Standard Ensigns were used by the RAF as part of our Nuclear Deterrent, writes Peter Foster.
This photograph was taken at RAF Gaydon, now headquarters of Jaguar/Land rover (JLR)
The Standard Ensign Estate fleet was also used to crew the Valiant aircraft based there.
(If anyone has a better version (or an alternative) of this photo, the Historian would be grateful of a copy)
During the Cold War, Avro Vulcan bombers were always positioned. primed, at the end of a runway waiting for the signal that a weapon was to be fired. The crew, on hot standby, would then leap into their Standard Ensign, rush to their aircraft, board and take off within minutes.
Although appearing to be Ensign de Luxe estates, many in the RAF fleet predate the Ensign de Luxe which was introduced in May 1962. The RAF versions were designated by the factory with the commission numbers beginning ENV, thus they were Ensigns fitted with Vanguard 2088cc engines, probably because the RAF, together with the army and Navy, who also used these Vanguard/Ensigns -- already had large stocks of 2088cc engine components having been major users of Vanguards and were reluctant to stock 1670cc engine parts.
The bonnet badge on these cars was also scripted 'Standard' rather than 'Ensign’ as on the cars sold to the general public (Ensign Estates were not marketed to the public until the Ensign de Luxe).
The first ENV designated vehicle (ENV1) was produced in December 1957 and continued in production in batches well into 1961 (a club member has an army saloon ENV10305). The later models, probably from about 1960, also featured Ensign de Luxe-type trim with the revised instrument panel which was similar in shape to the Vanguard 6.
A number of ENV designated cars were also sold to Canada as civilian vehicles, probably again for reasons of the spares stock. I also remember seeing a number of Ensign Estates painted yellow running around Heathrow airport back in the 60s before Heathrow. was split off from the Ministry of Aviation into the British Airports Authority and thinking it unusual as they were not Ensign de Luxe Estates because they had the earlier interior trim.
Apparently, the Ensign Estates used by the Vulcan bomber crews were plugged into battery chargers and sump heaters when on standby so that they were ready to go at the touch of the key when the alarm went off to scramble the aircraft. The electrical connections automatically released when the cars were driven off and by the shortest route, often across the grass, to the waiting aircraft where the crew jumped out and ran to the aircraft. One can see that the doors have been left open on the car in the photo in their hast. There appears to be some sort of fitting o the right front, just above the bumper, which may have been the electrical plug socket for the battery charger and heater.
It's nice to think of the Vanguard as being the fourth member of the V bomber force together with the Valiant, Victor and Vulcan!