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canberraman

The HS Andover in UK Military Service

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I have always had a soft spot for the HS Andover. In fact my love of all things aviation began when as a youngster in the late 1960s, my family lived under the approach to RAF Abingdon, where there was a constant stream of landing Beverleys, Argosies, and especially the resident 46 Sqn Andovers. I always thought their desert camo, black undersides and white skull cap looked very appealing, and was enchanted by the shrill whine of those twin Dart turboprops. Looking back through my photo collection, I was quite surprised by the variety of colour schemes the type wore during its 40+ years of UK military service and thought while we remain in COVID-19 lockdown, a photo essay and brief history might be of interest.

 

The HS Andover had a relatively short active RAF career in its intended role and fell victim to the UK Government Defence cuts of 1975, prematurely ending its service after just 8 years. It did however enjoy a further varied second career in a variety of secondary roles including communications, research and flight checking, up until 2013. In addition, the RNZAF obtained 10 redundant Andovers from the RAF in the late 1970s, these enjoying further service in their intended transport role well into the 1990s. After military retirement, several Andovers went on to serve successfully for civilian operators and aid organisations in Asia and Africa.  

 

Designed as a modern day DC-3 Dakota, and intended as a tactical troop transport capable of operating in and out of rough landing strips, the first of 31 Andover C.1s ordered by the RAF -  XS594 was delivered to the AAEE for acceptance trials at Boscombe Down in December 1965, the last arriving in January 1968. The military Andover C.1 was developed from the earlier Avro 748 and differed from its civilian cousin by its cranked up rear fuselage and rear freight door. Another unique feature was the kneeling undercarriage which facilitated easier vehicle loading and unloading. As a troop transport it could carry 44 soldiers, 30 paratroops, or 18 stretchers and five sitting cases plus three nursing attendants. In the early 1960s the UK Air Ministry had identified the need for a tactical airlifter capable of operating in austere conditions and unprepared airstrips in conflict zones and British interests across the globe. Consequently, one squadron of Andovers was assigned to the Middle East Air Force (84 Sqn at Sharjah/Muharraq), and another with the Far East Air Force (52 Sqn at Seletar/Changi in Singapore). In the European theatre and NATO area of operations, the task fell to 46 Sqn, initially at RAF Abingdon and later based at RAF Thorney Island.  As Britain gradually withdrew from its colonial commitments, 52 Sqn was disbanded in 1969, followed by 84 Sqn two years later, leaving an enlarged 46 Sqn soldiering on in the UK. During the early years of service, Andover crews were initially trained by the Andover Training Sqn (ATS) and latterly 242 OCU.

 

The sweeping 1975 UK Government White Paper virtually halved the RAF transport fleet from 115 to 57 aircraft, including the disbandment of 46 Sqn and the withdrawal from service of the Andover in the tactical transport role. In consequence, most surviving Andover C.1s were to be stored at 5 MU  RAF Kemble awaiting disposal or possible resale. A partial reprieve for the type came from New Zealand that bought 10 of the redundant aircraft from the MoD; the RNZAF took delivery of them during 1977-78 for continued service on the other side of the world. The Andover gained a further lease of life with the decision to replace the Argosies of 115 Squadron. Itself a victim of the 1975 White Paper, the Argosy had been in service as a calibration aircraft for military airfield navigation aids, based at RAF Brize Norton, but the twin engine Andover could do the job more economically. From 1976-1978, eight of the stored Andover C.1s were converted to the E.3 variant for 115 Sqn, the most evident exterior difference being the Harley light installed in an offset position at the base of the nose alongside the forward gear bay, and the revised high visibility red white and grey livery replacing the original camouflage. In 1982 115 Squadron relocated to RAF Benson, the Andovers continuing until disbanding there on 1 October 1993, whereupon they were passed to Hunting Air Services upon contractorization of the flight calibration task. Other Andovers continued in RAF Service into the 1990s: the type had a communications and VIP transport role with 32 Sqn at RAF Northolt, and with 60 Sqn at RAF Wildenrath (that also had just begun utilising the type as a Photo Reconnaissance platform in the Berlin air corridors upon the retirement of a pair of obsolete HP Pembrokes C.1(PR)s). One Andover was also assigned to EWAD at Wyton during the late 70s and early 80s for testing avionics and ELINT equipment destined for the 51 Sqn Nimrod R.1s. From the mid 70s onward, three Andover C.1 also served with the RAE and AAEE (later titled DRA/DTEO/DERA and finally QINETIQ), as test and research platforms. One QINETIQ assigned aircraft - XS606 - was the final one of its type in military

 

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Andover C.1 XS639 of 46 Sqn seen at RAF Wattisham in the late 1960s. The aircraft is wearing the original light stone/dark earth over black undersides glossy finish applied on delivery to the entire fleet. Initially wearing RAF Transport Command titling, by the time this photo was taken, 46 Sqn had become part of Air Support Command 38 Group.

