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By SOPHIE WYLLIE
Thursday, November 17, 2011
It bore the brunt of the UK’s nuclear deterrent from the early 1960s to the 1980s and is still seen as iconic by many people around the country.
The Vulcan delta wing bomber was used during the Falklands War in 1982 and acted as a threat to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, from 1957 to 1969.
Now, a group of 10 veteran airmen who either flew or worked on the aircraft have signed 350 limited edition prints of a Vulcan created by artist Mike Rondot, of Dillington, near Dereham.
The original oil on canvas painting depicts the aircraft during a survival scramble - practices carried out during the Cold War because the machines needed to leave the ground within two minutes after a soviet alert was sounded.
Mr Rondot, 63, who had a 25 year career as a pilot at RAF Coltishall, flew more than 5,000 hours on combat jets, including 29 missions in Jaguar fighter bombers during the Gulf War in 1991.
He retired from the RAF as a squadron leader in 1992, which was when he started painting, and the oil on canvas was commissioned and sold for £6,000 to Carl Lamb, a former fighter controller for Lightning aircraft, based at RAF Neatishead, near Wroxham.
The Vulcan bombers were mainly based at RAF Waddington and Scampton, in Lincolnshire, RAF Cottesmore, in Rutland, and RAF Finningley, in Yorkshire, which has since closed and is now the Robin Hood Airport, near Doncaster.
“A two minute survival scramble was a hugely noisy and spectacular event and the whole of the area around Lincoln would come to a standstill to watch it,” Mr Rondot said.
The Vulcan painting was part of an ongoing project by the artist, which has been running for the past 15 years, and celebrates different aircraft from the Cold War era.
It was the sixth piece of art in the series and Mr Rondot started the painting in July this year and completed it in three months.
Mr Rondot said: “The Cold War is a very interesting subject and it goes back to the days when the RAF was four or five times the size it was today.
“The Vulcan is a really iconic aircraft. It has got a huge following and is really popular. It is the great symbol of the Cold War years. People who flew it or worked with it hold it in great affection.”
He added that the Vulcan is the biggest crowd pleaser after the Red Arrows at events, including the Lowestoft Air Show.
The 10 Vulcan veterans came forward a month ago after Mr Rondot appealed through a discussion website for former airmen who were involved with the aircraft to sign prints of his painting.
Some of the proceeds from the sales will go towards the Norwich Aviation Museum at Norwich Airport, which has an example of a Vulcan on show.
The 10 veterans who signed the print on Wednesday were: Flt Lt Stu Thornberry; Flt Lt Bryan Gardner; Flt Lt Bob Wyer; Fl Lt Roy Brocklebank; Squadron Leader Jim Walls; Chief Technician Pete Smith; Sgt Dave Gambrell; Wing Commander David Bruce; Squadron Leader Gordon Lambert and Flt Sgt Peter Reynolds.
Mr Gambrell, 60, of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, was based at RAF Waddington, near Lincoln, for five-and-a-half-years and was a technician on the Vulcan between 1970 and 1975.
He said: “The Vulcan was brilliant because it gave you the chance to fly around the world, see lots of things and make lots of friends. It was a leading part of the deterrent in the Cold War.”
Mr Bruce, 66, of Fenstanton in Cambridgeshire, who was also based at RAF Waddington and nearby RAF Scampton between 1972 and 1979, trained as a Vulcan navigator.
Speaking about being part of a five-man crew on the aircraft, he added: “There was very good support among everybody. It was like being part of a sports team.”
The RAF was supplied with 134 B.Mk2 Vulcans and during the latter years of the Cold War all of the Vulcans were equipped with the British hydrogen bomb, code-named Yellow Sun, which had a power of 1m tonnes of high explosive, or a nuclear-tipped cruise missile called Blue Steel.
In 1969, the RAF handed its strategic deterrent responsibilities to the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarine fleet and the Vulcans flew on through the 1970s as tactical nuclear and conventional bombers. By 1984, all but two Vulcans had left RAF.
The only surviving example of the aircraft, the XH558, is based at the Robin Hood Airport and is still flying thanks to a campaign organised by the Vulcan to the Sky trust.
If you would like to buy prints of the aircraft, which cost £95, contact Mr Rondot by ringing 01362 860890 or visit www.collectair.co.uk
To donate to the Vulcan to the Sky campaign visit www.vulcantothesky.org/