Australia was one of only two nations to licence-build the Canberra (the other was the USA). Production started in 1951 at the Government Aircraft Factory, Fisherman's Bend, nr Melbourne. The first Australian built Canberra, A84-201, flew from Avalon on 29 May 1953. Twenty-nine years later after a long and distinguished career which included operational bombing sorties in Vietnam, the RAAF withdrew its Canberras from active service. Richard Hitchins was there at RAAF Amberly to see 2 Sqd on the day of the last operational flight of the Australian Canberra. Richard, Founder of the Queensland Aviation Museum, has kindly supplied, for the site, some of his pictures and written a few words about the event.

From Richard Hitchins :
The last day of the Canberra in Australian operational service marked other RAAF organisational changes such as the winding down of 2Sqd and No 3AD. The RAAF Canberras had been maintained in service in their usual professional manner including Major services which meant a complete strip down of the aircraft thus ensuring the life span was extended without any compromise on safety.

A special ceremony was held on 30 June 1982 to mark the sad occasion and its highlights included a fly past of four Canberras over Brisbane. Eight Canberras were at that time operational at Amberley, others were in various stages of overhaul and these were never completed. The media were invited to watch the last formation flight over the base of the eight Canberras. After a massed start, during which the cartridges sent up their plumes of smoke the Canberras took off, formed up in two sections of four and landed. Four Canberras, one of which carried the Chief of the Air Staff flew over Brisbane in salute.

Returns of heroes rarely end without sadness and such was the case after the last flight. But for some, this was not the last journey as a number of Canberras were relocated to Woomera where they suffered the indignity of being used as targets for "Karinga" bombs.

Others passed into hands where they would be appreciated and given the honour due to an outstanding aircraft. Among those that took part in the last flight and went on to appreciative owners was A84-230 which wound up with the Air Force Museum at Bull creek Western Australia.

For myself, the occasion was especially poignant, I had seen all of the prototypes flown at Farnborough and had photographed these perform in front of the enthusiastic crowd. Some of these pictures appear in this website. In September 1973 I had commenced Queensland Air Museum by entering a tender for A84-225, (also illustrated in this site).

A84-225 despite its absence from service in Vietnam had one singular claim to fame as it had been part of the formation of four Canberras which visited USA on a "goodwill" tour in 1956. We give honour to a remarkable aircraft, examples of which have survived and a featured here.

Mr Rodney Nichols has been in touch with the site. He says, "As an RAAF electrical fitter I worked on the Canberras at No 1 (Bomber) Operational Conversion Unit at Amberley, Queensland, Australia and with 2 Sqn at Phan Rang, Vietnam. I now live in Toowoomba, Queensland".
Rodney has supplied a couple of photos of RAAF Canberras at Phan Rang, South Vietnam. Note the 750lb M117 bomb on the wingtip. In addition to the wingtip bombs, four 750lb M117s were carried in the bomb bay. A site with info on RAAF 2Sqn and Canberras in Vietnam you may be interested in.

Regarding the Phan Rang photos I asked if anyone knew the reason for the crowd. A Mr Jim Drever, a retired RAAF Warrant Officer, Aircraft Instrument Fitter, has been in touch with the site and gives the following explanation.
Ref the two Canberras at Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam (the crowd) - you will notice that there are NO BOMBS on the wingtip pylons. The aircraft must have just returned from their Aircrew's LAST MISSION in Vietnam. On these occassions, the Crew were usually welcomed back to Base by the C.O., other Crews and the Groundies. A liberal watering-down with a bottle of Champers and often a Fire Truck to wash off the bubbly was the recognition of their success. I hope this assists. Cheers, Jim Drever

A84 Canberras of 2 Sqd RAAF - Last Operational Flight  
All photos by Richard Hitchins

The ground crews arranged on the wings of A84-230.
If anyone reading this was one of those on the wings I'd be glad to hear from them.

A84-230 on the ramp for its last day of service.
Notice the cut-out in the bomb bay doors to accomodate cartographic equipment.
Click for larger image.

Three-ship cartridge start on the ramp. A84-240 nearest with A84-230 in the middle.

A84-240 taxies out past the eager media.

Cleaning-up. An RAAF Canberra gets into the air for its last in-service flight.

I am grateful to Richard Hitchins, Founder of the Queensland Aviation Museum for the use of his excellent photographs of the Canberras' last day in RAAF service.