The Airspeed Oxford, or “Ox-box” as it was affectionately known, was the military development of Airspeed’s commercial Envoy and the first twin-engined monoplane trainer to serve in the RAF. The maiden flight took place at Portsmouth on 19th June 1937 with the first production machines entering service in November of that year. Some 400 aircraft had been delivered when war broke out in 1939, at which point production was stepped up with sub-contracts being awarded to de Havilland, Percival and Standard Motors.
The Oxford Mk1 was used for bombing and gunnery training and, as such featured a dorsal turret mounting one .303in Vickers K gun, the only variant to be so equipped. The Mk II and subsequent variants leading to the final Mk V were used for pilot, navigator and radio operator training. The aircraft also undertook communications, anti-submarine, air experience and radar calibration duties and served as an air ambulance. A few operated as light bombers during the Iraqi rebellion at Habbaniya in May 1941 and machines operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force were modified to carry 250lb bombs for defence against a possible Japanese invasion. After the Second World War, a few were acquired by the Hellenic Air Force and used in the Greek Civil War of 1946-49.
In excess of 500 Oxfords were operated in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia in association with the Empire Training Scheme and, in addition to the RAF, the aircraft also served with the Royal Navy and eight other national air forces. A grand total of 8,751 were built. Some 6 Oxfords have been preserved in various museums with excellent examples on display at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford and RAF Museum, Hendon.
RAF Tangmere’s association with the Oxford extended from August 1947 until the early summer of 1948 during which time the resident No1 (F) Squadron lost its Meteor F3 aircraft and was re-tasked as an Instrument Flying Training Unit flying the Oxford and Harvard. By August 1948, the Squadron had re-equipped with the Meteor F4 and was once again on the front line.