De Havilland D.H.104 Dove 1B – c/n 04082

With EAFS/Channel from Nov 1954 to Feb 1972

By early 1955, EAFS had been operating the reliable Dragon Rapide for more than 6 years and while they had all provided sterling service for the airline, these venerable bi-planes were painfully slow and were also beginning to look a little dated; thus the search for more modern aircraft began. The first of these replacements would come in the form of Dove VR-NAP which arrived at Southend in November 1954 and would be the first of six of this type to eventually join the EAFS/Channel fleet. However, this Dove would not only bring a new type to EAFS but a new livery too. In an attempt to save costs, the decision was taken to adopt the livery of former owner – West African Airways – with the only real change being the addition of the company titles and a British registration.

Over the winter of 1954/55 she was prepared for the coming season, eventually taking to the air on April the 2nd as G-ANVU on a charter from Southend to Le Touquet, while three days later, she would make her first scheduled flight to Le Bourget. On the 8th she would go into service on the Ostend route and being 50% faster and capable of carrying two more passengers when compared to the Rapide, she spent much of April and May hauling customers back and forth across the Channel on this route. With the introduction of two more Doves in May and June, G-ANVU would share the Ostend route with these new arrivals along with those to Jersey and Le Bourget. Winter however, would see little in the way of work for much of the fleet and Victor Uniform would rest until March.

Indeed, it was on March 26th 1956 that she would make her first, pre-season test flight. Two days later, she would make her first trip to De Havilland on company business which involved the collection of spare parts while on the following day, she would make the first flight of the 1956 season between Southend – Shoreham – Le Bourget. March the 30th would see her making yet another, route opening flight when she accompanied Dove G-AOBZ to Ostend and as such, 1956 would (with the odd exception) bring an end to Channel crossings by the Rapides, these services all having been taken over by Doves, with the former being mostly relegated to the feeder routes between Ipswich, Southend and Rochester. Needless to say, the Doves would still carry out other work from time to time and in May, G-ANVU was chartered to fly communication flights on behalf of English Electric, while the summer would bring EAFS’ first ever night contract which took all three aircraft to Dusseldorf with loads of newspapers from Croydon. Victor Uniform would fly the last of these services on October the 19th.

At this time of year, EAFS/Channel would have normally been bedding down its aircraft for another winter of slumber, however with the opening of Rotterdam Airport in October 1956, services would for the first time continue throughout the winter months. In fact, G-ANVU had flown on the inaugural service on the 1st of this month alongside G-AOCE, although she would only continue these flights until the end of the month, leaving the other two Doves to handle this commitment by themselves. In fact, November Uniform was due to undergo some much required engineering work and as such, departed to De Havilland’s on the 29th of December. She would not be away long however and she quickly returned to the airport with a misbehaving engine. Needless to say with the problem rectified, she departed once more and was back at Southend by January 28th 1957, resuming services to Rotterdam four days later.

The 1957 season, continued to be quite a busy one for the Doves, with three more of the type and the first of two Bristol Wayfarers being added to the fleet during this year. However, the arrival of these new aircraft would see little change in the way that services were flown and over the next three years, G-ANVU found herself settling down into a recurring theme of mostly Jersey and Ostend flights during the summer, while concentrating primarily on Rotterdam in the winter. October 1958 would witness Victor Uniform opening yet another new route this time to Antwerp, inaugurating it on the 22nd. These flights were mostly flown on behalf of the Ford Motor Company and as such were irregular and thus not very popular. The following season would see VU suffering a slight mishap while flying yet another feeder flight between Southend and Jersey. While landing at Shoreham on August 13th 1959, she suffered a nose gear collapse which would put her out of service for several days. Needless to say, it was impossible to keep a good Dove down and she roared back into service and come October, she would find herself flying newspapers around the country thanks to a rail strike.

With the arrival of yet more ‘new’ equipment in the shape of several ex-BEA Dakotas that had started joining the fleet in 1960, G-ANVU would find herself being relegated to the feeder routes of Norwich and Ipswich, much in the same way that she had replaced the Dragons four year earlier. She would continue to operate on these flights during the summer months, while serving as a reserve aircraft for the Ostend and Rotterdam services all the way through to her withdrawal which occurred after returning from a Rotterdam service on March 14th 1963. Indeed, she would not fly again for another 2-1/2 years, finally being reactivated on November 12th 1965 and as such would be given a more minor roll within the airline flying communications tasks, performing crew positioning and undergoing instrument renewal flights, although she would still occasionally fly the feeder service to Rochester (making the last ever flight here on October 14th 1966) and fill in on the Ostend route during the winter when passenger numbers were low. She was also called upon to transport engineers and company officials, one such event taking place during August 1967 when she flew a party to Portsmouth so that they could assess the two company H.S.748s that had both been damaged there on the same day.

At the end of 1967 her fortunes changed again and Victor Uniform would be called back into regular service where she once more began to ply the route between Ipswich and Southend. As the years progressed and passenger numbers began to fall further, especially at Southend after all jet services had been moved to Stansted in 1968, the little Dove would increasingly play a more important roll and by 1970, she was again back on the Ostend and Rotterdam routes, not to mention act as a feeder between Southend and Stansted for its jet services. Indeed, it was on one of the latter flights that G-ANVU would make her final revenue service for Channel, although it is highly likely that she continued to fly on company business up until the collapse of the airline in February 1972 and would as such, forever retain the honour of being both the airline’s and later SEN’s longest serving commercial aircraft.


History of G-ANVU

10/47 to 11/54

West African Airways as VR-NAP

11/54 to 2/72

EAFS/Channel Airways as G-AVNU

2/72 to 8/74

Channel Receiver

8/72 to 2/74

Gerald Lee for Maplin Aviation (Convair Aviation from 3/73)

2/74 to 1/84

BAF/T.D.’Mike’ Keegan

1/84 to 4/86

Unknown owner at Cranfield

4/86 to ?/86

Aces High, Duxford

?/86 to ?/09

Flygvapenmuseum, Linköping, Sweden

?/09 to Present

Loaned to Österlens Flygmuseum


Undergoing restoration work at Österlens Flygmuseum, Gärsnäs, Sweden as of 2017


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