Quick-Draw Capers at an H-Bomber Base

At the height of the Cold War, RAF electrician Kevin Durney used to work, eat and sleep in one-week stretches alongside two Canberra bombers, each loaded with a one-megatonne American H-bomb. The planes were ready to go at fifteen minutes’ notice.

He and his older brother, Blaise, were at the RAF’s 3 Squadron base at Geilenkirchen in West Germany near the Dutch border. Kevin, now seventy-three, did aircraft electrics there from 1963 to 1966; Blaise, now seventy-six, did ground electrics such as equipment and runway lights from 1962 to 1965. They’re both retired, Kevin in Perth and Blaise in a retirement village near Essendon. I got their story because Blaise and I play social tennis.

The Canberras were kept under adjoining huts like carports. “The B28 H-bomb (below left) filled the bomb bay. We could see the lower fin sticking out,” says Kevin. “Only the Americans had the code to arm them.”

Canberra Bomber