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WH803's service history

English Electric Canberra WH803 was to be built as a Canberra PR.3 for the Royal Air Force, but was instead upgraded on the Preston production line to PR.7 specification. It was declared fit for collection in June 1954, and was later posted to RAF 540 Squadron (Sqn) at RAF Wyton. Unfortunately at the time of writing it is unknown how long WH803 was with this Squadron, but at some stage it was later transferred to RAF 17 Sqn at RAF Wahn. This Unit was part of the RAF Germany Canberra force, and WH803 remained with the Unit for the rest of its RAF flying career, which came to an end in 1969 following its disbandment. It was moved back to the UK and placed in store at RAF St Athan, pending its next move.

The aeroplane was transferred to Royal Navy charge on 15th February 1971, and following further time in store was moved to Salmesbury for conversion to T.22 status in October of that year. The transformation work was completed in May 1974, but as the aeroplane was not immediately required for service with the Fleet Air Arm it was returned to St Athan where it was again held in reserve. Three months later, WH803 was loaned to the RAF and issued to RAF 39 Sqn at Wyton for trials purposes, and remained in use until being ferried back St Athan following the completion of the test programme in May 1975.

On 2nd July 1976, WH803 finally entered service with the Fleet Air Arm when it joined the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) at RNAS Yeovilton. It was assigned the call-sign '856', and was operated on various sorties until April 1979, when it was grounded for a major airframe inspection at RAF St Athan.
Reinstated into service on 30th October 1979, WH803 immediately picked up where it left off, providing steady and reliable service to FRADU for the next five years.

On 31st May 1984, the aeroplane was flown to RAF St Athan for storage, a move that ultimately ended its flying career with the Fleet Air Arm. WH803 was the last of the seven Canberra T.22 airframes to enter FRADU service, and it was the first to be withdrawn after just eight years service. It would remain in store at St Athan until May 1991, when it was offered for disposal.

[ Lindsay Peacock]

[ Mike Freer]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Robin A. Walker]

[ Bob Turner]

WH803's civilian life

WH803 was bought for scrap by Hanningfield Metals, and was cut up into sections and moved to its yard in Stock, Essex in October 1991.
Whilst the majority of the airframe was processed promptly, the cockpit section survived until February 1993, when it too was scrapped.

- April 2020

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