When Hatfield's de Havilland and the Vampire ruled the jet age

De Havilland Vampire

The de Havilland Vampire was the fastest aircraft in the world when it entered service in 1946. - Credit: Picryl

Back in 1946, the Hatfield-based de Havilland Aircraft Company was at the forefront of aviation, and their newly designed jet fighter the Vampire ruled the burgeoning jet age.

Entering Royal Air Force service a year after the end of the Second World War, the DH.100 was as distinctive as it was innovative, although little was known about it at the time.

Instantly recognisable with its twin-boom tail, but with it still on the secret list, all that was known about the aircraft was that it could exceed 500mph in level flight and could reach an altitude of 50,000ft.

A Brazilian Air Force mission visiting the UK got an early glimpse of the world’s fastest aircraft when they visited UK in 1946, with test pilot Geoffrey de Havilland putting the single-engine fighter through its paces in the skies above Hatfield.

The Vampire would be operated by more than 30 air forces across the world, seeing conflict during the Suez Crisis, the Malayan Emergency and the Rhodesian Bush War.

The jet was retired from the RAF in 1967 as more advanced aircraft entered service, but it continued to be operated across the world, with the last being used by the Rhodesian Air Force in 1979.