The de Havilland Vampire is a British jet fighter which was developed and manufactured by the de Havilland Aircraft Company.
It was the second jet fighter to be operated by the RAF, after the Gloster Meteor, and the first to be powered by a single jet engine.
Development of the Vampire as an experimental aircraft began in 1941. In 1946 the Vampire entered operational service with the RAF, only months after the war had ended.
The Vampire quickly proved to be effective and was adopted as a replacement of wartime piston-engined fighter aircraft. During its early service it accomplished several aviation firsts and achieved various records, such as being the first jet aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The Vampire remained in front-line RAF service until 1953 when its transfer began to secondary roles such as ground attack and pilot training, for which specialist variants were produced. The RAF retired the Vampire in 1966 when its final role of advanced trainer was filled by the Folland Gnat. The Royal Navy had also adapted the type as the Sea Vampire, a navalised variant suitable for operations from aircraft carriers. It was the service’s first jet fighter.
The Vampire was exported to many nations and was operated worldwide in numerous theatres and climates. Several countries used the type in combat including the Suez Crisis, the Malayan Emergency and the Rhodesian Bush War.
The Hawker Tempest is a British fighter aircraft that was primarily used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Second World War. The Tempest, originally known as the Typhoon II, was an improved derivative of the Hawker Typhoon, intended to address the Typhoon’s unexpected deterioration in performance at high altitude by replacing its wing with a thinner laminar flow design. Since it had diverged considerably from the Typhoon, it was renamed Tempest. The Tempest emerged as one of the most powerful fighters of World War II and was the fastest single-engine propeller-driven aircraft of the war at low altitude.
Upon entering service in 1944, the Tempest performed low-level interception, particularly against the V-1 flying bomb threat, and ground attack supporting major invasions like Operation Market Garden. Later, it successfully targeted the rail infrastructure in Germany and Luftwaffe aircraft on the ground, as well as countering similar attacks by German fighters. The Tempest was effective in the low-level interception role, including against newly developed jet-propelled aircraft like the Messerschmitt Me 262.
The Fairey Battle is a British single-engine light bomber that was designed and manufactured by the Fairey Aviation Company. It was developed during the mid-1930s for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a monoplane successor to the Hawker Hart and Hind biplanes. The Battle was powered by the same high-performance Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine that powered various contemporary British fighters like the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. The Battle was much heavier, with its three-man crew and bomb load.
The Airspeed Oxford was a military development of the same company’s Envoy airliner. The prototype first flew on 19 June 1937 and when it entered service with the Central Flying School in November of that year it became the Royal Air Force’s first twin-engine monoplane advanced trainer.
As a consequence of the outbreak of war, many thousands of Oxfords were ordered by Britain and its allies, including Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Poland, and the United States. Following the end of the conflict, the Oxford continued to achieve export sales for some time, equipping the newly formed air forces of Egypt, India, Israel, and Yugoslavia. It was considered to be a capable trainer aircraft throughout the conflict, as well as being used as a general-purpose type. A large number of Oxfords have been preserved on static display.
At RAF London there is a is a McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2.
The Phantom formed a major part of the Royal Air Force’s combat aircraft strength for over twenty years and provided the Service with one of the world’s most capable strike fighters.
Two versions of the Rolls Royce Spey-powered Phantom entered service with the Royal Air Force. The FG1 (the version also used by the Royal Navy) in the interceptor role and the FGR2 in the ground attack and tactical reconnaissance role in Germany. From 1977, all the Royal Air Force Phantoms were used exclusively as interceptor fighters over United Kingdom air-space.
Great Britain bought fifty two Phantom FG1s and 118 Phantom FGR2s.
Initially, the FGR.2 was used in the ground attack and reconnaissance role, primarily with RAF Germany. The superiority of the Phantom over the English Electric Lightning in terms of both range and weapon load, combined with the successful introduction of the SEPECAT Jaguar, meant that, during the mid-1970s, most of the ground attack Phantoms in Germany were redeployed to the UK to replace air defence Lightning squadrons.
With the deployment of Phantoms to the South Atlantic in 1982 an additional order for 15 Phantoms was placed. These were second hand United States Navy F-4Js fitted with General Electric F-79 engines. After an extensive refurbishment and the fitting of some British equipment they were designated F-4J(UK).
