Thunder & Lightnings

Hawker Hunter - Survivor WV396

T.8C WV396 - Tacla Taid Transport Museum, Niwbwrch, Anglesey, Wales

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Hunter T.8C WV396 at Niwbwrch, 27th May 2023; Damien Burke

WV396 was built as an F.4 for the RAF, and first flew on 24th August 1955. Initially delivered to 5MU at Kemble, once prepped for service she began her flying career with 20 Squadron at RAFG Oldenburg, coded F, in January 1956.

In June 1957 she was flown back to Kemble for maintenance and then joined 229 OCU at RAF Chivenor in August 1957. In 1963 she was returned to Hawkers at Dunsfold for conversion to a twin seater, and became a T.8 for use by the Royal Navy. Initially delivered to Shorts in Belfast for storage, she was then flown to Kemble in December 1964 for preparation work before joining 795 NAS at RNAS Brawdy in February 1965, coded 809.

In December 1968, she returned to Kemble for inspection after an engine failure and in June 1969 joined Heron Flight at RNAS Yeovilton, coded 748. In August 1972 she was placed in long term store at Kemble once more. This lasted until 1980 when, after a brief period with BAe, she joined the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) at RNAS Yeovilton, coded 871. She gained an overall grey scheme and new code of 879 in June 1986 and continued to fly until May 1995, when she was retired and flown into storage at RAF Shawbury.

In 1996 she was selected for gate guard duties at RAF Valley, refurbished for display and given a new paint scheme to match the 4 FTS Hunters that were based at RAF Valley for so long (though this airframe never flew with 4 FTS). In March 1997 she replaced the previous Gnat gate guard. The sea air did her no favours, with rust streaks evident here and there and the paint gradually fading.

In July 2017 RAF Valley decided that it was time for a new gate guard - a Hawk T.1 - so the process of taking her down from her perch began. She was acquired by the Tacla Taid Transport Museum also on Anglesey, so hasn't moved too far - she's now on external display there, standing on her wheels again for the first time in 20+ years. She was given a repaint in 2019, retaining her 4 FTS colours. A visit to this fine and friendly museum in 2023 found her in excellent nick.

Information on this page current as of 02/06/2023, last updated by Damien

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