Blackburn Beverley C.1

XB261 Beverley

XB261

With the H.A.M from Oct 1971 to May 1983*

In 1952, the RAF ordered their first, highly capable freighter – the Blackburn Beverley. With the ability to lift 23 tons of equipment and troops, the Beverley brought a sorely needed heavy lift capability to Transport Command and by the end of 1958, almost 50 aircraft had been delivered to the RAF. However, XB261 was not to be one of them and instead spent most of her service life at the Aeroplane & Armament, Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Farnborough. However, while her service exploits may not have be legendary, she was the only Beverley to cross the Atlantic, a fact recorded by the small, Canadian maple leaf that was subsequently stencilled onto her nose.

In 1971, being designated as excess to requirements, she was sent to the H.A.M. at Southend for retirement and on October 6th the growl of her four, powerful Bristol Centaurus engines announced her arrival as she passed over the town, after which she went on to make one final, perfect landing on SEN’s runway. She remained parked up on SEN’s northern apron for a short period of time before being taxied to the purpose built compound of the new museum that awaited her. Needless to say, the Beverley instantly became an object of intense fascination and interest for both the young and mature aviation enthusiast alike, with her massive tail boom becoming the most dominant feature on Aviation Way and it was in this very location that she would remain for the last 17 years of her life.

The short trip to the new museum under the command of BAF F/O Tom Burt and Nigel Stockwell is a rather interesting story in itself as Nigel who acted as flight engineer on the day relates… Yes it was fun, especially when we shut down the outers (there was a risk that the props might have struck the gateposts) and reversed her through the museum compound gate using just the inboard engines. However, the oil temperature started to rise alarmingly, so I exited the aircraft to see if I could spot anything untoward and found that the cowl gills were still closed – we had omitted to open them. Once opened, things returned to normal. The gate opening in those days faced the south end of the newly built museum building (not Aviation Way as it later did) and we were concerned we would blow in the windows in the process of reversing. I’m sure those watching enjoyed it almost as much as we did. Incidentally, we did ask to do a high speed run along the runway en route from the apron to the museum but ATC declined to approve it.”

The Beverley also holds many special memories for former H.A.M. visitors being as she was one of the few and certainly the largest aircraft inXB261 cockpit the museum to almost always keep her doors open to the public. Many who clambered aboard marvelled at her vast, voluminous hold, while the rear clamshell doors were occasionally opened during the summer months. Needless to say, the more adventurous would invariably climb the ladder to her upper floor and cockpit which sat high above the ground. However during the early ’80s, her ever worsening condition forced the museum’s proprietors to restrict access apart from on special occasions. However, by early 1982 the deterioration had become so extensive that the Beverley had to shut her doors for good.

With the museum’s demise in March 1983 she was sold off although XB261 remained in situ, the buyer Ian XB261 stationHuddlestone initially employing her as a ‘gate guardian’ for the newly opened ‘Roller City’ that had taken over the main museum building. However, serious corrosion in the undercarriage oleos and stress fractures in the leading edge of the tail boom had turned this aircraft into a serious hazard and with no preservation societies waiting in the wings to ensure her survival, she was eventually JCB’d to death during the spring of 1989 with all traces of her being gone by April of that year. With the Hendon Beverley also being broken up during the same year, the future looked bleak for this type. However as of 2016, XB259 remains in one piece at Fort Paull in Hull under the care of a dedicated group of volunteers. Sadly, the only part of XB261 to survive was the cockpit and part of the upper deck which first went to Duxford and then on to the Newark Air Museum where it still resides to this very day.

With thanks to Nigel Stockwell for the additional info

XB261 2