Republic F-84F Thunderstreak



With the H.A.M. from Nov 1973 to May 1983*

In April 1973, General Michel Donnet CdG, CVO & DFC of the Belgian Air Force made a visit to Southend’s Historical Aircraft Museum to research the possibility of setting up a similar facility in his own country. He was subsequently received by various dignitaries of a local delegation which included the Mayor and Southend aviation legend Lesley Hunt. Having escaped from the clutches of the Germans in 1941, Michel Donnet (and fellow aviator Leon Divoy) discovered an old stored Stampe in a locked barn and with the help of the local Belgian Resistance, got the aircraft working and then flew it to the U.K. He then joined the RAF, eventually rising through the ranks to become a Squadron Leader. Indeed, it was his command of No. 350 (Belgian) squadron, that finally brought Sqd. Ldr. Donnet to Southend (RAF Rochford) and as such it was decided that it would be a most fitting tribute for the BAF to donate an aircraft to commemorate the close ties that existed between this Belgian squadron and Southend during WWII. The aircraft chosen was ex-2nd Tactical Wing Republic F-84F Thunderstreak FU-6 which had initially served with the U.S.A.F. until she was later sold on to the Belgians during the early part of 1955.

From Left to Right: Lesley Hunt, Unknown BAF Officer, General Michel Donnet & Bill Pepperel – April 1973

Having been withdrawn from service three years earlier and then subsequently employed as a decoy aircraftCM-01 at Beauvechain, FU-6 was no longer airworthy. So, she was dismantled, packaged into a number of jigs and crates and flown to Southend inside two Belgian Air Force C-130 transport aircraft during November 1973. She was subsequently reassembled and put on display at the H.A.M. where on March 15th 1974, she was officially handed over by General Donnet who previously that day had flown into SEN in Mystere 20 – CM-01 along with the current commanders of No’s 349 and 350 Squadrons and a number of other BAF dignitaries, all of whom would attend this most auspicious of occasions. The aircraft was later placed at the entrance to ‘Fighter Row’, behind the CASA 2.111, where she would remain until the museum’s auction in 1983.

This Thunderstreak was then later transferred to the Medway Royal Aeronautical Society at Rochester Airport in October 1983 where over the next few years she would be restored her to her former glory, being refinished in U.S.A.F. ‘Thunderbirds’ colours along with the number 6771. Later in March 1990, she was moved to the RAF Aircraft Museum at Cosford before finally being moved on by road to the Bentwaters Cold War Museum in September 2019.

With thanks to Peter Clark for providing additional information for this page


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