Strategic bomber goes on display


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11 April 2022
XH648 is towed across IWM Duxford’s airfield for work to start in the hangar XH648 is towed across IWM Duxford’s airfield for work to start in the hangar
Only remaining Handley Page Victor aircraft of its kind in the world to be reassembled and displayed at IWM Duxford following five-year restoration.
Strategic bomber goes on display Images

Imperial War Museums has announced the upcoming display of the Handley Page Victor XH648, the only one of its type in the world. This historic jet-powered strategic bomber has undergone a meticulous five-year restoration project and, on 20 April, will move into IWM Duxford’s Conservation Hall in Airspace for its final six weeks of conversation works. During this period, the public can see this conservation in action, including the reattachment of the wings to return the Victor to its full 110-foot wingspan. Following these works, the Victor will remain on permanent display from 27 May 2022, in time for May half term.

Acquired by IWM Duxford in June 1976 on its retirement from service, the redisplay of the Victor draws to a close an in-depth five-year restoration and conservation project – one of the largest ever undertaken by the museum – supported by a fundraising campaign that has raised over £25,000 in donations from individuals. The process has seen the bomb bay doors treated for corrosion, paint stripped from the aft fuselage, and some parts removed altogether with new parts fabricated. This has been made possible thanks to the hard work of specialist conservators, machinists and conservation volunteers, some of whom will be giving talks and tours to visitors describing how their team went about conserving the jet and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

XH648’s first flight was on 27 November 1959 and was then flown as part of the Far East Air Force during the confrontation with Indonesia in 1962-63 with 15 Squadron based at RAF Cottesmore. On return from Indonesia, it was converted by Handley Page in 1965 into a two-point tanker and spent 10 years with No. 55 Squadron at RAF Marham before being retired to Duxford just over 10 years later. The Victor is being repainted in its markings from its service with 55 Squadron during these years.

Carl Warner, Head of Narrative and Curatorial at IWM Duxford, said, “Close to 50 years after this one-of-a-kind Handley Page Victor arrived at Duxford, we’re thrilled that the hard work of our conservation team and generous donations from the public means we can display this historical and technological object and give people a greater understanding of its place in aviation history. As the only surviving Victor B1A in the world, this is an iconic aircraft with a design that was seen as incredibly futuristic when it was first developed in the 1950s. It was even intended to have a fully detachable cockpit for use as an escape pod! Today it stands as a symbol of innovation and tells an important part of the story of the Cold War conflict.”

Former Squadron Leader, Garden West, flew over 1,800 hours on the Victor, including many on XH648, and was part of the Victor force involved in the Indonesian confrontation. He said, “Most servicemen believe that the vehicles they operated are extraordinarily special and deserve to be in a museum, but few of us are lucky enough to return to see them on display. It’s an honour to see one of the Victor Mk 1s I served in restored to its finest fettle. Its unique and unmistakable presence immediately brings back vivid memories of operations in bygone days, and I hope lots of people will visit and learn about its place in aviation history.”

Following the Victor’s move, IWM Duxford’s Conservation In Action hangar (Hangar 5) will close to the public to enable restoration and structural works to take place on the Hangar. It will reopen later this year and feature new items and displays showcasing further work of IWM’s team of conservators and volunteers.


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