NZ5753 in service. (Peter Lewis Collection)

The de Havilland Vampire is a British jet fighter which was developed and manufactured by the de Havilland Aircraft Company in the 1940s. The Vampire has a wooden cockpit structure with the wings and the remainder of the unusual twin-boom fuselage being metal. The aircraft is powered by a single de Havilland Goblin turbojet engine, and is armed with four 20mm Hispano cannon. The Vampire could also perform the ground attack role carrying eight rocket-projectiles or two 500lb bombs.

18 single-seat Vampire FB.52s were acquired in 1951 to become the RNZAF’s first operational jet aircraft, and were initially operated by No. 14 Squadron. A further 6 two-seat T.55s were purchased in 1952, followed by 8 second-hand single-seat FB.5s in 1953 to make up for aircraft lost in accidents. Another 21 FB.5s and 5 two-seat T.11s were acquired from the Royal Air Force in 1955-56 for the Territorial Air Force (TAF). During this time 75 Squadron was also operating Vampires. In the late 1950s many of the aircraft went into storage as the TAF was disbanded, 14 Squadron re-equipped with the English Electric Canberra and 75 Squadron spent time overseas operating aircraft leased from the RAF. 75 Squadron retired its Vampires in 1970 with the introduction of the A4-K Skyhawk. 14 Squadron briefly returned to the Vampire in 1970 after the withdrawal of the Canberra but were soon re-equipped with the BAC Strikemaster in 1972, marking the end of Vampire operations in NZ.

The Ferrymead Aeronautical Society’s Vampire FB.5 is a ‘bitzer’ assembled from parts of several aircraft. Exactly which aircraft is slightly uncertain as the fuselage ‘pods’ in particular didn’t always carry serial numbers.

The forward fuselage ‘pod’ is thought to be that of NZ5775, which was delivered to the RAF as WA385 on 23 April 1951 and allocated to No. 145 Squadron. Struck off charge with RAF on 27 August 1956, the aircraft was shipped to New Zealand on “Norfolk”, and brought on charge with the RNZAF as NZ5775 on 15 October 1956. From March 1960 NZ5775 was stored at RNZAF Woodbourne, until being allocated to No.1 Technical Training School at RNZAF Hobsonville with the new identity INST195 on 22 February 1968. In 1971 the aircraft apparently somehow found its way to RNZAF Wigram, and it ended it’s RNZAF days in the Wigram fire crew training area. The fuselage was rescued from the fire dump and eventually found its way to Ferrymead.

NZ5758/INST196 at RNZAF Woodbourne (Neville Mines photograph)

The tailbooms are from NZ5758, which was delivered to the RAF as VZ838 and allocated to No. 608 Squadron. It survived a mid-air collision with another Vampire before being transferred to No. 607 Squadron and eventually being struck off charge. The aircraft was shipped to New Zealand on “Huntingdon” and brought on charge with the RNZAF as NZ5758 on 31 October 1955. It shared a similar fate to NZ5775, going into storage at RNZAF Woodbourne in August 1958, then being allocated to No. 4 Technical Training School at Woodbourne with the identity INST196 on 19 February 1968. Collector Gerald Rhodes acquired INST196 in 1972 (fitted with the wings of NZ5753, see below) and it was subsequently purchased by the Ferrymead Trust. It eventually came under the auspices of the Aeronautical Society, at which time the forward fuselage was swapped with that of NZ5775 as being in better condition. The fuselage ‘pod’ of NZ5758 was passed on to Don Subritzky and is apparently still extant.

NZ5753 at the opening of Hamilton Airport’s new sealed runway in 1965 (Neville Mines photograph)

As noted above, when NZ5758/INST196 arrived at Ferrymead it was fitted with the wings from NZ5753. This aircraft was previously WA379 and was delivered to the RAF in April 1951 where it served with No. 94 and 26 Squadrons. After being struck off charge with the RAF on 17 April 1953 the aircraft was shipped to New Zealand on “Nottingham” and brought on charge by the RNZAF as NZ5753 on 14 July 1953. As with the other two Vampires it was placed in storage at RNZAF Woodbourne in 1958 but had a reprieve, being reactivated with No.75 Squadron in October 1963. NZ5753 was struck off RNZAF charge on 20 October 1970 and was broken up at Woodbourne in 1971, at which time its wings evidently found their way onto INST196.

The Vampire is cosmetically restored but is currently disassembled due to lack of display space. Any donations of cockpit or engine parts to help complete this project would be gratefully received. Please contact the Society via the contact page if you can help.