Canberra returns to Upwood home

A PLANE enthusiast who rescued the cockpit of a Canberra jet bomber from a skip has moved onto the air base where the plane was once operational.

Aviation buff Matthew Buddle bought the 18-feet long cockpit on eBay for �750 but had to retrieve it from the skip in Basingstoke. He has since spent thousands of pounds restoring it – and now lives in a house in what was the Officers Quarters at the former RAF Upwood military base.

Mr Buddle, 31, who takes the cockpit to aviation shows across the country, said he no plans to rebuild the plane in its entirety.

His wife Beccy, 30, who is supportive of her husband’s unusual past-time, added: “18ft of it on the drive is enough!”

While some wives are infuriated by their husband’s hobbies, Mrs Buddle said: “I really like it. Obviously it’s Matt’s passion but going to aviation shows is something we both enjoy.”

She added: “When we moved here we were able to bring the cockpit with us – it makes it a lot easier if he wants to pop out and do some work on it. Before, when it was kept in a hangar, it had to be at other people’s convenience and always took longer than planned.

“The neighbours think it’s quite unusual and there’s a little boy who lives nearby who is quite intrigued by it! There are a lot of similarly-minded neighbours living here.”

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Mr Buddle’s interest started as a child, with both sets of grandparents working at local airbases, where Canberras were a familiar sight.

He bought the cockpit with a friend, who runs a local aviation website, but eventually took the project on by himself

Mr Buddle said: “It has cost me a hell of a lot to restore. I’ve kept a note of how much I have spent and it is well into the thousands. You could buy a decent car for the money but this is special to me. I like the romance of it, and taking to shows where former pilots can sit in the cockpit again. Seeing their faces makes it all worthwhile. I let them have a few minutes on their own. A lot of them were young men when they first flew in a Canberra and now they are 60 or 70. Sitting in the cockpit, it all comes back to them.”

Mr Buddle said he appreciate’s his wife support for his hobby and said: “Beccy is brilliant. I couldn’t do this without her. I have got a second project on the go, in the garage, but we have just had a daughter, she’s five months old now, so daddy duties have to come first. If she wants to get involved when she’s older I would let her – I just don’t want her to sell it for a Gucci handbag when I’m old and grey!”

Mr Buddle’s work has already won him a prize at the Cockpit Fest air show in Newark.

He said: “It won Spirit of Cockpit Fest – I think it was for the achievement of getting it out of the skip!”

Mr Buddle said: “Because the Canberra is now at home, I can work on the restoration programme whenever I get the chance. The electrics are now working and the cooling fans and lights are working in the cockpit, which is quite a feat considering it was found in a skip. It has also been a great way of meeting other enthusiasts, including former crew members.”

Valiant Square formerly provided accommodation for married officers serving at RAF Upwood, which originally opened in 1917 and closed in 1995.

Canberra WH887

• Canberra WH887 was built by Short Brothers at Belfast and started life as a B2 bomber.

• It was delivered to the RAF on January 29, 1954 and was issued to 1323 Flight (Flt) at RAF Wyton.

• In October 1955, 1323Flt was merged with RAF 542 Squadron (Sqn), and WH887 was absorbed into the combined fleet as a result but it was later transferred to RAF 21 Squadron at RAF Upwood.

• It was one of the last Canberra jet bombers to fly out of RAF Upwood in 1961.

• After WH887’s time at RAF Upwood, it was converted to a TT18 and transferred to the Royal Navy serving until December 3, 1992, when the aircraft was grounded and finally scrapped in 2004.