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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 153781
Last updated: 23 January 2020
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Type:Silhouette image of generic VAMP model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
de Havilland DH.115 Vampire T.Mk 11
Owner/operator:5 FTS Royal Air Force (5 FTS RAF)
Registration: XD390
C/n / msn: 15253
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:1/2 mile NW of Lavendon, near Olney, Buckinghamshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Destination airport:RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire
Crashed and destroyed 21.1.1957: it is thought that control was lost after flying through heavy turbulence caused by other aircraft descending towards Oakington. The pilot had regained control and was pulling out of a dive when it struck the ground half a mile north west of Lavendon, near Olney, Buckinghamshire, killing both crew

Crew of DH Vampire T.11 XD690:
Captain Charles Bernard Christison (QFI Instructor Pilot, aged 28, on exchange posting from the USAF)
Pilot Officer Thomas Stephen Howdle (Pupil pilot under training, aged 19)

The following is a contemporary local newspaper account of the Vampire crash which occurred on 21 January 1957:

"Two Killed in Lavendon Air Crash
Jet Wreckage Strewn 1,000 yards by Explosion
An American Air Force pilot, with a British trainee by his side, circled the village of Lavendon on Monday afternoon in a Vampire jet trainer. He knew he was in trouble and tried to land in an open field. He succeeded in missing the houses but the plane exploded killing him and his pupil pilot instantly, and scattering wreckage over more than 1,000 yards.

The pilot was Capt. Charles Bernard Christison (28), of California, in Britain on an exchange posting and was on an instrument exercise with Pilot Officer Thomas Stephen Howdle (19) from No. 5 Flying Training School at R.A.F. Oakington, near Cambridge.

Many people heard the jet come screaming over the village, but only a few of them realised the pilot was in difficulties. Mr. Ray Ingram, of Lower Farm, Lavendon, and his brother John, were perhaps the only eye-witnesses of the crash. They were on their way back to the farm after visiting some of their fields, but paused to inspect another field. That action probably saved their lives, for if they had carried on they might have found themselves in the wreckage strewn area of the Twelve Acre field at the time of the explosion.

Mr. Ingram said he and his brother heard a scream and saw a black flash just before the loud explosion. “I didn’t realise it was a plane until later” he said. They hurried to the scene and after finding there were no survivors, John ran to telephone the Police.

The plane was believed to have struck a willow tree on its “run in” for a crash landing. A flock of sheep was grazing nearby. Luckily only three of them were killed, but the severe fright the other ewes received may have severe consequences when they are due to lamb in a short time.

Mrs Iris Ingram was in the kitchen of Lower Farm house when she heard the jet roar overhead about 2.40 p.m. Many aircraft fly over Lavendon in the course of the day, usually from the same direction, but she quickly sensed something was wrong.

“The din was terrific,” she said. “I thought it was going to hit the house it was so close. I had to put my fingers in my ears as it went screaming past. Then there was a sharp explosion and all I could see was smoke.”

Council houses over a mile away were shaken by the explosion and many other buildings in the village felt the force of the blast. Fire engines from Olney and Northampton rushed to the scene, quickly followed by ambulances from two counties. There was nothing either firemen or ambulance men could do. Several of the vehicles became bogged down in the mud and had to have assistance from police and farmworkers to get free. The same mud helped the Police keep the scores of onlookers away from the crash.

Numbers of high-ranking officers from both the R.A.F. and the American Air Force visited the scene the following day and inspected the wreckage. On Tuesday afternoon an inquest on Pilot Officer Howdle was opened at Newport Pagnell Police Station and adjourned after evidence of identification had been given by a Flying Instructor at R.A.F. Oakington, Flight Lt. Roger Chick.

Flight Lt. Chick told the Coroner for North Bucks, Mr. E. T. Ray, that Howdle was a member of his flight. He knew he had been authorised to fly with his instructor, Capt. C. B. Christison in that particular aircraft for an instrument exercise.

The date of the adjourned hearing was later fixed for February 1st. An inquiry into the death of Capt. Christison will probably be held by the U.S.A.A.F. at Alconbury, Huntingdonshire. His body was flown home to America on Wednesday, accompanied by his wife and two children."


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.187 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft XA100-XZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 15)
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/36/S2862:

Revision history:

05-Mar-2013 12:30 Dr. John Smith Added
05-Mar-2013 12:33 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Narrative]
06-Mar-2013 11:48 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Narrative]
25-Dec-2018 21:08 Nepa Updated [Operator, Nature, Operator]
10-Jan-2020 18:55 stehlik49 Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
23-Jan-2020 21:01 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Source, Narrative]
23-Jan-2020 22:42 stehlik49 Updated [Operator, Operator]

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