RAF war hero steps back in time to help air cadets

The past was brought back to life by a South Tyneside war hero for a group of air cadets.

Tuesday, 14th August 2018, 6:00 am
Harold Yeoman with the RAF cadets

Harold Yeoman - flew during the Second World War as a flight lieutenant with 12 Squadron - visited Hebburn Air Cadets unit to share his memories of his time fighting for his country.

The 96-year-old even got the chance to step back in time by taking the controls of a Wellington bomber - on the unit’s flight simulator.

Harold Yeoman talks to RAF cadets about his wartime experience

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As a 19-year-old, Harold had joined the RAF to play his part in the war efforts and took part in 14 operations.

The visit, was organised by Flt Sgt John Collins who’d previously met Mr Yeoman after he was invited into Roseway House in Jarrow where the war vetaran has been a resident since March 2017.

Sgt Collins said: “Harold is such a fascinating and interesting man and it was too good an opportunity to miss to invite Harold in to speak to the air cadets and give them the chance to hear from someone who served during the Second World War.

“I think the cadets were in awe of Harold after hearing some of his stories of some of the operations he flew on.”

Harold inspects the parade

During his visit to the air cadet base in Hebburn, Harold was invited to watch the parade and inspect the cadets before he was taken inside to the simulator - the first time he has taken controls of an aircraft since the war.

He said: “The last time I handled an aircraft was a long time ago in 1947. It was like flying again - it was very realistic.

“I used to enjoy low flying but it was unauthorised so I had to be careful where I did it, so no one was watching.

“It brought back a lot of memories.”

Harold on a flight simulator flying a Wellington bomber

Young air cadets from both Hebburn and South Shields were given the chance to hear from Harold about his time serving in the RAF during the war, as well as ask questions of their own - including what was his most memorable flight.

The 96-year-old said it was the first operation he was sent on. The crew hadn’t left the ground when a fire broke out in starboard engine.

He said: “The starboard engine was on fire before we had left the ground which wasn’t a very good start.

“The engines had their own extinguishers, so not too much damage was done, so there wasn’t too much to worry about.

Harold on a flight simulator flying a Wellington bomber

“Our first mission was to Cologne. We went back to Cologne a few times, so they really got to know us.”

Sgt Anthony Watson from South Shields Air cadets said: “It was such a great experience for the kids to find out more about what it was like during the war.”

Harold said: “I have really enjoyed the night. They are such a smart bunch. I feel very humbled to have been invited to see them. It has brought back a lot of memories.”

Harold spent much of his time stationed at RAF Binbrook, in Lincolnshire, which has since closed.

Following his flight career, Harold moved into an intelligence role and spent time sitting on the trial of a German spy in Penang, Malaysia.

Harold on a flight simulator flying a Wellington bomber
Harold Yeoman
The plane flew by Harold during the war