The collapse of the threat from the Eastern Europe led to an accelerated run down of the Phantom fleet and the last unit disbanded at the end of September 1992.
The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company which was used extensively in the first two years of the Second World War, with examples still being used as trainers until the end of the war.
As the Allied Ground and Air Forces faced defeat in May 1940 the RAF had to use its light bomber force in desperate daylight raids against German army bridgeheads in France and the Low Countries. The Blenheim Ivs and Fairey Battles used in these attacks suffered crippling losses. In fact no higher loss, in operations of a similar size, has ever been suffered by the Royal Air Force.
The Blenheim IV, with its redesigned and longer nose, superseded the Blenheim I on the production lines in 1938. The original short nose Blenheim I had been developed from a civil aircraft and was one of the first new high performance monoplanes ordered under RAF Expansion Plans.
After the fighting in France was over Coastal and Bomber Command Blenheims began day and night attacks against German occupied ports and installations in frantic attempts to disrupt their invasion plans.
Blenheim IVs also served in North Africa and the Far East.
The Mustang was undoubtedly one of the most versatile and successful single-seat fighters of World War Two. Originally designed to meet a British requirement early versions quickly demonstrated their superior performance and when later Mustangs were fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine the Allies had one of the truly great fighters of the 20th Century.
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in April 1940.
The fitting of drop tanks allowed Mustangs to escort American bombers all the way to Berlin and back. The everyday appearance of such a superb Allied fighter over the German capital sounded the death knell of the Third Reich.
The Heinkel He111 provided the Luftwaffe with a fast, manoeuvrable medium bomber which it used as a spearhead for the Blitzkrieg tactics so successfully employed during the early campaigns of World War Two. The He111’s defensive shortcomings were harshly demonstrated in 1940 and 1941, but the Germans had little alternative than to continue production of an ageing and inadequate aircraft.
The Heinkel He 111 was designed in 1934. Through development, it was described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Due to restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War prohibiting bombers, it was presented solely as a civil airliner, although from conception the design was intended to provide the nascent Luftwaffe with a heavy bomber.
The first bomber deliveries were made in 1936 and a number were sent to Spain the following year. By providing support for the Spanish Nationalist forces the Germans could test their new equipment and tactics under operational conditions.
American forces captured this aircraft, on display at RAF London, in May 1945, in the final days of the war. It was flown to Cherbourg on the French coast for shipment to the USA for evaluation. Due to the lack of space on the allocated vesse this did not occur. A three-man American crew of the 56th USAAF Fighter Group took the decision to fly the abandoned aircraft to their base in Boxted, Essex.
At dawn on the morning of 12 September 1945, Major Carter (one of the original American crew) took off from Boxted and landed at RAF North Weald, parked the Heinkel near the watch tower and was immediately collected by Captain Cole, flying a 56th Group’s transport aircraft, and returned to Boxted. It must have been quite a sight for the people at RAF North Weald to suddenly wake up and see a German bomber parked near the watch tower!
The Bedford OXC tractor was developed with the assistance of Scammell, pioneers in the development of articulated lorries, now used extensively for transporting goods by road. The Bedford was one of two tractors used with an articulated aircraft recovery trailer, commonly known as a Queen Mary (after the ship of the same name).
Squadron personnel were considered too busy to repair damaged aircraft so the Civilian Repair Organisation was set up to undertake the role. If an aeroplane could not be repaired on site, it was dismantled and taken on a Queen Mary to workshops for repair.
The Avro Anson was slow, cold and noisy and is the most famous British aircrew trainer of all time. Used in huge numbers, ‘Faithful Annie’ is remembered with affection by most of Royal Air Force-trained multi-engined aircrew of World War Two.
The Anson I began life in the mid-1930s as a coastal reconnaissance aircraft. Although an advanced design at the time, rapid improvements in aircraft performance meant that the Anson was hopelessly outclassed when war broke out in September 1939.
Ansons were also used extensively as light transport and communications aircraft. Development continued during and after the war, culminating in the adaption of the civilian Avro XIX for service use as the Anson C19. With a completely re-designed fuselage, and metal wings and tail plane, this second generation Anson continued in RAF service until 1968.