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Death of John Lakeman
As told by John Hawtin, Gordon Talbot and Al Pollock

John Hawtin:

     Yes indeed I was at Oakington and on the same flight as John Lakeman when he was killed.   I have scoured my log book but can only determine that it was sometime after 13 April 1960 which was the last date that we flew together.   My feeling is that it was soon after that date.   [In view of this we have a problem with the AGM photographs which are currently labelled provisionally as 1961. John Lakeman is clearly in both photographs so they must have been taken at the AGM 0n

     I was one of the Pall bearers and recall very clearly meeting his parents.   His father was completely devastated but surprisingly his mother was very composed.   I remember she was particularly concerned for what she described as "the poor people that had to rescue the bodies and cleanup the debris".   The grief at the loss of their only child must have been a constant pain for the rest of their lives.

     The aircraft crashed just outside Cambridge close to the huge US Airman's cemetery.   The captain of the Varsity was I believe "Danny" Kaye current RAF Ski Champion at the time who was due to retire a few days after the crash.   I think the student with John was named Ball and was a distant relative of the famous World War 1 flying ace of the same name.

     The only good thing to come out of the tragedy was that an area radar was set up at Wyton to co-ordinate the considerable air traffic in that area.   Wyton, Oakington, Waterbeach, Alconbury and Marshalls were all active at the time.   Sorry I can's give you a more accurate date but hope the background is helpful for those who did not know the circumstances.

Gordon Talbot:

     I was one of John Lakeman's best mates and as my parents lived near Moreton Hampstead and John's were at Teignmouth we frequented many pubs in that area whenever we were on leave at the same time.

     In the late 50s/early 60s he was an instructor at Oakington (as, I am sure, was John Hawtin) and after take off in a Vampire T11, climbing away in cloud, collided with a Varsity/Valetta (in which was the then current RAF Ski champion).   I was in Devon at the time and saw the report in the next day's press, went to see his parents who at that time had only had a very brief Ministry telephone call about the accident.   I attended the funeral service at Oakington , John Hawtin was there also, and the date was most probably 1960, though it could have been 1959 or early 1961 as I was at West Raynham when the accident occurred.

Al Pollock:

Another addition for Mick is that the date was 7th July 1960, 50 years ago surprisingly now, when the RAF Cranwell Varsity of Flt Lt 'Danny' Zenon Waclaw Kaye (the great skier and whom I remember flying in a Tiger Moth at one of the Snorings near Raynham a couple of years earlier) collided near Oakington, having five others onboard, with ex-118 & 93 Sqn's Fg Off A John Lakeman & his student from 5 FTS Plt Off Joseph J Ball.

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