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Queen’s Jet named after Welsh VC winner donated to Vale museum

AN RAF jet that was used to transport members of the royal family and high ranking government officials has flown for the last time.

The BAe146 jet, named after Group Captain Lionel Rees VC, has been in service since 1986, and has now been donated to South Wales Aviation Museum (SWAM) at St Athan.

It flew as part of 32 Squadron (the Royal Squadron), which was the squadron that Group Captain Rees flew with in the First World War.

Air Commodore Adrian Williams, Air Officer Wales, was in attendance as the plane landed in St Athan this week, alongside engineers who had previously worked on the plane.

Air Commodore Williams was integral in naming the plane after Caernarfon-born Group Captain Rees in 2019.

Air Commodore Williams said: “Lionel Rees was the first commanding officer of the squadron and as the first CO of the squadron in 1916 he was awarded a Victoria Cross for actions in the First World War.

“I feel he was someone that’s famous in Wales for earning the VC (Victoria Cross), he was the first commanding officer of 32 Squadron and I just feel the connection was a really important one that we should commemorate and celebrate.”

Group Captain Rees earned his VC after taking on 10 enemy aircraft by himself on June 1, 1916, which was the first day of the infamous Battle of the Somme.

The VC is Britain’s highest award for gallantry.

The plane landed at St Athan on March 17 at around 2pm and was piloted by Wing Commander Delia Chadwick who is the current CO of 32 Squadron.

Wing Commander Chadwick said: “Crews old and new are exceptionally fond of the 146’s characteristics and capabilities.

“They’re proud of her proven reliability, her rich heritage and the significant role she’s delivered.

“While it is a sad day to say goodbye to the aircraft we hold so dear after years of unrelenting service, she thoroughly deserves her retirement, and it’s time for 32 (The Royal) Squadron to enter a new chapter in its history.”

The BAe156 is being replaced by modern Dassault 900LX jets, which are reportedly more sustainable thanks to their smaller engines which have a longer range.

The plane will be stripped of all specialist electronic equipment before being handed over to the museum.

SWAM are very pleased to be receiving the plane, especially one that has such a high profile that also has a link to Wales.

Air Commodore Williams said: “We were really keen that the aeroplane should come back to Wales.

“It has the name of a famous Welshman and the squadron is a famous RAF squadron.

“That connection between the RAF and Wales really is a very important one and we just wanted their aeroplane to come back to Wales so that Welsh people in the future could come and see it.”

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