1/48 Airfix Canberra

Gallery Article by Mark Doherty on Apr 25 2011

ANZAC Day 2011


In April 1967, eight Australian-built MK20s of the No. 2 Squadron arrived at Phan Rang AB South Vietnam.   The Seventh Air Force and No. 2 Squadron agreed that the RAAF Canberra’s would mount eight sorties a day, seven days a week. The radio call sign in Vietnam was "MAGPIE", from the squadron's crest. Initially their assignment was night bombing under radar control from 20,000 feet. Most of the targets assigned to No. 2 Squadron were in the Mekong Delta and the Australian crews quickly built up a reputation for pinpoint accuracy using their WW2 vintage precision visual bombing equipment, even against targets of opportunity. The success of the level bombing technique resulted in the RAAF flying low altitude bombing missions. The result of these missions was described as "magnificent".  Indeed the troops on the ground appreciated the Canberra, as it was the only aircraft that could bomb in level flight under low cloud.  Since the Canberra Mk.20 didn't have underwing hardpoints, the wing tip tanks were removed and replaced with bomb racks to supplement the bomb bay load. Most of the targets weren't far from Phan Rang AB so the extra fuel in the tip tanks was not needed. 

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The RAAF lost only two Canberras during 11963 sorties. On 14th March 1971, a Canberra was shot down by a SAM missile, the crew being rescued the following day. After this, the Seventh Air Force decreed that no aircraft could operate in the northern part of South Vietnam unless they had adequate ECM equipment. The first Canberra lost, however, occurred three and a half years after the Canberras first arrived in theatre. On 3rd November 1970, whilst on a Combat Sky Spot radar bombing misson near Da Nang, Magpie 91(the aircraft depicted in this article), flown by Flight Officer Michael Herbert with Pilot Officer Robert Carver as bombardier, crashed after making the bomb drop at 22 000ft.  Pilot Officer Carver had served for only eight weeks in Vietnam. Flying Officer Herbert, who had qualified as a pilot at the age of 16, had only two months to go to finish his tour. An extensive search followed but failed to find the crash site. It wasn’t until April 2009 after an extensive search by the Army History Unit that the wreckage was finally found.

No. 2 Squadron flew its last combat mission in Vietnam on 31 May 1971, Within a week the Canberras were refitted with their wing tip tanks and returned to RAAF Amberly via Darwin to become a reconnaissance and target towing squadron that would eventually be disbanded in 1982.

A strong point of agreement among American crews was that the No. 2 Squadron really knew how to party! 

This model was built for James Potter who served with No. 2 Squadron during their time in Vietnam. 

Mark Doherty

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Photos and text © by Mark Doherty