9th to 17th August inclusive – Runway Re-surfacing In Progress




  • 1. News Item: NEWSLETTER NL13 PUBLISHED. The latest issue of ‘Friends of the Britannia’ is now available and is being sent out to all members. This issue is also available in .PDF format to any members who would prefer to have their copy in digital format. NL13 publishes for the first time, courtesy of Martin Fenner, a photograph of XM496 taken at RAF Benson on the day she was delivered to RAF Transport Command on 17th September 1960. Articles in this 12 page issue of NL13 include: (i) Part 1 of the experiences of an RAF Britannia pilot who left the Royal Canadian Air Force to join the RAF; (ii) the visit paid by an RAF airman to the site of ‘Ground Zero’ where 5 nuclear weapons were detonated at the southern end of Christmas Island (today Kiritimati) in 1957 and 1958; (iii) a non too technical explanation of the Green Satin Doppler Radar carried by the Britannia and the V-Force which was highly secret in the 1960s; (iv) an update on the final phase of the re-furbishment of XM496; (v) an introduction to Lawrence Fish, who was a Bristol Aeroplane Company’s tecnical artist in the 1950s; (vi) …and more. An interesting read is promised for all. New members are very welcome to join the Bristol Britannia XM496 Preservation Society for the modest sum of £10 per annum. In addition to receiving two copies of the Newsletter each year, they will also receive a welcome pack with the unique Members’ DVD, which includes the spectacular arrival of the aeroplane at Cotswold Airport in 1997, a logo pen and most important of all, the personal pleasure of supporting the worthwhile cause of saving a unique part of British history for posterity …and from the ‘breakers torches’! If you would like to join this enthustic band of like minded aviation enthusiasts please refer to the Application Form under the heading MEMBERSHIP OR DONATIONS’.    
(Newsletter 13 Erratum Page 10: For Lawrence Fish x4 please read LAURENCE FISH)
  • 2. Update: WORK IN PROGRESS. Despite the ‘lock-downs’ caused by Covid 19, as a small group we have been able to continue working whilst complying with the regulations. The closure of the airport to visitors and working only in the open air with a minimum of staff, has facilitated this measure. Preparation, painting and repairs have been on-going since April 2020 by our three stalwarts, namely Jim Brown and Maurice Strong and Mick Tilley, assisted by the occasional but essential assistance from the other working members. The only major external component still in need of finishing is the starboard rear stabiliser and Maurice plans to have that completed very soon.
  • Jim and Mick have continued work on the flight deck to replicate the displays to be as close to the original as possible and to bring more lighting on line – see photo. A recent eureka moment occurred when the undercarriage indicator showed 3 greens, probably the first time for many years. We have been promised a P12 compass which will effectively close the chapter on missing instrumentation. This is a very prominent bit of kit that was above the combing at top dead centre of the instrument panel – see the ringed part of the attached photo. Other projects recently finished or approaching completion are as follows:-
  • Major repair work has been done by Mick on the main door with repairs to the runners, locking mechanism and corroded components, which now makes the door a ‘dream’ to open and close. In addition some re-work of the exterior handles by replacing the red hand-holds has negated the necessity to use gloves to open the door. Continuing on the same theme there has been a realignment of the blue cheat line on the door which was not in ‘synchro’ with the rest of the fuselage.
  • Jim has been busy repainting the wheel hubs and the tyres and how splendid they look. It is amazing how a seemingly minor part of the refurbishment has had such a huge effect on the overall look of the aircraft and it was money and time well spent. There have been a few problems with the tyres retaining air which was requiring constant attention with the foot-pump. It was suspected that the two-part hub seal was not doing its job and a solution of tyre seal was injected to try to improve matters. This didn’t cure the problem so attention turned to the valves which are peculiar to the aeroplane and replacements are not available anymore. Mick and Maurice have come up with an idea to modify the valve to create an airtight seal and this mod is in place on one wheel which is being ‘soak-tested’ to assess its suitability. If this doesn’t prove the difinitive answer the next step will be to purchase a suitable truck valve that will have to be both modified thread-wise and probably fitted using a Helicoil. Watch this space!
  • Maurice has become an almost permanent resident on site! His work is extemely professional and he works wonders on seemingly insurmountable problems. Recently, he has been making repairs to the corrosion on the tailplane. It is a huge job and when he gets ‘bored’ he turns his attention to a further project which is making an new set of blanking plates for the engine intakes to keep the pesky birds and bees from ‘squatting’ in a ready made home. One imagines that once he has a set for one engine he can replicate the other three, but as luck would have it, the cowlings are not exactly the same shape …which is a bit of a mystery and a bit of a pain! Maurice has now advised he has finished the engine blanks and has turned his attention to buffing up the cowlings to a nice shiney finish!
