Britannia’s miracle story retold

The story of a legendary pilot, who courageously attempted to land the Bristol Britannia on the Severn Estuary seventy years ago, will be retold this February half term as part of an exhibition about the airliner.

Aerospace Bristol on the former Filton Airfield is recounting the ‘Miracle on the Severn’ – a tale about Captain Bill Pegg, whose act of bravery on February 4 1954, saved the lives of all passengers on board when disaster struck during a demo flight over Wales.

Carrying senior Bristol executives and representatives from KLM, the Britannia, a second prototype, was flying back to Filton when one of the engines on the right-hand side caught fire, causing the other engines on board to shut down.

Captain Pegg and his skilled crew managed to restart the engines on the left-hand side.

But unsure if they would make it back to Filton, Pegg decided to immediately land on the banks of the Severn, close to where the original Severn Bridge stands today.

The Britannia – nicknamed the Whispering Giant – was brought down safely.

The fire was put out and everyone on board waded across the mud to the safety of the nearby brickworks.

However, the estuary’s fast-moving tide meant the aircraft was submerged within a few hours, and the Britannia had to be cut up to be removed.

The nose now resides in Aerospace Bristol’s Heritage Hangar.

Amy Seadon, Head of Collections, Learning and Interpretation at Bristol Aerospace said: “We are delighted to enhance our Britannia exhibition with the story of the ‘Miracle on the Severn.’ This area of the museum explores the aircraft’s role in the golden era of flight and visitors will be able to view the Britannia from a different perspective.

“The Whispering Giant was an amazing piece of engineering, being the world’s largest turbo-prop airliner of its time, and this half term visitors will be able to delve into its history through daily spotlight talks and create their very own airliner.”

For more information about the Bristol Britannia exhibition, visit: