History of the De Havilland Vampire...

...new from Fonthill Media

Title: History of the De Havilland Vampire
Author: David Watkins

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-616-0

First published in hardback  in 2013, this is a new softcover edition for 2017.  The author has done a superb job in putting together this history of the Vampire, one of the RAF's early jets, alongside the Meteor.  In the introduction the author gives some general information and thing such as a production run of around 3,400 Vampires built in the UK and over 1,000 built under licence in other countries around the world.  Vampires remained in service with the Swiss Air Force for 43 years, an amazing life of service.  The other thing which got my attention, as I hadn't known before, was that the first RAF unit to be equipped with Vampires, No 247 Squadron in March 1946, was at RAF Chilbolton in Hampshire.  In more recent years part of my own job in the John Lewis Partnership meant I was a regular visitor to the old airfield site, as today much of it is part of the Leckford Estate belonging to the Partnership, and where one of the original airfield hangers is used now as a grain store.

The story starts with the Airframe Development and then its' entry into service with the RAF.  It moves on through engine development with the Goblin, and the unsuccessful plan to use the Rolls Royce Nene.  Then there is a short interlude with the DH 108 prototype, which tried out a swept wing design, but this was cancelled.  After this it tackles the various marks of both single and twin seat Vampires, including the Sea Vampires.  In these early days of jet aircraft development, they were involved with Flexible Deck Experiments and Deck Landing Mirrors.  The story then moves on to Vampires in service in Germany, the Middle East, the Far East and with Training Command.  So many Cold War era pilots would have been trained in those early jets.

The next part of the story, and another sign of the period following WW2 when British jets were purchased by so many countries around the world, a real export success story.  Foreign Sales have no less than 30 chapters covering each of the foreign operators over the years.  Throughout the book there are not only numerous archive photos, but lots of stories and memories from those who flew the  various marks of Vampire, adding that important personal touch to the story as a whole.

There are four appendices to round things off, with useful date such as Vampire Performance Details, RAF Vampire Serial Allocations, RAF Squadrons and a list of Preserved airframes.  The book is not only packed with information on the Vampire story but is at the same time written in a very readable style.  If you have an interest in the de Havilland Vampire, I can't think of a better reference.

Robin