  • Plans for the future: will see work being carried out to replace and reposition the rear bulkhead and to possibly re-instate a toilet – not usable! This project will more than likely be put on hold until such time as we have introduced the one-way traffic system for visitors and completed all the additonal work this will entail.
  • 3. Update: DONATIONS. In response to a number of requests for the facility to make donations to XM496 from the website, a minor modification to the ‘Form’ has been made under the Title Heading MEMBERSHIP OR DONATIONS. Please follow the instruction to differentiate your requirement and may we thank you most sincerely for your kindness. Any monies donated are used entirely for the upkeep of the aircraft.
  • 4. News Item: ELECTRICS. We have had a number of concerns about the safety and also vulnerability of the mains voltage electrical in-put unit to the aircraft. Having approached electrical genius Mitch, at locally based Merlin Industries International about our reservations, he has suggested the unit is enclosed in a strong wire-mesh cage which is anchored to a concrete base with a padlocked door for access. Mitch has very kindly offered to provide the cage as a donation to the Society. Many thanks Mitch – really appreciated.
  • 5. News Item: FILMING. We have recently had visits from two film companies. Firstly, on 21st April by Cave Bear Films of Cheltenham and secondly, on 8th June by the RAF Charitable Trust Events (RAFCTE) Film Unit.
  • Richard Suckling of Cave Bear Films, was completing a trilogy of short documentaries dedicated to the life and works of famed commercial illustrator and artist, Laurence Fish, and needed a suitable aviation backdrop to the final episode. In addition to illustrating many famous adverts in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, Laurence served in the RAF during WWII and was seconded to MI5 as an illustrator of covert weaponry. Railway and travel posters and motor vehicle adverts appeared frequently on railway stations and in such magazines as Autocar. On the aviation front he featured prominently in both Flight and The Aeroplane magazines advertising industrial giants such as Dunlop, Rotol, British Messier and The Bristol Aeroplane Company for whom he also illustrated a number of aircraft brochures, including the Britannia. Laurence won a very prestigious award in 1960 for a travel poster for British Railways ferry services that featured the delights of the Island of Guernsey. It is planned to release the finished films on YouTube and we will keep you posted. Sadly Laurence is no longer with us but Jean Bray, his wife, has now written a fabulously illustrated book called ‘PICK UP A PENCIL-The Work of Laurence Fish’ which can be highly recommended. (see Item 6 below)
  • Peter Reoch (Head of Air Operations RAFCTE) and his team arrived at XM496 ‘Regulus’ on Tuesday 8th June to commence filming which included external and internal footage of our aeroplane plus an interview with the most senior working member, Wg Cdr Brian Weatherley, who to quote:  “I was able to give the roles she played, and the global nature of Britannia operations. I was able to back this up with personal reminiscences in respect of individuals, events – regular, serious, amusing but b….. serious on a couple of occasions! The preservation programme since 1997 was covered and the personalities involved were named and their contribution described”. The main context of using the Britannia on this occasion was its relevance to a feature on 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton by comparing the role of the Squadron in the 60s and 70s when equipped with the Series 253 Bristol Britannia, and its present role equipped with the C17 Globemaster II. The International Air Tattoo at Fairford has been cancelled this year due to Covid-19 and the RAF intend to produce an interactive on-line feature which will include this sequence. We will keep you posted.
  • 6. A BOOK RECOMMENDATION – Pick Up A Pencil The Work of Laurence Fish is a superb book by Jean Bray for the lovers of Poster Art. Jean was the wife of Laurence Fish who was born in 1909 and who became a very skilled illustrator particularly of technical subjects in the age of monchrome photography and was much in demand by advertisers and magazines to depict subject matter in full colour for their posters and the front pages of the popular periodicals. His subject matter ranged from highly technical industrial subjects to the more frivilous beach resort ‘pin-up’ posters advertising the virtues of beach resorts such as Southsea, Herne Bay and Exmouth. Laurence’s works were very popular and bought by lovers of this art-form for their own personal displays and in later years these works commanded high prices on the art market. As colour photography eventually became the preferred media of the advertiser, Laurence showed his skill as an aesthetic, creative and imaginitive painter and many of his works are included in this volume. This 144 page quality print, hard back, is profusely illustrated mostly in vivid colour, is a delight to behold and will grace the top of any coffee table. 

PICK UP A PENCIL The Work of LAURENCE FISH is available on Amazon Books,  Price £28.50 incl P&P

also available at Waterstones and other good book sellers


Click on an image to see in large format