de Havilland Vampire F.B. Mk.5 VV602 of No.613 (City of Manchester) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force

de Havilland Vampire Mk.3 at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon


Jocelyn Francis Baverstock Davis Flying Officer SAAuxAF Pilot Killed


The aircraft was an English Electric built example of the Vampire F.B. Mk.5 and was equipped with the de Havilland Goblin Mk.2 centrifugal flow turbojet. It had been built at one of English Electric’s two sites near Preston and was completed on the 2nd February 1949. At the time of its loss the aircraft have accumulated a little over 486 hours of flying time.

The crash site of de Havilland Vampire VV602 in May 2008
The crash site is clearly marked by a deep depression in the corner of the field, this photo was taken during the pre-dig survey in June 2008.

On the day of the accident, Saturday 1st May 1954, two Auxiliary pilots, Flying Officer Parker (Blue 1) and Flying Officer Davis (Blue 2), had been briefed to carry out a Cine Gun Exercise over the North Sea at an altitude of between 20,000 and 25,000 feet. They had been due to take off at 11:30 but had been delayed until 12:45 by thundery showers. The weather was recorded as having been a mixture of Stratus and Cumulus clouds with the base at 2,000 feet with occasional thunder storms.

Crash site of de Havilland Vampire VV602, Wildboarclough, Macclesfield, Cheshire
Here Nick Wotherspoon, of the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation Team, marks the crater with a probe rod.

The flight was given permission by the Tower at Ringway to take off from Runway 24 at 12:46 and they took off as a pair. As they climbed away from the airport they turned onto a magnetic heading of 120o. They entered cloud as expected at 2,000 feet, this turned out to be light, layered cloud in which it was easy to maintain formation in. Shortly after this the two aircraft entered they entered a much darker area of cloud with heavy rain and moderate turbulence. At around 6,000 feet Flying Officer Davis radioed Flying Officer Parker  to tell him that he was breaking formation. The only logical reason for this was he had lost sight of his leader in the cloud and was taking appropriate actions to avoid a mid-air collision. The stated he was turning onto a heading of 140o. According to the investigation F/O Davis radioed moments later to say he was bailing out of the aircraft, it was stated from analysis of recordings made at Ringway that there was clear agitation in his voice but no panic.

At the time of the transmission F/O Parker in Blue 1 had climbed to 9,000 feet, he continued to climb until he exited the cloud at 13,500 feet. Once clear of cloud he called F/O Davis on his radio and received no reply. He then reported to loss of his No.2 to the regional Air Traffic Control Centre at Preston. Shortly after this the crash was reported to Ringway by the local Police.

map showing crash site of de havilland Vampire VV602 at Wildboarclough, Cheshire
The map above is redrawn from a hand drawn map in the accident report held at the National Archives.

VV602 had been observed once it exited cloud and was seen to dive into the ground near to the northern end of Wildboarclough, some 4 miles south-east of Macclesfield and exploded. Shortly before impact witnesses saw a parachute “break away from the aircraft”. F/O Davis had managed to abandon the aircraft and had landed almost 200 yards from the crash site but was found to be dead and the parachute was badly damaged. It was concluded that the parachute had opened while F/O Davis was still in the aircraft as the damage and traces of oil and dope were consistent with it having flailed around behind the cockpit before eventually pulling the unfortunate pilot free. He than was struck by part of the aircraft and was killed outright, however had he not been hit by his own aircraft the Court of Inquiry stated that the parachute was so badly damaged it would have most likely not have saved him.

Jocelyn Davis was a South African national and member of the South African Auxiliary Air Force, he was seconded to 613 Squadron from the City of Johannesburg Squadron. He had been in England since 1951 and was due to return home in September 1954. While in this country he was undertaking an engineering apprenticeship at Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester. The Officer Commanding No.613 Sqn wrote “the circumstances of this accident bring to us most forcibly that auxiliary pilots must be in constant flying practice”. This comment stemmed from the weekend nature of the RAuxAF’s flying and not all pilots were able to keep their hours up to a fully proficient standard.

Flying Officer Davis was buried on the 7th May 1954 at Manchester Southern Cemetery following a service at St Winifreds Presbytery in Heaton Chapel.

Grave of Flying Officer Jocelyn Francis Baverstock Davis, South African Auxiliary Air Force, and Manchester Southern Cemetery
Flying Officer Davis’ grave at Manchester Southern Cemetery

In June 2008 we carried out an excavation of this site under licence from the MoD.