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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 231965
Last updated: 28 November 2021
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Time:17:00 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic VAMP model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
de Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB Mk 5
Owner/operator:RAE Farnborough
Registration: VZ835
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Ash Vale,7 miles from Guildford, Surrey -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAE Farnborough, Hampshire
Destination airport:
De Havilland Vampire FB.5 VZ835, RAE Farnborough: Written off 01/10/53 when crashed at Ash Vale, Surrey, during spinning trials.

On October 1st 1953, Squadron Leader R.F.W. Cleaver was carrying out flying practice from Farnborough in Vampire Mk. 5 VZ835. On approaching the base on his return leg a Supermarine 510, flown by Squadron Leader Murley, also joined the Farnborough circuit. With both being given "Clear to Finals" by the Tower, Squadron Leader Murley requested clarification over who was first and received the reply that he was No.1 to land. Squadron Leader Cleaver, call sign 'Sailor 99', was instructed to follow behind the Supermarine 510 and he acknowledged this.

Squadron Leader Murley asked the Vampire to pass behind and above him, but this was not acknowledged and, about five seconds later, VZ835 began a steep climb at about 70 degrees. After 150 feet it suddenly flicked over onto its back and dived towards the ground, and half-rolled to regain a 'right side up' attitude. Still in a fairly steep dive, it was seen to level out before once again flipping onto its back and impacting the ground at Ash Vale.

Squadron Leader Richard Frank Wharton Cleaver D.S.O., D.F.C. (Service Number 124411, aged 33) died instantly. At the Court of Inquiry it was stated that he hadn't flown a Vampire for five months. It was the opinion of the Court that Squadron Leader Cleaver was probably watching the Supermarine 510 closely, and in preparing to pass behind it he inadvertently applied full flaps by mistake when he actually intended to apply the air brakes.

According to an eyewitness, who statement was presented to the Court of Inquiry:

"Mrs. BETTY SPEERS, 3 STATION ROAD, ASH VALE, being duly sworn, states:-

"I am a housewife, living at 3, Station Road, Ash Vale. On October 1st, 1953, at about 1700 hrs. I was in the front garden of my house.. I looked up and saw an aeroplane above the station, which appeared to be travelling in a S.W. - N.E. direction. It appeared just above the roof of the station, and below the level of the adjacent trees. As I looked it climbed steeply looped over on its back and dived down, disappearing below the level of the trees and buildings. A second later I saw a column of black smoke rising from the ground from a position about where the aircraft had disappeared."

The reported crash location of Ash Vale is a village in the borough of Guildford in Surrey, England and the larger, northern settlement of the civil parish of Ash. It is 7 miles (11 km) from Guildford but is closer to the Hampshire towns of Aldershot and Farnborough, the centres of which are each about two miles (4 km) away, immediately across the two crossings of the River Blackwater, to the southwest and northwest.(At approximate co ordinates 51.27N 0.72W).

Wreckage recovered to (and by) 49 MU RAF Colerne, Wiltshire, where wreckage scrapped 20/10/53 after completion of accident investigation procedures.

Note: the accident was on 1st October 1953, and not, as per some sources, October 7th. The pilot's obituary appeared in the press on October 6th, which confirms the crash date as October 1st.


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.151 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Last Take-off: A Record of RAF Aircraft Losses 1950 to 1953 Colin Cummings p 417
3. Royal Air Force Aircraft SA100-VZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1985 p 107)
4. The History of the De Havilland Vampire By David Watkins
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/180:
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/32/S2661:

Revision history:

05-Jan-2020 23:00 Dr. John Smith Added
05-Jan-2020 23:02 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Narrative]

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