RAF veteran search

WW2 Veteran Searches For RAF Spitfire Pilot, 70 Years On

Byron Nilsson visited Portsmouth in June 1949 as part of a training tour with US Navy battleship USS Missouri, when he befriended British...

RAF veteran search

Ted Cooper in uniform, his wife, wife's sister and Byron Nilsson, pictured in June 1949. Image: Solent News.

A US Navy veteran has started a search to track down a British World War Two veteran he met nearly 70 years ago, so he can return his Royal Air Force hat.

Byron Nilsson visited Portsmouth in June 1949 as part of a training tour with US Navy battleship USS Missouri, when he befriended British RAF pilot Ted Cooper.

Mr Nilsson was invited to Mr Cooper's home for dinner, where he met his wife and three-year-old daughter, and Mr Nilsson was intrigued to see the pilot's old RAF cap because the design was so different from his US navy one.

The pair decided to swap hats and, nearly 60 years after they met in 1949, Mr Nilsson, now 89, wants to find Mr Cooper or his family so he can return the blue cap.

RAF veteran search hat
Byron Nilsson was initially interested in Mr Cooper's hat as the design, chin strap and buttons were so different from his. Image: Byron Nilsson/Solent News.

Mr Nilsson, who now lives in New York state, said: "Initially, Ted had offered for me to take the cap, however, I suggested an alternative, a swapping of our hats.

"The next day, Ted and his wife came aboard Missouri and we did the trade.

"I recently found the hat and wanted to return this important piece of family memorabilia.

"I hope someone reading this article will know Ted and help me return it to his family."

The American veteran says the only information he has about Mr Cooper is that he was an RAF pilot who flew Spitfires in World War Two.

He also says Mr Cooper used to help the fire brigade while on leave and spent time in Canada training pilots.

While Mr Nilsson was visiting Portsmouth, Mr Cooper drove him through the city and into the countryside.

The American left the next day and at first the two men stayed in contact, but when the American began active duty in 1950 the pair lost contact.

RAF veteran search home video
Image: Solent News.

As part of his efforts to track down Mr Cooper, Mr Nilsson has shared a video of his time on USS Missouri and the visit to Portsmouth.

The footage from his 8mm movie camera shows the shipmates completing exercises while sailing on the battleship across the Atlantic Ocean.

During his time ashore, Mr Nilsson visited HMS Victory and enjoyed what he remembers as "a memorable guided tour of the ship" from the Royal Marines on board.

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