Vickers Valiant Bomber

18 August 2005

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This Web site contains information on the only surviving example of a Vickers Valiant Bomber which took part in the nuclear testing at Christmas Island, Line Islands, Republic of Kiribati. It also gives a little information on Air Formation Signals, including the role they played in the Christmas Island Bomb Tests (Operation Grapple).


In its heyday, the Valiant served as a long range jet bomber through most of the 1950s and into the early 1960s. Along with the Victor and Vulcan, it was one of Britain's three V-Bombers during the Cold War era.

The aircraft currently being dismantled at the Museum's site in London (Valiant XD818), was the aircraft which dropped the first hydrogen bomb at Christmas Island.

It is the only surviving example which has, up till now, taken its place in the Bomber Hall at the Museum's London site. Now it is being dismantled and relocated to the Museum's site in Cosford. Here it will take its place alongside examples of the other two V Bombers in the UK's largest exhibition dedicated to telling the Cold War.

The Valiant measures in at an incredible 9.8 meters in height, 33 meters in length, with a wingspan of 34.8 meters. The aircraft is being dismantled by a team from RAF St Athan. Due to the diesel fumes from the cranes being used, the hall is being temporarily closed to the public. Visitors to the Museum who wish to see one of the exhibits in the Bomber Hall should first contact the Museum.

The Valiant move was completed at the end of August, however, after that, the Liberator was moved from Cosford to replace it.

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Air Formation Signals

     During the First World War, the Royal Engineer Signal Service provided all ground communications, other than wireless, for the Air Forces in overseas theatres, but in the period between the wars it became clear that the communication needs of the Royal Air Force would be considerable and that special training would be required. The Royal Corps of Signals was formed in 1920, and in 1924 the War Office agreed to create independent Royal Signals units specifically to meet these Royal Air Force commitments. In 1937 these became Air Formation Signals, and by the outbreak of the Second World War two regiment sized units had been formed and trained.

     These two units were among the first to go to France with the BEF on the outbreak of war and by the end of the war over 21,000 members of the Royal Corps of Signals were engaged in providing and maintaining landline communications and a dispatch rider letter service for the RAF in Europe and in the Near and Far East.

     During the period from the end of the Second World War to the present day, the role of Air Formation Signals has not changed dramatically, but the technology has. The motor cycle dispatch rider has given way to multi-channel radio. Manual telephone exchanges have been replaced successively by  electro-mechanical and fully electronic switches. Copper cables have frequently been replaced by fibre optic and the circuits carried now include data as well as speech and telegraph.

     Air Formation Signals are to be found wherever the Royal Air Force serves, or exercises, overseas and the cover illustration shows Air Formation Signallers at work on Christmas Island during the nuclear weapons tests in 1957-58. The Valiant aircraft XD818 that dropped the first British H-Bomb on 15th May 1957 is now in the RAF Museum at Hendon, fully restored in its anti-flash colours. The nuclear test programme was dubbed 'Operation Grapple' and the cancellation stamp shows the Grapple logo - a Cormorant (a bird equally at home on land or the sea or in the air) holding a Grapple (the four prongs representing the Navy, Army, Air Force and Atomic Warfare Research Establishment).

The 'Red Beaufighter' badge was first adopted by Air Formation Signallers in North Africa and the Far East, where the Beaufighter was especially effective, and is still worn by Air Support signallers who carry on the traditions of Air Formation Signals. 

Click on the above for a much larger image!

Click on the above for a larger image!

Updated Information on Valiant XD818

Kindly provided by David Dent
with gratitude and appreciation

An update on Valiant XD818.  The aircraft has moved to Cosford and is housed in the new museum.

In May we held the 50th anniversary of the Megaton Club which is made up of the crews of 49 squadron Valiants which carried out the weapon drops during 1957 and 1958.  Attached are some photographs which may be of interest to you for your archives.  One shows a line up of Valiants at Christmas Island in 1957.  The second is the Megaton Club members and the third is Valiant XD818 being moved into the museum hall.


Christmas Island Valiant Bombers 1

Christmas Island Valiant Bombers 2

Christmas Island Bomb Tests

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