Avro Vulcans and Family Ties

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A Vulcan passes U.S. Army OH-6As.

A Vulcan passes U.S. Army OH-6As.

Originally published by John Stemple on 4th July 2012 (updated 7th June 2016) — On every July 4 Americans celebrate Independence Day. This holiday is noteworthy due to its recognition of the extended struggle for national sovereignty, but it also tends to remind one of the continuing Anglo-American relationship. One will undoubtedly see a few Grand Union Flags and “Union Jacks” flying from flagpoles around Florida. This is because many Britons, Canadians and Anglophiles make Florida their home.

A Vulcan approaches. Photo by John Stemple

A Vulcan approaches.
Photo by John Stemple

The state’s history attests to mutual attractions and historic connections. After the Seven Years’ War Great Britain divided the Florida territory into East and West Florida. When the American colonies declared independence, many Floridians condemned them because the majority of East and West Florida were Loyalists and desired to remain British subjects. Therefore, the “2 Floridas” remained loyal to the Crown throughout the American Revolutionary War.

Elsewhere, in 1776 the colonists recognized the special association with the unofficial adoption of the Grand Union Flag (Continental Colors, Congress Flag, Cambridge Flag or First Navy Ensign) as a national standard. This banner represented the colonies’ united stand and determination for self-rule, while simultaneously recognizing their desire to maintain relations with the Mother Country.

The United States' first ensign - the Grand Union or Continental Colours.

The United States’ first ensign – the Grand Union or Continental Colours.

Over the ensuing centuries the familial and military relationships have necessarily and beneficially remained vibrant and mutually beneficial. Throughout World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict and Cold War the nations stood shoulder to shoulder.

In 1982, the United States sided with the United Kingdom and aided Britain’s armed forces when Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands. Shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks on America, British Army Special Air Service (SAS) troops were among the first to engage the Taliban and doggedly pursued Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.

In years past, one could look into the sky and see symbols of the special relationship in the forms of Avro (later Hawker Siddeley) Vulcans gracefully flying above. This was because during the 1960s and 1970s Royal Air Force (RAF) Vulcans periodically visited McCoy AFB, Florida, which is now Orlando International Airport.* Their appearances were for the purposes of participating in the Strategic Air Command’s Annual Bombing and Navigation Competition.

A Vulcan makes a pass. Photo by John Stemple

A Vulcan makes a pass.
Photo by John Stemple

The sprightly and somewhat stealthy Vulcan was a bomber that reliably served the Royal Air Force from 1953 to 1985. As seen from the perspective of the ground, a Vulcan was unmistakable. From beneath, the aeroplane’s distinctive silhouette resembled a ray. These creatures populate Florida waters.

Sadly, only one Vulcan remains flyable.  Vulcan to the Sky is a charitable organization that maintains this iconic aircraft. Nothing is comparable to the beauty of the winged machine, and financial and other support are continually required to keep the venerable bird alive. Thus, readers are strongly encouraged to donate.

*The Spring 2016 (Volume 4 No. 1)  issue of the Vulcan to the Sky Club magazine The Vulcan contains (page 50) a 1971 Richard Smith photo of RAF Avro Vulcan XM602 at McCoy Air Force Base, (Orlando) Florida.


The author (John Stemple) is a member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society.

One Response to Avro Vulcans and Family Ties

  1. John I find your articles very interesting and I am amazed at the continous hits we get from all over the world. I do not know if you see the front page often but we now have visitors who read our blog from 110 countries around the world. You can see all the different countries that come to read our blog listed there, it is wonderous!
    I want to thank you because it is you and the other writers that keep bring these people back with your interesting articles. Thank you for your consist posting of interesting and readable articles.
    JR Hafer

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