 

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Another 46 Sqn C1, XS609 seen in 1970 at RAF Cranwell. This particular aircraft was lost on take off in Siena Italy on 8 April 1972 carrying onboard the RAF Falcons Parachute team. Tragically two team members, together with a further two crew members were killed in the accident.

 

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115 Sqn Andover E.3 XS641 at the 1979 IAT at RAF Greenham Common, by now wearing the high vis red, white and light aircraft grey livery applied to the Andover aircraft in the flight aid calibration role.

 

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A very rare bird – Andover C1 (Mod) XS644 of EWAD/51 Sqn, seen at Ciampino Italy on 30 November 1978. This machine was loaned to EWAD at RAF Wyton during the late 70s and early 80s for avionics and sensor trials of equipment being fitted to the 51 Sqn Nimrod R.1. It wears a 51 Sqn badge on the fin and was unique in being the only Andover to receive the standard RAF tactical dark green/dark sea grey over light aircraft grey camouflage. The intent had been for all the desert camo Andovers to receive this scheme in common with the RAF Hercules fleet, but the early retirement of the type from the tactical transport  role following the 1975 Defence cuts put paid to that plan. It was later modified to E.3 standard and reassigned to 115 Sqn.

 

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Andover C.1 XS596 of 115 sqn at the Middle Wallop IAS on 23 July 1982. This aircraft was the only C.1 assigned to 115 Sqn and kept its desert camo throughout its service on the squadron. It was mainly used as the squadron ‘hack’ and as a continuity trainer for aircrew newly assigned or reassigned to the type.

 

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Another shot taken at Middle Wallop, but this time of ETPS C.1 XS606, and at the 1984 IAS held on 6 July. This aircraft had a long career as a Test Pilots’ platform; after retirement from the RAF it served with AAEE/ETPS from 1975 until its retirement from military service on 31 August 2012.

 

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During its RAF career, XS637 served at various times as a personal transport for high raking military officials. When this photo was taken in 1986, it was assigned to C in C Air Forces North based at Oslo. It is seen wearing a stylised version of the more standard white and grey ‘Transport Command’ colour scheme with large blue zig zag.

 

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Andover E.S XS603 ‘Guy Devas’ of 115 Sqn seen at a stormy RAF Leuchars in February 1987. Note the Harley light under the nose, a distinctive feature of the E.3 variant.

 

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Seen at the RAF Brize Norton photocall held 7 Sep 1991 is 60 Sqn C.1 XS637 wearing the slightly understated squadron 75th anniversary markings on the fin. By March 1992 60 Sqn had stood down at RAF Wildenrath following the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. It later reformed as a Wessex HC.2 Sqn at RAF Benson.

 

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Andover C.1 XS646 of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Farnborough, seen arriving at the 1992 Boscombe Down Air Tournament International. Note the modified nose and underslung pod of this example which spent most of its career as a test and research platform with RAE and its successor agencies.

 

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As 115 Sqn began winding down ahead of their eventual disbandment and contractorization of task, several of their E.3A aircraft were transferred to other sqns. In this photo taken at RAF Bruggen on 6 July 1992, XS639 can be seen still wearing the former 115 Sqn livery but with 32 Sqn, its new unit’s badge on the fin. This aircraft is one of the few remaining Andover survivors, preserved to this day at the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford.

 

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Another ex 115 Sqn E.3A, XS643, was also transferred over to 32 Sqn at RAF Northolt. It along with stablemate XS644, was to receive the short lived low vis light grey/light blue colour scheme adopted by the RAF comms fleet in the early 90s. It is seen here at Wahn/Cologne Airport Germany on 4 Feb 1993.

