Falklands: Chariots Of Fire, 35 years on

Vulcan XM607 Black Buck 2

One story that came out of the bombing of Port Stanley was about how a well known tune was played - I'm re-creating this experince.

Back Story

This story is about the theme music of the 1981 film Chariots Of Fire, and probably the most unusual circumstances it has ever been played....

After the successful bombing of Port Stanley's runway by the crew of Avro Vulcan XM607 and an entire fleet of Victor Tankers were making their way back to Ascension Island. This involved a cascade of Victor Tankers to keep the Vulcan's fuel levels topped up en-route. The last in-flight refuel for 607 was reported to have been a close-call, as it looked like they wouldn't make the rendezvous before running out of fuel; clearly everyone aboard XM607 must have been feeling a tad concerend about this pending experience.

However, the Victor came into sight just in the nick of time - a good glug, and a sigh of relief. At this moment, the AEO in the rear pulled out a tape cassette, and inserted it into 607's tape recorder. He pressed play, and sent the Chariots Of Fire theme through the intercom system!

This Project

I was talking to a sound engineer about this story, when he mentioned "it must have sounded terrible!" - I said, "You know what, you're probably right! Let's find out..."

I also thought that maybe Martin Withers and his crew may have been the last people to have heard what this sounded like, so by doing this project, more people could have the experience!

So that was it... Here we are 35 years later trying to re-create that experience!


I found that the Vulcan used either an A1961 or A1961M intercom amplifier - it actually had two of them, one "Normal", the other "Conference" as can be seen in the drawing below. Looking through the circuit diagrams, I found that there is one additional smaller amplifier that could be in circuit inside the station control units, but not having one of those units; just using an A1961 is the closest I can get to replicating the sound.

Image I took in Vulcan XM594, showing the location of the "Normal" Amplifier (detail B in the above drawing) next to the crew access hatch opening.

The nice men at WRMR Ltd kindly donated an A1961 amplifier, and Roy of Electrojumble.org also kindly donated the Plessey Mk4 connectors to wire it up.

Initial Test

I used the amplifier's internal mixing circuits as a point to inject the music, and set about wiring it up!

Coincidentally, this amplifier was declared "Unservicable" in 1982, the same year of the Falklands conflict.

So, 35 years on, I gave it a try... see video below:


This amplifier plays a part in producing the sound that the intercom system would have made, but probably a bigger effect on the sound was by the actual flying helmets used. I have no concrete evidence (ie: photos), but am led to believe the crew mainly wore Mk3B flying helmets, with one exception, as the headset went faulty on Martin Withers helmet just before the Black Buck 2 flight. Martin swapped his helmet for the older G-Type and Mk1A helmet combination. This meant that the rest of the crew would have heard a different sound to what Martin Withers did.

The Mk2 and Mk3 helmets all had a singe speaker at the rear (some had two), connected to the ear capsules by accoustic tubes, giving quite an echoy sound compared to the G-Type wich just has two speakers, one in each earpiece.

Public Demonstration

I demonstrated this project on 17th June 2017 at Newark Air Museum's CockpitFest event.

Here is how it sounded, probably the first time that Chariots Of Fire has been played through a system like this in 35 years!

This video is of the first play, recorded here before anyone (myself included) had a go!

The demonstration was far more engaging than I expected it to be... people were closing their eyes and drifting off to an imaginary Vulcan cockpit on that remarkable flight...

I loved putting on this exhibit, it was simple, to the point, and gave an experience that with a little imagination really moved people.