aircraft as I was stationed at Tangmere during 1962/63 with the calibration flight, as an ex boy entrant this was my first posting as a ground wireless mechanic, our job was to look after a vhf radio that was taken with us on all flights and unloaded at our destination and used by the navigator on the ground while ILS calibrations took place. We flew to most airfields in the uk and Germany as well as doing the round of Gibralter Malta Cyprus and ElAdem, happy days lots of fun.

Steve Burdon, e-mail, 30.04.2016 21:32

I used to see these guys arriving at RAF St.Mawgan all through the '70s. The crew used to enjoy our special tea bar we set up at MDA Flt (Master Diversion Airfield).

Geoff Keyte, e-mail, 25.04.2016 08:46

Back in 1962 or 63 I spent a week at RAF Topcliffe , I was a cadet with 1365 sqdn Aylesbury , we had a long flight over the north sea in a Varsity , I still have the photograph taken of our squadron in front of the aircraft we flew in , happy days !!!!

Clive Brooks, e-mail, 27.03.2016 15:13

Like John Goodwin who posted above I was also stationed at RAF Oakington in the early 1970s and flew as the Engineer on training flights to Berlin on a few occasions. The only time my skills were required was when the aircraft had to divert into RAF Wildenrath with a Magneto problem; we had no spares and support had to be sent out to fix it. Great times and I was also part of the team who saw the Varsity replaced by the Jetstream. (John, can't remember you but, then again, my memory is getting a bit flaky these days!)

John Hubbard, e-mail, 02.03.2016 18:11

I was at Swinderby from July 1953 to May 1954 as a Sgt Air
Signaller during which time I flew over 300hrs in Varsitys.
on NAVEXs.Remember how cold it was at night at 23000 feet on oxygen One of the aircraft was WF372 at that time designated V. She is now at Brooklands Museum where I currently work as a volunteer. re united after all these years.

Brian Sharples, e-mail, 03.02.2016 14:27

I was an engine fitter at No2 ANS,RAF Thorney Island working on Varsity aircraft both 1st and 2nd line servicing from 1961 to 1962 when the unit moved to Stradishall and became o 1 ANS.I have very fond memories of those days and in particular the Varsity (Flying pig).

Les Rockel, e-mail, 14.03.2015 10:51

I was on No 52 AFS course at Oakington on the Varsity during 1966/67. I enjoyed my six months there very much indeed & went on to the Mk 1 Andover. Happy Days.

Peter Morris, e-mail, 23.01.2015 12:50

I flew in the first Varsities delivered to RAF Swinderby in October 1951. I was unfortunate to be in the first to crash on 15 October 1951, the undercarriage collapsed on landing, due to crew error, no one was hurt, it was a case of flying with the pilots notes on your lap, learning as you flew.

P Sergeant, e-mail, 03.01.2015 20:50

I flew air experience in the Varsity of 2 ANS at RAF Gaydon late 1960's while also at 637 VGS same base. Spent some great time flying over the Scilly Islands, out into the atlantic, back over the Irish sea, then Bristol Gloucester and back to Gaydon. In the back were Navigator students, and a Instructor, two pilots the captain being a Master Aircrew, his second was a Flying Officer.Spent some hours in the bomb bay great views. Remember the stainless food containers, flasks of coffee, and the chest parachutes fitted along the left side being told if we have trouble get the chute on fast and out the door in 15 seconds because the main spar was magnesium. I remember a flight later packed with civvies which crashed and burned which sent a shiver up my spine. Nice aircraft and great aircrews made the flights special for us as cadets.

ken johnson, e-mail, 08.02.2014 21:50

i was a member of 1869 sqn air cadets in middlesbrough.i spent a week at raf finningley(a v-bomber base)in the 60, first ever flight in a plane was there in a varsity.absolutely marvellous for a lad of 15.

Ken Munday, e-mail, 05.08.2013 15:44

I served at Lindhome when Bomber Command Bombing School was set up. They were delivered new to be used for training in bomb aiming. They were a delight to service after the Lincolns. As their radios were the latest models (apart from the 1954/1955 sets), so there was very little for an air wireless mechanic to do.

Kelvin Willcocks, e-mail, 08.06.2013 18:24

In the mid 60s I was a young ATC cadet (2336 Sqdn.)and stayed at RAF Oakington as our summer camp. My friend and I flew on a Varsity as an air experience flight. The only instructions by the crew was to stay out of the Gondola and don't touch anything. We proceeded to take off and fly circuits and bumps without any form of restraint! To our amusement the pilot did several touch and goes with one engine cut and the prop feathered. My friend and I were as happy as sand boys and just went where we wanted in the back! What would Health and Safety say about that now?
A great experience and something that would be frownd on now,to the detriment of a young persons learning curve.

ancientwokkadriver, e-mail, 13.05.2013 21:21

I wonder if anyone out there can relate RAF serial numbers to individual fleet letters for the Varsities based at Topcliffe. Can anyone put a serial number on a/c 'U'?

John Huggins, e-mail, 20.01.2013 00:05

I did my advanced flying training on the Varsity at RAF Oakington, we used Waterbeach as a relief landing groound. It was a joy to fly, with 2400 set and take off flap you could turn on a sixpence! My only bad recollection is of one trainee crew landing short of the runway. The deceleration was so rapid that both pilots were killed by their lungs detaching and crushing their hearts! After finishing the course I was sent to RAF Strubby to coilot for people going through the school of refresher flying. This waqs wonderful as most were second world war pilots and I met some true heroes like Cyclops Brown who had lost an eye in combat. After I became the first to posted on to the Vulcan B2 as a copilot. There had been problems with pilots going on them from the Gnat as they had no experience of flying with a crew and at the time the rear crew on Vulcans were very sensitive about their survival if they had to bale out at low level an almost impossible task. I would later go on to be one of the youngest to command a Vulcan crew and the Varsity training was a key factor in this. A truy remarkable aircraft which did its job very well with little fuss and does not get the acclaim it deserves.

