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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Sunday, 9 February 2014



I spent a good part of this morning crawling around with a roll of masking tape, masking off bits of my bathroom so that it could receive a slightly early Spring repaint. Fortunately, like most British people, I live in a very small house, so, unlike Mole in Wind in the Willows, I didn't get browned off with the refresh. Mind you, it is certainly a universal truth that masking tape best likes to stick to itself.  I spent part of this evening masking up the Airfix Vampire, and proved the truth of that observation, this time in Braille scale:

Irritatingly, the RAF clearly thought it a good idea to run their training ID bands almost up to, but not quite, the booms - not an easy thing to mask in 1/72 on such a small aircraft. However, I am still enthusiastic about this little project, and yesterday discovered a copy of:

in my local newsagent. For a mere £7.95, I got 130 pages of wonderful period photos (from the doubtless vast 'Aeroplane' archive), and articles on the development of the type (and the Venom and Sea Venom), flying the thing, and plenty of material and photos of foreign users and licensed builders of the Vampire. Cracking stuff. Two things stood out for me. Firstly, for someone used to the small numbers of aircraft in the current RAF (we shall say nothing of the awful fixed winged fiasco that has engulfed the FAA. Good job China is only just out into blue water - I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be if I was an Australian or Kiwi in that particular respect), the numbers of Vampires built seem huge. For example, 349 at Hatfield, 979 at Chester, 242 at Christchurch, 1311 at Preston, and 97 at Ringway, and that's not to mention Indian, Australian, French and Swiss production. I know that, of course, modern aircraft are infinitely more capable than aircraft like the Venom, that the F-35 looks like being an amazing piece of kit, and the future is pilotless/remote, but, still, numbers count to some degree, especially when one thinks of rates of attrition (remember the loss rate of Tornadoes in the First Gulf War?).  The second thing that struck me was the losses of aircrew in training. One chapter in the book/magazine is a reminiscence by an former Vampire pilot about his conversion training onto the type. n the comparatively short period of that training, one instructor and two trainees were killed in three separate incidents. On the death of the instructor, the author wrote: 'No one seemed particularly concerned, but flying was cancelled for our course for one afternoon as the instructors all went to his funeral'.


  1. It seems to have been VERY popular as a trainer. I wouldn't be surprised if our Air Corps next door to you is still using them as the primary fixed-wing trainer, even though my dad worked on them in Baldonnel 40 odd years ago.

  2. Apparently there is a very nice example at the Irish military museum in Dublin. An elegant thing.