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SAAF Museum News: What happened to the Canberra?

Written by Capt Leon Steyn
Photos: SAAF Museum & WO2 Deon Rowles

The English Electric Canberra was in service with the South African Air Force from 1963 to 1991 and served with 12 Squadron operating from AFB Waterkloof as tactical bombers and high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

The SAAF operated two variants of the Canberra; the B(I).12 and the T.4. The latter was the training derivative and two survived in South Africa. Number 457 was allotted to the Air Force Museum at Swartkop in 1991 and number 459 currently resides at AFB Waterkloof as a Gate Guard.

Canberra 457 originally delivered in 1963 as a T.4 variant, in the original color scheme of Satin Silver with Day-glow bands on the wings and fin panel.

Canberra 457 had a varied service life. Built as an early production Canberra B.2 variant in 1953, she served with the Royal Air Force and after a period in storage was converted to the T.4 trainer configuration with side-by-side seating, to serve as a conversion trainer for the SAAF Canberra B(I)12 fleet. Canberra 457 was delivered to the South African Air Force on 25 February 1964.

Canberra 457, after conversion to B.1 standard, in the PRU blue colour scheme.

It is interesting to note that during the early 1980’s the nose of an ex Rhodesian Canberra B.2 was fitted to the aircraft and therefore essentially reverting her back to Canberra B.2 standard i.e.. with glazed bomb aimer nose.

Today the SAAF Museum is compelled to keep her in open storage because of a lack of closed hangar facilities at Swartkop and she is exposed to the elements. For that reason it was decided to add a new protective coat of primer and PRU blue to her fading skin. FSgt’s Douglas Thabe and Tshepo Koyo from the SAAF Museum Technical Section did the preparation and painting and now she is finally sporting a new coat of paint. This is all part of the ongoing effort to preserve our Air Force heritage for many more years to come.

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