Royal Air Force

The only Vickers Valiant B.2 ever built, first flying 4 September 1953. Intended as a pathfinder in nuclear war, an obsolete role, this all black beast clocked 640 mph at sea-level. It was undoubtedly the most capable strategic bomber ever built in Britain.

She was supposedly adorned her unique gloss black scheme after Vickers chief test pilot saw the design, approved and exclaimed: “And paint the fucker black.”

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The Duchess of Cambridge holds her son, Prince George, as they look at the airplanes and helicopters during The Royal International Air Tattoo on July 8, 2016.

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On 7 July 1941 a Wellington bomber of the Royal Air Force was making for home after striking the German city of Münster, in the Rhineland, when it was caught by a Bf 110 night fighter. The resulting damage sustained caused a fuel leak from the starboard wing, beginning a fire at the rear of the starboard engine. The crew made a hole in the fuselage and attempted to douse the flames with extinguishers and coffee from their flasks to no effect. They were left with little option but to abandon the aircraft until a 22-year-old James Allen Ward, a sergeant pilot from New Zealand, volunteered for a last ditch effort to put out the fire. What ensued is simply incredible.

Ward climbed out of the astrodome in the roof of the fuselage - there for celestial navigation and labelled ‘1.’ in the second photograph - with a fire axe in hand. Once out of the aircraft, he put on a parachute and cutting holes in the fabric skin of the Wellington for purchase made his way down onto the wing and across to the burning engine, all while the aircraft was in flight at as best a reduced speed as could be managed. Nearly blown from the wing by the  slipstream from the propeller a few feet ahead, he managed to extinguish the fire and by removing fabric from the area later starved another fire from material to burn. With difficulty he made it safely back into the aircraft, which limped home and made a successful landing.

Ward won the Victoria Cross for his phenomenal efforts, a rare case of doing so and surviving. Sadly however, he was killed on 15 September the same year, still just 22. Piloting another Wellington, his aircraft was hit by flak over Hamburg, Germany; two of the five crew survived. He is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in Hamburg.