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Thread: Vampire collision 17th October 1950 Kirkburn near RAF Driffield

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    Default Vampire collision 17th October 1950 Kirkburn near RAF Driffield

    Dear all,

    Does anyone have any additional information on the above incident that occurred near RAF Driffield on the 17th October 1950, the two aircraft were Vampire F1 VF270 & VF308.

    The aircraft were part of a formation from 203 Advanced Flying Unit, aligned in echelon Port prior to a circuit and landing, both were flying at 1400 feet, VF270 struck the starboard tail boom of VF308 and spun slowly into the ground out of control, Pilot Officer Iain Main Crawford (22) died. VF308 also spun into the ground after the collision, Sergeant Reginald Marshall Willis (27) also sadly lost his life.

    In particular, has anyone have a copy of the accident report or perhaps the RAF Driffield Operations Record Book: 1 Jun 1947 to 31 December 1950, that may show actual events being different to the above description?

    Thanks in advance.

    GB

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    Glenn

    The Cornoner's Inquest was reported in the Hull Daily Mail of October 25th 1950:

    COLLIDED AS THEY BROKE FORMATION
    One of the pilots in a formation of five Vampire jet aircraft described to the East Riding Coroner, Mr. H. W. Rennison, last nioght how two of the formation collided in mid-air over Kirkburn village, near Driffield, and crashed, one in Kirkburn churchyard and the other in a field, killing both pilots.
    P/O Harold Roy Radford, who was No. 5 in the formation, told the Coroner that all the pilots had formation flying experience, but they had not previously flown together as a formation of five. After flying in formation for some time, they approached Driffield airfield in echelon starboard formation, which was a normal approach preparatory to breaking and landing.
    "I heard the leader give the order, 'Prepare to break, break,' and saw him peel off with the next two following suit, but the forst two came into collision," said witness.
    Flt. Lt. Peter Smith, who saw the accident from the air traffic control office at Driffield RAF Station, told the Coroner..."I heard the leader give the order to break formation. The leader made a climbing turn to port followed by the rest of the formation. No. 2 appeared to break fairly quickly after the leader overtook him and struck him from below and on the starboard side. The aircraft separated and dived towards the ground."
    The Coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.


    Regards

    Simon

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    Thankyou very much Simon, much appreciated!

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    Glenn and Simon,
    Thank you for the information contained in your postings.
    I witnessed the incident whilst at Driffield awaiting posting to RAF Jurby for 'square-bashing'. I thought the Vampires were in a dog-fight leading to the collision of two of them. Glenn had information which contradicted what I thought I had seen 66 years ago and offered to seek out the facts, hence his posting on my behalf.

    Your postings tell me that my memory of the event is correct: it was my interpretation of what I saw that was incorrect.

    I shall follow this note with a fuller description of the scene, as seen.

    Thank you both,
    Don Busby.

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    Default The Incident as seen by a New Recruit

    I signed-up on 2nd October 1950 for an 8-year Short Service Commission as a General Duties Navigator. Following kitting-out at RAF Cardington I was sent to the Aircrew Transit Unit, RAF Driffield, on 7th October 1950 to await posting on 26th to No. 1 Initial Training School at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man. I witnessed the collision described in this forum.On a fine, sunny day our group of raw recruits was kept busy helping a local farmer with his potato picking! We had marched to the potato field so were not far from the airfield. Our attention was drawn to five Vampires which seemed to be dog-fighting, including tail-chasing, at about 2-4000 feet when two collided. One spun to the ground and burst into flames about a mile from us. I do not recall a view of what happened to the other. Two of us headed towards the crashed plane thinking we might help: I suspect it was more in the vein of a macabre interest. After some minutes we thought better of the situation and returned to our spud-picking post. We were given a rollicking by the Flight Lieutenant pilot in charge, saying that it was one of his friends who had been killed. He said no more and I am surprised that he did not take the matter further.Until I learnt the facts of this forum I have believed for 66 years that the 5 Vampires were dog-fighting. My view now is that we spotted the aircraft part-way into their break just a second or two before the collision. Presumably Nos. 3, 4 and 5 scattered to avoid collision debris, thus appearing to our untrained eyes as 'mixing it'.Another forum indicates that Sergeant Willis (P1) was an instructor at 203 AFU, probably the friend/colleague of the officer in charge of us.hhtp://www.prune.org/military-aviation/329990-gaining-r-f-pilots-brevet-ww-ii-168.html (Scroll down to "#3347").I put the error in my estimation of height of the Vampires down to inexperience at the time and later, to crewing and observing much larger Canberra PR7s at low level.I am grateful to Glenn and Simon for their postings which clarify what was observed so soon into my RAF career, extended later to 12 years.Don Busby.

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    Don

    Happy to have been of assistance.

    The local newspapers at the time reported the crash, not surprisingly. The Yorkshire Post of October 18th 1950 has a photo of the wreckage of the Vampire that crashed in the churchyard, and another report in the Hull Daily Mail mentions how a passing car driver was almost submerged by a wave of soil and wreckage.

    Regards

    Simon

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    Simon,Thank you for the newspaper references, I shall try to seek out the articles.I am pleased that my memory did not play me up, only my interpretation of what I saw.Yours with thanks,Don Busby

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