Veterans

Special Birthday Treat For Record-Breaking Veteran Pilot

95-year-old William 'Harry' Hands shared his wartime experience during a surprise tour of RNAS Yeovilton.

William 'Harry' Hands broke the air speed record in a Sea Fury during his time at RNAS Yeovilton.

A former Royal Navy pilot has been reunited with one of the aircraft types he flew during a surprise birthday visit to his old air station.

95-year-old Lieutenant William 'Harry' Hands was treated to a special tour of RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset after his daughter  Carrie suggested a visit to family.

She says Harry is now in a unique position:

"I think he is probably now the oldest surviving, most qualified, on many, many aircraft pilots around.

"And this was aimed at being a complete surprise."

Lt Hands flying career began during the Second World War with the RAF and he joined the Royal Navy a year later.

He flew 29 different types of aircraft all over the world but he had the highest praise for the Hawker Sea Fury, which he flew from the UK to Malta to break the air speed record.

Lt Hands said he completed the flight in three hours and nine minutes:

"The wind was good and the weather was good."

Veteran pilot William 'Harry' Hands with Hawker Sea Fury at RNAS Yeovilton
Veteran pilot William 'Harry' Hands with a Hawker Sea Fury at RNAS Yeovilton.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Jameson of the Royal Navy Historic Flight said it was good for the latest generation of pilots to hear first-hand accounts from veterans:

"It's just a great day and a great way of keeping the memory and the heritage alive."

The visit was hosted by the forces charity 'Navy Wings', which says it brings together historic naval aircraft, the people who flew them, and the stories associated with flying from warships at sea.