Imjin’s WWII Era Meteor ‘Flies’ to New Home
In April a Chinook moved one of Britain’s most historic aircraft to a new museum.
Previously located at Imjin Barracks, home of NATO’s Headquarters, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC), the aircraft, a 1949 Meteor T.7, was lifted by a Chinook helicopter and moved to its new home at the Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum, just outside of Gloucester at Staverton Airport.
Formerly situated at the entrance to what was formerly RAF Innsworth, the Meteor was once the RAF base’s ‘gate guardian.’
Flt Lt Paul Farmer, a Chinook pilot originally from Churchdown, near to Imjin, volunteered to pilot the helicopter that lifted and moved the Meteor aircraft. “I used to cycle past and walk past the Meteor when I used to go to Air Training Corps at (RAF) Innsworth, so it was nice to be able to bring it here and drop it off… very gently,” said Farmer.
Following the installation’s closure in 2008, transfer to the British Army and reopening as Imjin Barracks in 2010, the Meteor was moved to a new location on site. The Meteor was recently purchased by the Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum and is slated for restoration and inclusion in its exhibits, which will focus on the region’s extensive aircraft production history and affiliation with the aviation industry.
The Gloster Meteor was both the UK’s first jet aircraft as well as the Allies first operational jet fighter. The Meteor’s development was heavily reliant on its ground-breaking turbojet engines, developed by Sir Frank Whittle and his company, Power Jets Ltd. Development of the aircraft began in 1940. The Meteor first flew in 1943 and commenced operations in July 1944 with 616 Squadron of the RAF. Although the Meteor was not an aerodynamically advanced aircraft, it proved to be a successful and effective combat fighter.
Several major variants of the Meteor were made to incorporate technological advances during the 1940s and 1950s. Thousands of Meteors were built to serve in the RAF and other air forces and remained in use for several decades. The Meteor saw limited action in the Second World War, while Meteors of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) provided a significant contribution to the Korean War and several other operators such as Argentina, Egypt and Israel also flew Meteors in regional conflicts. As of 2011, two Meteors have remained in active service with the Martin-Baker company as ejection seat testbeds.
Imjin’s Meteor T.7, built in 1949 at Hucclecote, had something of a chequered operational history and was involved in a number of minor flying accidents, some of which required return to the manufacturers for repair. It served primarily with No. 604 Squadron at North Weald and was once flown by former Conservative MP, now Lord Norman Tebbit when he joined the squadron in January 1952.
In 1957, it was delivered to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down, where it performed a variety of flying and ground test roles before ending its flying life some 2,000 flight hours later in 1968.
Officially ‘struck off charge’ in 1977, the aircraft was transported to RAF Innsworth in 1981, where it underwent a long term restoration. It was unveiled as the ‘gate guardian’ in 1994.
“I can’t think of anything more fitting than for Imjin’s Meteor aircraft to ‘fly’ to its final destination,’ said ARRC spokesman Maj Chris Hyde. “We’re honoured that we have had the opportunity to host this splendid aircraft, one that has been part of Britain’s and the Allies’ treasured history.”
“The Meteor aircraft represents a very important link to Gloucesterhire’s military and industrial heritage,” explained Hyde. “It embodies a period of rapid technological progress in the region that is still represented in the area today. In military terms, the Meteor defines an era where former adversaries forged military alliances that aided in the development and establishment of NATO, the ARRC’s parent organisation.”
The aerial move was watched by hundreds of spectators, both at Imjin Barracks as well as at Staverton Airport.
Notes: HQ ARRC
HQ ARRC is a NATO Rapid Deployment Corps headquarters, founded in 1992 in Germany, and headquartered in Gloucestershire since August 2010.
Although HQ ARRC’s ‘framework nation’ is the United Kingdom, comprising approximately 60% of the overall staff, the ARRC is fully multinational in nature and organization, with 15 Partner Nations contributing the remaining complement of personnel (Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the United States).
HQ ARRC is now on stand-by for short-notice call-up and subsequent rapid deployment in support of any potential NATO Response Force (NRF) missions that may develop during 2013.
As an NRF Land Component Command, or LCC, the ARRC will essentially be in command of all land combat troops on the ground during an NRF deployment.