 

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To mark 115 Sqn’s 75th anniversary in 1993, and ahead of squadron disbandment in October of that year, Andover E.3 XS605 was given special commemorative markings.  It is seen here at home at RAF Benson during the Summer of 1993. After retirement from RAF service this example along with three other ex 115 Sqn E.3s were transferred over to Hunting Air Services at East Midlands Airport where they to continued flying in the calibration role until 1996.

 

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Another rarity. XS641 was one of two former Andover C.1s converted to C.1 (PR) configuration for 60 Sqn at RAF Wildenrath (the other being XS596) and delivered in 1990 to replace the sqn’s obsolete HP Pembroke C.1(PR)s that had served for many years on aerial intelligence gathering in the Berlin corridors. They differed externally in the additional fuselage window aft of the cockpit, had no freight door and had covered camera bays concealing the latest PR cameras and ELINT equipment. With the end of the Cold War, this role was soon abandoned and 60 Sqn disbanded, RAF Wildenrath closed, and its aircraft reassigned in March 1992. XS641 was transferred to 2 SoTT at RAF Cosford as a technical training frame and was photographed there in April 1997.

 

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Andover C.1(PR) ’Open Skies’ seen at a Brize Norton photocall in May 2000. After German reunification and the demise of the Berlin corridor missions, XS596 was to get a new role as the UK’s Open Skies aircraft, operated by QinetiQ at Boscombe Down. This Andover flew over 1,200 flying hours on more than seventy Open Skies related flights over former Warsaw Pact countries, until the UK abandoned the provision of its own aircraft in 2009. XS596 was scrapped at Boscombe Down in June 2013.

 

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Another photo of ETPS Andover C.1 XS606, this time taken at the RAF Waddington IAS in July 2011, 27 years after the earlier picture from Middle Wallop. XS606 was to be the last Andover C.1 to fly in UK military service, being finally retired on 31 August 2012.

 

I hope this photo/essay has been of interest and I would welcome seeing your further Andover images. C&C always welcome.

 

Mark

 

 

 

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Superb collection of photos! Very interesting history too. Am I right in thinking the C1 to E3 conversions were done at Woodford? I'm certain the Andover was built there anyway. I remember XS606 flying in quitea lot in the 80s, and occasionally a red and white E3.

 

I wish someone would do a 1/72 injection molded kit of the Andover! Imagine that in Airfix new tool with three colour schemes; desert camo, red & white and raspberry ripple. It'd sell out in weeks I reckon. Come on Airfix! 😂

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28 minutes ago, Lord Riot said:

I wish someone would do a 1/72 injection molded kit of the Andover

I’ll second that.  This has reminded me how attractive the Andover could be in service colours, especially the E.Mk.3.

 

I see the transport versions are sitting at all sorts of angles, some of them low enough at the rear to look like they could use some paper afterwards.  Did they have adjustable undercarriage, or is it just a matter of how they’re balanced?

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What a lovely selection of photos, thanks for posting

 

SD

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@canberraman thanks for the potted history and some beautiful photos.  I can still remember the front page photo on the Daily Rag of XS609’s demise.

 

One point concerning the Avro 780 is that the engines were more powerful than those of the 748 and turned repellers of greater diameter.  To avoid having to redesign the entire wing structure Avro simply extended the span of the centre section by three feet, if I remember correctly, and then cropped the wingtips by eighteen inches each side to retail the same overall span.

 

12 minutes ago, pigsty said:

I’ll second that.  This has reminded me how attractive the Andover could be in service colours, especially the E.Mk.3.

 

I see the transport versions are sitting at all sorts of angles, some of them low enough at the rear to look like they could use some paper afterwards.  Did they have adjustable undercarriage, or is it just a matter of how they’re balanced?

@pigsty Definitely agreed on the desirability of an injection moulded mainstream Andover kit; I’d definitely be up for a couple or three.

 

The main undercarriage of the 780 could “kneel” to allow small vehicles, e.g. Land Rovers, to be driven on or off via the rear ramp so obviating the need for ground-based ramps and allowing off-base operation or to allow loading and unloaded no of loose or palletised freight at truck bed height (or thereabouts).

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A nice kit would be nice, I have the RugRat resin kit, which has a issue or two. Perhaps it is the sort of thing that Valom would have a go at. 

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What inspiration this thread is. That will get the cogs going of modellers with the kit.