Chris Edghill, e-mail, 24.10.2012 15:59

I have very happy memories of the Varsity we used to get 4 hr trips out of RAF Topcliffe over the North Sea to Wick and return overland to Topcliffe. We would get intercepted by Lightings and Phantoms out of RAF Leuchars. This was when I was a cadet with 110 City of York Sqn

John Goodwin, e-mail, 13.09.2012 12:37

I was lucky enough to work as an engine fitter on the Varsity from 1972 to 1974 while stationed at RAF OAKINGTON, I was fortunate enough to do many flights in the aircraft, usually training flight from Oakington to Berlin and once to Malta which was a very long flight in a Varsity. I moved over to the Jetstream which was being phased in to service as a replacement to the Varsity.

david leggatt, e-mail, 21.08.2012 14:47

whilst a cadet with 461 atc chichester l used to bunk school to go flying in Signals command varsities at Tangmere. Fantastic plane to fly in most trips were radar calibration jobs.

Mike Laundy, e-mail, 04.03.2012 23:21

I flew the Varsity from RAF Strubby in 1972 on a Piston multi engine refresher course, prior to a tour in Germany on the Percival Pembroke. My memories are changing gear on the supercharger in the climb (M gear and S gear) the only aircraft I have flown where I had to change gear! I also had a lightning strike on the pitot head (about 2 ft away from my left knee) it made me jump a bit! It also magnetised the aircraft so we had to do a no compass recovery through cloud as the compasses were all pointing at the left wing tip.

Roy Williamason, e-mail, 27.11.2011 12:29

I was an ATC cadet on a 2 week camp at Gaydon around 1968. One night they took three of us up in a Varsity to the south coast, over Cornwall to the Scillies, onward towards Ireland and then back to base. We took turns to lay in the Gondola. Our job was to serve hot cocoa from the largest thermos flask I have ever seen to navig trainees. I'll never forget that trip.

Keith Allen, e-mail, 21.09.2011 22:33

I was at RAF Swinderby late 1952 for 3 months with 201 AFS as a Navigator and enjoyed flying in the Varsity.

I am Chairman of the RAF Swinderby Association & we welcome new members based at Swinderby up to closure in 1993.

Steve Papa, e-mail, 10.09.2011 16:04

as an air cadet with 1451 squadron based at Haverhill I have great memories of doing circuits and bumps in a Varsity at RAF Stradishall in 1968.
A wonderful old plane.

Kevin Venters, e-mail, 16.07.2011 18:01

I love this aircraft. When I was a boy in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire they were based a few miles away at RAF Strubby until its closure in 1972 I think. I well remember the chubby things lumbering around the local skies; a pure touch of nostalgia to see one again.

daxiong, 20.06.2011 10:50

they used to look fantastic in the 6FTS livery.The sound of those Bristol Hercules engines lumbering over was great. They are sorely missed.

Dave Branchett, e-mail, 03.03.2011 23:45

I was an Engine fitter at Oakington from 1961 to 1964 and worked in ASF on both Vampire T11s and the Varsity. We carried out all scheduled serving apart from Majors. Biggest job for us was plug changes: 14 cylinders meant 28 plugs and 28 HT lead ends all needing to be torque loaded and wire locked, sometimes the lead ends would be and the plug would turn as well, this meant a complete rewire of that part of the ignition harness, I loved it.

David Cross, e-mail, 05.02.2011 12:49

I was posted to RAF Stradishall, No1 ANS to work on Varsitys. Had many hours flying in the bomb aimers position, and met some great people. Now going to make a scale model of the beast, for old times sake.

a. baldwin, e-mail, 01.02.2011 15:53

i used to work at brooklands aviation,at northamton.who used to referbish varsities and valletas

Jack Tarr, e-mail, 22.01.2011 17:56

I worked on Varsity at RAF Stradishall around 1967 when they were used for navigator trainers. I remember landing at RAF Gibralta in one while laying in the bombaimer's position, I will never do that again! A noisy, dirty, fun beast to work on.

ROBERT SYMONS, e-mail, 08.12.2010 15:01

I only flew in the Varsity once. That was when we had a Bomber Command Mickey Finn exercise, and I had to be flown from Boscombe Down to Wattisham. I was the only passenger. Rather expensive exercise.

barry jones, e-mail, 16.11.2010 15:47

as a young boy i used to watch varsities at finningley and they became my all time favourite aircraft, they used to look fantastic in the 6FTS livery.The sound of those Bristol Hercules engines lumbering over was great. They are sorely missed.

barry jones, e-mail, 16.11.2010 15:46

as a young boy i used to watch varsities at finningley and they became my all time favourite aircraft, they used to look fantastic in the 6FTS livery.The sound of those Bristol Hercules engines lumbering over was great. They are sorely missed.

Richard Whybray, e-mail, 07.08.2008 23:44

As a child I grew up under the downwind leg of RAF Oakington, with Varsities flying over at 1000 feet day and night. I grew to love this ugly duckling. At night you could see twin beams from the underwing spotlights, and I remember how the beams swung to point vertically down as the lights retracted

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