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English Electric Canberra Book Review Section


English Electric Canberra by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny Reviews for English Electric Canberra

The following are just a few reviews of my Book: English Electric Canberra.


‘Highly illustrated throughout, the book includes interviews with Wing Commander K.H.Wallis, the man Halpenny attributes as having “saved the Canberra”.’


‘In the introduction to this remarkable book, the author states, “it was a matter of producing either a technical book, or one that would appeal to a wider readership, setting out the true Canberra story: marks, variants, overseas orders, squadrons, records, experimental Canberras, camouflage, markings, and most importantly, the truth about bombing up the aircraft; also serious problems with which the Canberra was sent out to operational R.A.F. stations." He chose the latter and without doubt, the finished article is an outstanding tribute to a remarkable aeroplane.

The book has taken 18 years to complete and acknowledgments cover two full pages - a testimony to the thoroughness and of his research. Among the many firms and names mentioned, one in particular comes in for special mention. W/Cdr. K H Wallis, builder and flyer of 'Little Nellie' featured in the Bond film, ‘You Only Live Twice’. It was the same officer who saved the life of the Canberra by inventing the system of loading bombs for as late at 1951 at R.A.F. Binbrook, not a single aircraft was capable of delivering bombs, simply because the fuselage was too low to the ground!

Designed by W Petter (also the Lightening and GNAT fighters), the Canberra first flew at Warton on Friday 13th May 1949 in the hands of test pilot Roland Beaumont. The last Canberra Squadron, No 39, is due to disband in 2006 at R.A.F. Marham, thus completing an operational life of 55 years.

With Canberra's introduction came the early Rolls Royce Axial Flow Avon engine, a full description of which, its history and development is given in Chapter 2 - the author even tells us how a jet engine delivers its thrust.

In a brief review of this prodigious publication, it is hard to leave out certain features. However mention must be made of the collection of photographs - some never seen before, also the history and deployment of no less than 81 Squadrons each of which flies the Canberra in its various marks and roles. It is also significant that over 400 aircraft were built under licence in America, designated the B-57.

Whilst I appreciate the author sets out to tell the true Canberra story, I fell that somewhere there ought to be a piece saying what it's like to fly. My own experience, including the privilege of flying Aires V, the greatest record breaker of them all, is that like the Mosquito, it is a thoroughbred and takes a competent jockey to drive it, especially on one engine.’

Review by M.F.H.D. – Squadron Leader Mike Dobson A.F.C.
'The Eagle' ... Journal of the History of the Glider Pilot Regiment

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