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We are at the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre standing between the twin booms of a Vampire T11, a wide bodied, two seater training aircraft. This one belonged to the Royal Airforce and similar to those flown at RAF Flying Training School, Swinderby, where I spent most of my National Service in 1959 and 60. To its starboard is a more conventional, single seater Vampire fighter which, from its markings, must have beloged to the Swiss Army-Airforce. There is another Swiss Vampire in the hangar to the front and I know of one other. It stands (or at least stood) on the roof of the main terminal of Fankfurt Airport. The Vampire just missed seeing action in the Second World War. It wasn't quite ready till after VE Day, 1945. It wasn't the first British jet fighter. That honour goes to the Glouster Meteor, which just beat it into service by a few months. Both aircraft ended up as trainers and were used into the 1960s. At least eight Vampires went to the Royal Indian Airforce, or was it just the Indian Airforce by the mid-1960s.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.