on the brakes and when airborne got the wheels up smartly and kept the Vampire low. By the time I reached the end of the runway I was doing about 220 knots - enough I reckoned for the roll. I pulled up to about 50 feet and began to roll slowly to the right. All went well until I found myself upside down looking at the ground closer than I had ever seen it before. A moment of panic kicked in telling me things were getting too dangerous for comfort and although later I realised the safest thing to have done would have been to climb away inverted to a safe altitude before completing the roll, I didn't. Instead I shoved on full right aileron and full right rudder. The Vampire barrelled out of the roll in a most ungainly fashion, its left wing tip missing the ground by inches. I was so shaken I climbed straight ahead to 20,000 feet and just floated around until it was time to return for a landing.
' returned from his flight I asked him if he had done what he said he was going to do. Of course he hadn't. He wasn't that stupid. He didn't believe me when I said that I had, so we rang air traffic control for confirmation. No, they hadn't seen anything. I must have been too low for them to notice, so I could have killed myself for nothing and it would have been another unexplained accident.
Another dicey incident I fortunately was not aware of until it was all over occurred when I was number 64 of a formation of Vampires simulating a bomber raid on England. The last aircraft in a formation always uses more fuel than the others due to constant adjustments on the throttle to maintain position, and so it was with me. During the final descent through cloud for a landing, I was too busy keeping close formation on my leader to check my fuel gauge, which was probably just as well. It would certainly have been reading very low and probably zero. That would have done my heart rate no good at all. In the event I didn't even check it after landing and jumped out of the cockpit while the aircraft was refuelled for the return flight. When I saw how much fuel was required to top up the tanks I was amazed to find it exceeded the official capacity of the tanks. I never got so low on fuel again.
We had just two major accidents on the squadron while at Jever. The standard method of joining the circuit, either singly or as a formation, was to fly low along the runway at high speed, break hard left at the same time closing the throttle and pulling up to circuit height with airbrakes out to join the downwind leg. This slowed the aircraft sufficiently to enable the wheels to be lowered. The normal procedure was then to open the throttle before turning on to the final approach. Unfortunately for Ray Hancock
on one occasion his engine failed to respond. It had flamed out, and the Vampire had no means of relighting it. He had no choice but to turn directly to the airfield. He overshot the field completely and flopped down in the undershoot area which at the time had contractors clearing the area of trees. I saw the accident from the far side of the airfield and, after seeing bits of Vampire flung skywards and the engine break loose and describe an arc through the air for about two hundred yards, thought it un-survivable. In fact, Ray
was found still strapped to his seat with nothing else around him. His only injuries were a broken arm and superficial bruising.
Crash Site of Ray Hancock's Vampire FB5 VZ115 T-E
The other accident was the one previously mentioned concerning the demise of my first logbook.
Minor accidents there were aplenty. One quite amusing one occurred during a night flying session at Jever. I had just landed and was walking back to the hangar with my parachute slung over my shoulder when I heard a noise like an express train thundering by. Realising there was no railway line in the direction from which the noise was coming, I turned back to see a shower of sparks careering down the runway. Three of us jumped into the squadron
Landrover and sped out to the scene to find a Vampire sitting on its belly with a small fire flickering underneath and its cockpit