Crash of D.H.Venom at Fighter Weapons School, RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire in 1955

I was lucky enough to be standing right by the edge of the runway with a camera when this happened. The camera, an RAF K24, used 5" wide roll film, was originally designed for aerial photography, with two hand grips, a trigger, and a large crank for advancing the film. It weighed about 20 lb. and was not ideally suited to high speed action photography!.

This was not something I normally did. I was a pilot, not an official photographer, but I had signed out this camera to record the performance of a new towed-target launching system we were developing on the Trials Flight.

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Image 1

Click to see venom2.jpgI was watching this Venom land, saw its nose wheel collapse, and started cranking the camera as fast as I could - so fast that the camera generated static shown as lightning marks in this image.


Image 2

Click to see venom2.jpgWhen the nose wheel collapsed it forced the guns in the nose back into the fuel tank, which ruptured. As it skidded past a few yards away, I captured the instant the fuel caught fire.


Image 3

Click to see venom3.jpgAfter it passed, leaving a trail of burning jet fuel, I started running towards where it was coming to rest, hoping like hell the pilot would be able to get out by himself.


Image 4

Click to see venom4.jpgArriving out of breath, before the fire truck, I was enormously relieved to find the pilot had already bailed out and was standing on the upwind side watching the blaze. In this image, efforts to extinguish the fire had not been successful. The cockpit canopy has melted and streams of blazing fuel are still pouring out of the belly.


Image 5

Click to see venom5.jpgThe fire was hard to put out since the airfield's main fire truck was being repaired and the only one available was this small auxiliary with a limited amount of foam and CO2 extinguishers. Here you see the fire suppressed in a fog of CO2 while the aircraft is being turned to point in a safe direction. The guns were still loaded and the ejection seat still armed, so there was real danger of explosion. But everyone got lucky, particularly the pilot and photographer!

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