On the 29th June 1954, at 01.26, A Gloster Meteor NF12 (WS600) of No.85 Squadron, based at West Malling in Kent, plunged out of the Sussex skies and buried itself in the ground at Cobb Court, Berwick. This fighter was new, having flown a total of only 44 hours since construction in May 1953. Indeed, it had only flown for just over 3 hours up until its return to the manufacturers at Coventry for modifications, which were completed on the 16th February 1954, so it had only averaged 10 hours a month up until the time of the crash. No defects were recorded either prior to the crash, or in the subsequent examination of the wreckage, and a full fuel load of 700 gallons had been taken onboard.
The two man crew had been practising night interceptions whilst being directed by RAF Wartling GCI Station - both of the crew were experienced with this mark of Meteor, and the pilot F/O Fisher had flown 174 hours on this version alone. At 01.18 hrs at an altitude of between 17,000 and 18,000 feet, Fisher advised that his port engine was out. In communication with the second Meteor taking part in the practice, he stated that he was going to descend to 15,000 feet to attempt a relight. Four minutes later, however, he advised West Malling that both engines were now out and he would bale out. Shortly afterwards he advised his altitude as 10,000 feet and he was baling out. The Meteor crashed, but the remains of both crew were found in the impact crater.
The canopy had been ejected cleanly, but this mark of Meteor wasn't fitted with ejector seats and so the crew would have had to get out in the old fashioned way. Unfortunately for the navigator, F/O Cains, on leaving the aircraft he struck the rear fin and became entangled in it, and was dragged to his death. Examination of the wreckage showed his parachute harness still attached to the lower fin, and on the top of the fuselage were extensive smears of human tissue. F/O Fisher was still in the cockpit, and his parachute was still packed, so it's apparent that he hadn't attempted to bale out.
Some items from the stricken fighter were recoverd from a large swathe of approximately two miles to the West / North West of the impact along the course that WS600 followed during its final descent, and no doubt many more artifacts were missed and still remain to this day. The extract from the map shows the location of the hood, a scarf, the navigator's left shoe and the pilot's helmet.
The cause of the accident was determined as having been due to the failure of the pilot to select his auxiliary fuel tanks with the result that both engines stopped as the forward and rearward parts of the main fuel tank ran dry - the scale of the fire at the crash scene showed that a considerable quantity of fuel had still been onboard the fighter. The design of the fuel system was considered to be contributory in great measure to the pilot's error, and the Court of Inquiry recommended three immmediate temporary modifications to the system pending introduction of a fully automated fuel setup. They also pressed for the fitting of the new, lightweight Martin-Baker ejection seat that was suitable for this type of fighter.