Tributes to Second World War RAF bomber pilot who shared his experiences through poems and stories
A RAF veteran who brought the realities of the Second World War to life with his stories has died.
Harold Yeoman was a much-loved resident of Roseway House Care Home, in Jarrow, where he lived the latter part of his life.
It was his fascinating recollection and memorabilia of those troubled times which intrigued all those who met him.
His ‘cheeky chap’ demeanour as he re-told his stories of his life as an RAF pilot left many in awe of the man who risked his life for his country.
Mr Yeoman died, aged 97, at the care home on January 10.
His funeral service will take place at South Shields Crematorium on January 28 at 10.30am.
A former pupil of the then South Shields Boys High School - now Harton Academy - he was only 19 when he joined the Royal Air Force.
He and his crew were instrumental in bombing the Renault factory in Paris - which was producing vehicles for the Germans.
The former flight lieutenant, who spent most of his RAF career stationed at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire, said: “This was a specialist raid. Normally, we would be 18,000ft to 20,000ft when we bombed. This time we were told to go in as low as possible. We were in about 3,000ft to 4,000ft.
“We had to be very careful and had no room for error. If we made one mistake we would be on the ground.
“It upset me when you’d get back and you’d see empty chairs following the raids. You knew who hadn’t made it back.”
Tragically, Mr Yeoman’s crew were killed on a bombing mission he had been forced to miss after being grounded because of a medical condition.
After the war ended, Mr Yeoman, who penned a number of poems over the years, returned to his role in the weights and measure department at South Shields County Borough Council - qualifying as an inspector in 1947.
During the 1960s he became a Trading Standards officer with Tyne and Wear County Council.
He was married to Joan - who he met during his time with the RAF when she was a sergeant with the Women’s Royal Air Force.
She died in 1985.
The couple, who had no children, lived in Woods Terrace in Westoe.
Mr Yeoman was also a regular at St Lawrence the Martyr, St Jude’s Church and St Michael’s Church.
In his younger days he played rugby and was recently taken back to Westoe Rugby Club where he once played.
It was during his time in Roseway House, that his remarkable life story came to light, and he was visited by RAF cadet squadron leaders and invited to share his memories with cadets.
They also arranged for him to, once again, get behind the controls of a Wellington bomber on a flight simulator before taking questions from cadets.
Asked how he felt being behind the controls again, he said: “The last time I handled an aircraft was 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.”
His lifelong friend Bill Scott said: “Harold was held in high regard by all those who knew him. He was a very intelligent man who loved the simple things in life.
“He carried a lot of guilt not being with his crew the night they were killed. And even after the war he went searching for them, in the hope they had maybe survived.
“When it was evident they hadn’t, he managed to track down their families which was no mean feat as at least one of the crew members was Canadian.
“He had lived with that guilt all his life and never forgot about them.”
He is currently resting at Co-op Funerals in Westoe Road where flowers can be sent.