A FORMER Fleet Air Arm Pilot has returned to Ronaldsway for the first time since the Second World War.
Former Sub Lt Sydney Wheldon, from Cheltenham, was visiting the island for the first time since 1944, accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law.
By remarkable coincidence, his trip coincided with the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the first flight on the island, and also the opening of a commemorative photographic exhibition at the Manx Aviation and Military Museum at Ronaldsway,
During his visit, Sydney called in at the Whitestone pub in Ballasalla, which was a favourite wartime ‘watering hole’ for the Navy pilots. He also took a look at the airport to see if anything recognisable remained of the former Fleet Air Arm airfield.
He immediately recognised the wartime control tower, still standing after 67 years, but he says that ‘his daughter and son-in-law took some convincing that it was the same one’.
They then saw the Aviation and Military Museum, and decided to call in, to see what else had survived. Delighted museum staff were able to show Sydney a Barracuda pilot’s seat, dug up on the airport a few years ago, and also Barracuda aircraft wheels, wartime photographs, Navy uniforms and other memorabilia.
Sydney described the ungainly Barracuda aircraft as a ‘Christmas Tree’, with all its anti-submarine radar aerials. It also had an awful reputation for ‘flipping on its back’ at low altitude and speed.
In the case of Sub Lt Wheldon, however, he graduated safely from the Operational Training Unit at Ronaldsway, and was posted to operational service in the Far East.
He agreed to copy extracts from his pilot’s logbooks, to be added to the museum’s wartime records.