The Handley Page Victor...

 

...Tales from a Crew Chief, 40 Years of Life with the Victor, from Pen and Sword

 

Title: The Handley Page Victor

Author: Roger R. Brooks

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-52673-257-2

 

This new book is a follow-up from the author's two earlier book about the Development and History of the type.  What we have here is a collection of individual memories from the author of his career as an engineer and later Crew Chief on the Victor tanker squadrons. He spent 23 years in service with the RAF. His association with the Victor tanker started in 1965 when he was posted to RAF Marham, and he worked with them until he left the service in 1980. That wouldn't be the end of his association with the Victor however, as he continued to make valuable contributions to the preservation of two retired Victors, one in the collection of the IWM at Duxford, and the other at Elvington in Yorkshire. This extended his work with the type to 40 years of invaluable experience.

Reading the stories of his RAF time, his work as an engineer alongside the other specialists who kept these large aircraft flying for so many years makes for some interesting insights. From the lack of space, crawling inside the tight spaces of the wing structure to get at fuel tank pumps for servicing/replacement, to dealing with the difficulties of power cuts during the '3-Day Week' and his experiences of flying abroad in support of the tankers as they accompanied fighters on various tasks. It also highlights the days when Britain had more bases overseas, so flights took him to West Germany, Malta, Cyprus and Egypt as well as in the opposite direction to Canada and the USA.

The various stories also highlight the level of attention to detail that was paid by the engineering teams to ensure the safe operation of the tanker fleet, along with the level of support given by the RAF to what on the surface may seem a simple operation.  For example, to get a couple of aircraft such as Harriers to take part in exercises in the USA, they would be accompanied across the Atlantic by a couple of tankers with a third one 'spare' at Goose Bay in Labrador. As well as the Harriers themselves, and the tankers, there could be one transport aircraft carrying spares, ground equipment trollies etc and another to get the ground crew teams out there as well. Something of an eye opener for many aviation enthusiasts I suspect. Memories of 'Empire' and the Cold War amidst the details of working with the Victor over so many years.

The final couple of chapters tell us how he extending his experience of the Victor by giving his expert knowledge and invaluable help over more years to fir the IWM collection at Duxford, and their preserved example, including using his personal contacts to help obtain valuable support equipment as the number of Victors in RAF service was being wound down. He was to do the same again at Elvington, with their Victor, which is kept operational to be able to do fast taxi runs. Sadly it seems his valuable inputs were not appreciated perhaps as they might by the two museum collections concerned. A marvellous collection of individual stories which add together to give a good picture of Victor tanker operations over so many years.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for my review copy.

Robin