WW2 Meteor pilot: leading the first Allied jet deployment to Europe

Graham Pitchfork profiles an RAF pilot at the forefront of Meteor operations

New equipment was promised for the Spitfire pilots of 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron. They were hoping it would be the Griffon-engined Spitfire XIV but the arrival of a twin-engined Airspeed Oxford in May 1944 suggested otherwise. It soon became clear they were going to convert to the Gloster Meteor and that 616 was to be the RAF’s first jet squadron.

Dennis Barry, the experienced commander of ‘A’ Flight, led his men on ‘Rhubarbs’ and ‘Ramrods’ (ground attack sorties looking for targets of opportunity) over northern France in the build up to D-Day. Shortly after providing support for the Allied landings in Spitfires, the pilots of 616 left for Farnborough in groups of six to convert onto the Meteor. This ‘conversion’ from single-engine piston aircraft with a tail wheel to a twin-engine jet with a tricycle undercarriage could best be described as ‘rudimentary’

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