Not long after he had joined the WNAS, local man, Barry Raphael was invited to make his debut speech at our club and, if he had spelled his name a little differently the offer may have come sooner. From his party piece, entitled ‘The Valiant Years, 1951-1965’, the listener could have easily deduced much from these few words: was he a war baby and did he fly Vickers Armstrong Valiants?…..the latter would have been a bit later.

The aircraft was the first of the V bombers to be equipped with facilities for dropping atomic bombs and, during his time in the RAF the first British test took place in Maralinga, Australia. Being a modest chap Barry didn’t say he was there but, he might have been.

This Valiant was designed as a high altitude response weapon to a Russian threat. Barry demonstrated with very clear diagrams the variety of wing formats best suited to this high altitude requirement; hence this choice of aircraft. In some ways it was an enigma; it had a ‘fly-by-wire’ control system and could also be flown conventionally; it was also equipped with a bomb control system operated by a mechanical computer.

In 1960 an American Lockheed U2 spy plane was shot down in the Soviet Union airspace by a Russian missile. The need to fly high was no longer prudent so, being quite versatile, the Valiant was converted to a ground attack weapon; camouflaged now, in black, it was capable of planting a time delayed bomb on hostile territory like a dart on a board.

The Valiant also played a part in the Egyptian war during the Suez crisis. Not wishing to downgrade the seriousness of the mission, Barry, a typical airman under threat, resorted to humour. Far from being secretive about their intentions, his senior officer warned the antagonists that the RAF was ‘coming to drop a bomb on them’. Although this could be regarded as a sporting caution the officer was nevertheless dismissed and, only became aware of this when he heard it broadcast on the BBC.

The satire continued with Barry producing two period Heath Robinson cartoons which would have appealed to RAF personnel at the time and, may do so now with a little timely Yuletide levity thrown in.

The meeting ended with it being suggested that Barry should promote the brewing of RAPH – AEL liquor and, it should make its debut in the Mundford Bowls Club bar; with permission, of course, from the CEO’s Len and Val. 

See you all at the AGM on 6th December.

Please find here: details of WNAS Calendar, Photos, Press Releases, and any changes to the schedule. 

Nigel Tooth