Between the two world wars the Gloster Aircraft Company was responsible for a series of classic biplane fighters culminating in the Gloster Gladiator, the RAF's last biplane fighter. The companies next fighter design was something entirely different. For much of the second world war, Gloster's were heavilly engaged in Hawker Hurricane and Typhoon production which left their design office relatively free. At some point the chief designer at Gloster's, W.G. Carter became aware of Flt. Lt. Frank Whittle's work on the new gas turbine aero engine and an informal agreement was made to produce a research aircraft using Whittle's engine. The Gloster E28/39 first flew from Cranwell on May 15th 1941 and the decision was made soon after by the Air Ministry to produce a jet fighter.
Due to the low thrust of the prototype engines, the decision was made to use two engines in wing mounted pods. Because the Meteor, (as the new jet fighter was soon to be called) was a leap into the unknown the airframe was of conservative and simple design, the only novel feature being the use of a nosewheel undercarriage. Production of the Whittle gas turbine was to be the responsibility of the Rover car company but due to escalating delays and problems the Air Ministry handed over Whittle's engine to Rolls Royce, so beginning Rolls Royce's jet empire.
The Meteor prototype first flew on March 5th 1943, and the first production Meteor F1 was flown on January 12th 1944, before being shipped off to the USA for evaluation. Only twenty Meteor F1's were built, powered by the Rolls Royce Welland. Twelve of these aircraft were delivered to 616 Squadron which became the RAF's first jet squadron. The pilots were initially doubtful about exchanging their graceful Spitfire's for the large and clumsy Meteor. Very soon however they began to appreciate the Meteor as a 'magic carpet' ride with a superb view from the cockpit. The Meteor F1 was underpowered however, and in December 1944 616 Squadron took delivery of the Meteor F3 which was the first major production version. The Meteor F3 had the more powerful Rolls Royce derwent engine and a blown perspex hood. During 1944 the Meteor's prime responsibility was to combat the V1 flying bomb, before moving to the continent in the ground attack role. The Meteor never met the German ME262 in combat.
After the second World War the Meteor F4 became the standard RAF front line fighter. With it's Derwent engines now producing 3,500 lb's of thrust, (a 450% increase in thrust over the Welland) and clipped wings, the Meteor was now delivering the performance it was capable of, and in 1946 a Gloster Meteor F4 set a new World Air Speed Record of 615.78 mph, and for a brief moment in time the Meteor was the most formidable jet fighter in the world. Such was the pace of aircraft development at this time that by 1947 with the flight of the North American Sabre the Meteor was already verging on obsolescence. An attempt at updating the design resulted in the Meteor F8 which had an ejector seat, squared off tail surfaces and other modern refinements. The Meteor F8 was built in larger numbers than any other version of the Meteor.