Vet­eran, 94, thrilled to re­turn to bomber


ASEC­OND World War vet­eran has re­turned to the cock­pit of a Welling­ton bomber for the first time in 70 years.

Theo Eaves, 94, worked as a wire­less op­er­a­tor and flew in 35 deadly mis­sions over Europe dur­ing the con­flict.

Now the plucky pensioner has been in­side the air­craft once again dur­ing a visit to Brook­lands Mu­seum in Sur­rey, which is home to an iconic Welling­ton bomber re­cov­ered from a crash site at Loch Ness in Scot­land.

Theo, from Poynton, was vis­it­ing with his grand­daugh­ter and soon had staff en­thralled with his tales.

He said: “I got talk­ing to the chief vol­un­teer and soon I was telling a crowd about my ex­pe­ri­ences. There aren’t a lot of for­mer bomber crew left these days, so I was glad to give them some in­sight.

“They let me go in­side wear­ing a hard hat. Crawl­ing about in­side brought back many mem­o­ries of my ex­pe­ri­ences. It’s hard to de­scribe the feel­ing of be­ing back in­side a Welling­ton af­ter so long.”

Theo was called up for the war ef­fort in 1942. Af­ter train­ing in the UK and Mid­dle East, he was called into ac­tion in late 1943 as part of 142 Squadron, 205 group.

He flew all his op­er­a­tions out of Italy, drop­ping bombs on oil re­finer­ies, docks, har­bours, bridges, aero­drome sites and en­emy troops in Italy, Greece, Ger­many, Hun­gary, Ro­ma­nia and Yu­goslavia. He also had to lay mines in the Danube river to hold up the Ger­man sup­plies.

In to­tal he flew 35 op­er­a­tions spend­ing many of those 175 hours un­der heavy at­tack from gun­fire from land and air.

In 2013 af­ter years of cam­paign­ing by vet­er­ans, the Gov­ern­ment awarded the Bomber Com­mand Clasp to air­crew in recog­ni­tion of their brav­ery and ser­vice. But de­spite be­ing equally as in­stru­men­tal, those who took part in bomb­ing raids over Italy, Africa, the Mid­dle East and the Far East are not el­i­gi­ble for the award, which has been re­served for those who flew over Western Europe.

Theo, a re­tired head­teacher and grand­fa­ther, cam­paigned for this de­ci­sion to be over­turned, writ­ing to the Min­istry of De­fence, the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince Wil­liam for their sup­port.

His on­line pe­ti­tion amassed more than 5,000 sig­na­tures.

Theo said: “The MoD never gave way but I’ll never give up. We acted to­gether in the same war. It’s only fair that we get the same recog­ni­tion.”

236 Bolling­ton Squadron Air Cadets at the Bolling­ton Re­mem­brance event

Irene Lea

The Mac­cles­field Re­mem­brance pa­rade

Theo Eaves in­side the Welling­ton bomber

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