The Blackburn Beverley’s origin stems from a study into large cargo aircraft carried out by General Aircraft Limited in 1945. Employing lessons learned from the design and operation of the wartime Hamilcar glider, the company was well placed to respond to the 1946 Air Specification C3/46 calling for a medium-range tactical transport which could use small airfields. A design designated the GAL60 Universal Freighter was submitted and in 1948 a contract awarded for two prototypes. Given its limited production capacity, GAL sought assistance and, following associated negotiations, merged with Blackburn Aircraft Ltd.
The GAL60 made its first flight from Brough on 20th June 1950. Subsequent flight testing went well and the second prototype to an improved design, the GAL65, flew in June 1953 – by which time an initial order for 20 production aircraft under the designation Beverley C1 had been placed. The first production machine took to the air in January 1955 and, following extensive flight-testing, the Beverley entered service with No 47 Squadron in March 1956.
The aircraft was designed to carry bulk loads and land on rough runways and dirt strips. Powered by 4 x Bristol Centaurus engines of 2,850 hp, it had a two-level fuselage comprising a 36 ft main body supplemented by passenger accommodation in the tail boom. It had a maximum payload of 44,000 lbs, albeit a more representative performance was quoted as a standard 29,000 lbs over a range of 1,300 miles, and could carry a total of 80 fully equipped troops or 70 paratroops.
The Beverley served with an Operational Conversion Unit and 6 RAF squadrons. No 84 Squadron, based in the Middle East at RAF Khormaksar, was involved in supporting operations against tribal dissidents in the South Arabian hinterland over several years and, in particular, during the Radfan Campaign of 1964, whilst No 34 Squadron at RAF Seletar in the Far East played a major part in the Malayan Campaign during the same period. The aircraft started being replaced in mid-1967 with the final unit giving up its machines at the end of that year.
A total of 49 Beverleys were built. The sole survivor is on static display at the Fort Paull Military Museum near Hull in East Yorkshire.