At the end of World War II thought was given to finding a basic trainer to replace the Tiger Moth and de Havilland Aircraft of Canada, which had built over 1500 Tiger Moths, came up with the DHC 1 Chipmunk, designed by W J Jakimuik. This was the first design from the Canadian factory The prototype took to the air on 22nd May 1946, in the hands of W P I (Pat) Fillingham, eight months after design was begun.
Designed as a tandem two-seater with a one-piece canopy. it was the first de Havilland aircraft not to use wood and is of all-metal construction except for the fabric covering on the control surfaces and the rear two thirds of the mainplanes. It has crisp and well harmonised controls and was designed for military use, being of a sturdy construction. Unlike the Tiger Moth the Chipmunk is flown solo from the front seat. Canadian Chipmunks went into production in 1947 and several early models were brought over to the UK. As a result the Air Ministry ordered the aircraft, to Specification 8/48 as the Chipmunk T10. A total of 1283 Chipmunks was built, 1000 in England at Hatfield and Chester, 217 in Canada and 66 under licence in Portugal. They were sold overseas as Mk 20 to the Air Forces of the Arab Legion, Burma, Ceylon, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Iraq, Ireland, Lebanon, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand and Uruguay. The civilian version was known as the Mk 21. Military Chipmunks, when their service lives were complete, were converted to MK 22 or Mk22A standard for civilian use and sold mainly in Canada, Britain, Australia and Europe.
The RAF used 735 Chipmunks, the first entering service with Oxford University Air Squadron in February 1950. The Chippie, as it was affectionately known, was used widely across the British military serving in a training role with the RAF’s Central Flying School (who operated a four Chipmunk aerobatic team known as the Skylarks between 1967 and 1970), the Army Air Corps and the Royal Navy. It even saw service with 114 Squadron in Cyprus during the independence struggles.
As well as its ubiquitous service with University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights, Chipmunks also joined the Royal Flight and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Prince Andrew all learned to fly in it.
By 1997 it was the longest serving type in RAF service and to mark this two Chipmunks undertook a round-the world flight It is still in use today with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to give pilots experience of flying tail-wheel aircraft, and many are now operated by private owners.
The last official RAF flight from RAF Tangmere was by Chipmunk WP924, a flight which can be experienced on the Museum’s simulators