Landmark plane to leave for restoration

The Meteor outside SLM Motors
The Meteor outside SLM Motors

A WARTIME landmark is being moved away from St Leonards after more than 30 years.

The Gloster Meteor Mk VII aircraft, which is outside St Leonards Motors (SLM) in Churchwood Drive, is returning to its original birthplace of Gloucester for a much-needed restoration.

The aircraft was bought by SLM in the late 1970s and has been part of the St Leonards landscape ever since.

Originally located on a pole outside the Bo Peep pub in Marina, close to where the car dealership used to operate, the plane was then moved to its current site in Churchwood Drive when SLM relocated in the mid-1980s.

Ian Wakeford, SLM director, said: “As a young lad, I have such fond memories of travelling to RAF Kemble when we initially bought this beautiful lady and spending weekends taking her apart for the move.

“My father, John, used to fly one when he was in the Royal Air Force (RAF), and that is where the love affair started.”

Brian Wakeford, retired director, said: ”Our sadness at saying goodbye to a real old friend is partially offset by the knowledge that she is going home, and will get a wonderful restoration.”

The aircraft, whose engines are now at Duxford in Cambridgeshire and the undercarriage back with the RAF, will eventually end up as a gate guard at its new home.

The Gloster Meteor was the first British jet fighter and the Allies’ first operational jet in the Second World War.

Development of the aircraft began in 1940, while work on the engines had started in 1936.

The Meteor first flew in 1943 and commenced operations in July 1944 with 616 Squadron of the RAF.