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Published: 01 Aug 2018

WORLD War II Fleet Air Arm Pilot visits the Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF) at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton and see the biplane he first flew almost 80 years ago soar into the skies!


An emotional moment as 100-year-old (17 June 1918) Ian Templar watched the only flying Mk1 swordfish in the world lift to the skies catapulting him back in time to 1940 when he got his wings and a commission as acting temporary Sub-Lieutenant.


Following two weeks at the Royal Naval College Greenwich learning about naval customs and regulations it was off to Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Crail, Scotland for torpedo training and then to Arbroath for the basics of deck landings. After this training Ian got sent to Detling in Kent to join a detached flight of three Fairey Swordfish biplanes known as the ‘String Bags’ due to its ability to carry such ordnance likened to a popular shopping bag used by English women known as the ‘string bag’.


Bryony Blair, Ian’s youngest daughter said;


It’s just fantastic to bring him here today I know how much this means to him and the opportunity to see the Swordfish fly. We are immensely proud of him and his contribution all those years ago. Today is both poignant and happy for my Father we are just so delighted to be here.”

100-year-old Ian took in all in his stride regaling next generation Sub Lieutenants with his experiences in World War II, he said;


When I heard the Admiralty were recruiting for the Fleet Air Arm in 1940 (I was a metrology Assistant) I jumped at it. There wasn’t time to think about the risks involved it was a very hectic time. I got my Wings at the end of 1940 and following deck landing training and night flying training at a pace in May 1941 I was sent to Detling (Kent) to join a detached flight of three Swordfish, to support night time bombardments of the Channel ports. You had a job to do and got on with it!”



As coincidence, would have it Cdr Nathan Grey, currently a Pilot in the Fleet Air Arm was at RNHF filming for the next series of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and had just flown in the 78 year old aircraft! Cdr Gray flies the F-35B Lightening fifth -generation aircraft and will later this year land this aircraft on board HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH for the first time. So here you have two different generations of the Fleet Air Arm both with immense pride to be part of the Fleet Air Arms Royal Naval history, past present and future.


Cdr Gray said;


I feel immensely proud to meet Ian today, what an absolute privilege it is to shake his hand. To know what his generation in the Fleet Air Arm achieved in this biplane made of Irish linen during World War Two is truly inspiring and the foundation on which we operate today.”


Ian Templer resides in Hyde Care Home Walditch and celebrated his 100 birthdays there last month. This is the first time he has been back to RNAS Yeovilton since 1944! We left him sharing his memories of ‘chasing Italians in the Mediterranean’.


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