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Thanks everyone for the supportive comments and likes.  I too would dearly love an IM Andover C.1 in 1/72 but I suspect that dream will not be fulfilled. That said the S&M resin kit does build up into an attractive model with care and patience. Here's a couple of shots of the one I constructed a few years back.

 

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Thanks again

 

Mark

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Nice job on that Mark, I recall our Kiwi ones wearing that scheme when they first arrived. I was sorry when they retired them, their airshow displays were always a treat. I'd love to be able to model one of ours in the later Euro 1 (?) type scheme, though I'd be happy in 1/144 as most of my postwar transport collection is heading. Thanks for the thread.

Steve.

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That S&M kit looks amazing but I can't justify spending nearly £100 on a model plane. It's a shame that kits are so pricy; even Airfix kits. I think far more kids would get into it if things like the new Airfix Vulcan were about £20, and things like 1/48 Harriers about a tenner. With paints, etc it gets a very expensive hobby. I suppose at those prices the manufacturers would go out of business though then we'd have no kits at all!  Still, there's always ebay!

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Great selection. I visited 115 Sqn at RAF Benson many years ago, a fascinating unit but their routine tasking meant they were often ignored. 

I have to say the sand/dark earth scheme suited the Andover (and Hercules).

I have an S&M Andover in the stash and am waiting for someone to do 115 Sqn decals, could be a long wait I reckon.

 

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1 hour ago, Evalman said:

 

I have an S&M Andover in the stash and am waiting for someone to do 115 Sqn decals, could be a long wait I reckon.

 

 

Snap.

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I remember these aircraft well & always liked them dropping off troop & Landrovers on exercises. I have just purchased the Oneman models 1/72 C1 & I am really impressed with it ,awaiting decals from New Zealand so your pictures are very apt thanks for sharing. 

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Nicely done, Mark. I remember them well from ATC and school visits to Thorney Island in the early 1970s :). 

 

Martin

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Gents,

 

Many thanks for the further comments and likes. Glad you like the S&M Andover, I'm rather proud of her :)

 

Mark

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On 5/8/2020 at 11:41 AM, stevehnz said:

Nice job on that Mark, I recall our Kiwi ones wearing that scheme when they first arrived. I was sorry when they retired them, their airshow displays were always a treat. I'd love to be able to model one of ours in the later Euro 1 (?) type scheme, though I'd be happy in 1/144 as most of my postwar transport collection is heading. Thanks for the thread.

Steve.

Welsh Models do several versions of the Andover C1 - have a look at their website. I have the kit and it is very nice.

 

John

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On 5/6/2020 at 7:54 PM, pigsty said:

I’ll second that.  This has reminded me how attractive the Andover could be in service colours, especially the E.Mk.3.

 

I see the transport versions are sitting at all sorts of angles, some of them low enough at the rear to look like they could use some paper afterwards.  Did they have adjustable undercarriage, or is it just a matter of how they’re balanced?

 

For some reason I don't see a reply to your question, pigsty.  Yes, the undercarriage was designed to 'kneel' to allow easy unloading of freight. I don't know the detail; it does seem slightly odd that the several of the machines are at slightly different  deck angles., I'd have expected there to be some detents or limits on setting options for normal operation. Someone will remember the details !

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6 minutes ago, jaw said:

Welsh Models do several versions of the Andover C1 - have a look at their website. I have the kit and it is very nice.

 

John

Thanks John, I'm already looking at their DHC-7, I think I can see a plan forming here, albeit quite expensive, wonder if I can save on post with 2 kits? :)

Steve.

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Lovely selection of images, Mark. Many thanks. I have a soft spot for the Andover also, probably from watching one of the ETPS aircraft circuit bashing at Boscombe Down for a couple of hours one afternoon. And yes, I too would like on in 1/72 scale.

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Brilliant to see the photos earlier - and interest in the airframe - always liked the Andover...

 

I remember the sight (and particular sound) of the 115 Squadron Andover E3s from Benson - and am about to start working on a 1:32 3D Print of the Andover (by One Man Model) in those colours.

 

But - I need to find some clear photos/drawings showing the upper root of the tailplane, where it blends into the top of the fueslage - and anything showing the vortex generators.

 

Being the upper surface details of a high tailplane - with dihedral - is proving challenging!  :)

 

Iain

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