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Jet Planes For Colony

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Jet Planes For Colony
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This SCMP report on RAF Vampire jet-fighters being delivered to Hong Kong quotes them staging at numerous places for fuel and rest where transiting British military aircraft would certainly not be welcome today.

Among the many pictures on Gwulo attributed to 367 Association archives there are probably images of the first RAF Vampires to join 28 Squadron at Kai Tak.

Not to be confused with the Vampire flight piloted by Squadron Leader Francis that overshot Hong Kong and landed at in China at Bias Bay in 1949.

This ‘First Flight’ reported in the South China Morning Post of 24 January 1951 was a delivery flight much later featured by a participant pilot’s description in the October 1995 edition of the UK magazine ‘Aeroplane Monthly’ under the title ‘Vampire Ferry Flight.’ No Far East transit related photographs accompany the article for some reason.

It would appear that this stage of the trip was not straightforward; four RAF Vampires departed from RAF Station Seletar at Singapore escorted by a Mosquito Mk.34. One heavily fuel-loaded Vampire was damaged during the initial take-off and returned to the base to be exchanged for a similar standby aircraft. Two hours into the resumed flight to Saigon another Vampire developed a defect and returned to Singapore. The next day now down to three on their way to Tourane in Vietnam, another reported trouble and belly-landed on Tourane’s runway.

The remaining two Vampires departed for Hong Kong still escorted by the Mosquito. Nearing Hong Kong, the escorting crew appeared to have mis-identified Canton in the distance for Hong Kong. Meanwhile the Vampire crews guessing a mistake broke off and landed safely at Kai Tak where they were the first jets to join 28 Squadron. The errant Mosquito escort landed shortly after.

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Wednesday, January 24, 1951

Comments

Good read. Just for reference, the Australian newspapers give the date of arrival of the first delivery flight as 29 January 1951. Perhaps incorrect but 3 Vampires appear to have made the journey.

Re number of aircraft completing the flight. To quote from the Aeroplane Monthly article on leaving Tourane,

“And then there were two of us. After the events of the previous two days, the final leg to Hong Kong went almost as planned.”

They set off from Singapore on 12 February 1951, also with a Sunderland flying boat available for rescues on the overwater sections if necessary.

Considering the 50% attrition rate of the Vampires for the Singapore-Hong Kong section of the delivery flights, it makes one wonder how many had originally set out from the UK.

Presumably it was regarded as a “Exercise” by the powers that be in the RAF.

Royal Navy aircraft carriers would have been shuttling back and forth between the UK and the Far East at that time. They could have carried the whole consignment in safety and not wearing out the Vampire’s relatively simple early jet-engine with their short lifespans.

Maybe it was a Royal Air Force v Royal Navy services “ego trip” issue.

The Vampire flights from the U.K. arrived in convoys to re-equip fighter squadrons of the Far East Air Force based in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong. The second convoy made the 8,500 mile trip to Singapore in 27 hours with many stops along the way. 

Looking through the Singapore and Oz newspapers regarding the Vampire delivery flights between January and February 1951, it was noted that the plan was to deliver 16 operational Vampire aircraft to Hong Kong in batches to re-equip the two RAF Spitfire squadrons. The first delivery flight from Singapore arived in Hong Kong on 29 January 1951. I think the Aeroplane Monthly article confirms that the subsequent ferry flight leaving Singapore on 12 February 1951 ended up with two Vampires making a safe landing at Hong Kong. 

First-first 28 Squadron Vampire ferry flight to Hong Kong.jpg
First-first 28 Squadron Vampire ferry flight to Hong Kong.jpg, by IDJ