Designed as a high altitude interceptor, the Vampire followed the Meteor as Britain’s second jet fighter. It was initially powered by the Halford H1 engine developed by Frank Halford, chief designer for De Havilland, and was known originally as the ‘Spider Crab’. The prototype flew in September 1943. The F3 version with the Goblin 1 engine equipped many RAF squadrons both at home and abroad, but the most common type was the ground attack FB5, used by many foreign air forces.
In the early 1950s, De Havilland produced a two-seat night-fighter version, the NF10, and these aircraft formed the backbone of the RAF’s night-fighter force until the arrival of the Meteor NF11. The T11 trainer version was a development of the NF10 and the type continued in service until well into the 1980s.
Vampire T11 XH278 was built at Chester and was test flown on 13 September 1955. It was delivered to the RAF Cranwell on 30 December 1955. Apart from one minor collision with a fuel bowser on 8 January 1957, it remained in service until 3 February 1960 when it went into storage at RAF Shawbury. In 1964, the Vampire was transferred to RAF Upwood for Ground Instruction Training. In 1984, it was moved again to Henlow (ATC) and later to RAF Henlow. XH278 ended its service career two years later.
The Vampire was bought in October 1992 by David Thompson, a farmer at South Howdens in Northumberland, who restored the aircraft during 1992/3. It remained on display at the farm until it was donated to the museum by David and his young son Martin in November 2001.