Veteran pilot returns to watch biplane in action at RNAS Yeovilton

A World War 2 Fleet Air Arm pilot recalled his flying days during an emotional visit to RNAS Yeovilton.

Centenarian Ian Templar watched the only flying Mk1 Swordfish take to the skies, sparking memories of 1940 when he got his wings and a commission as acting temporary Sub-Lieutenant.

Mr Templar spent two weeks at Royal Naval College Greenwich learning about Naval customs and regulations before joining RNAS Crail in Scotland for torpedo training.

He then went to Arbroath to learn the basics of deck landings before going to Detling in Kent to join a detached flight of three Fairey Swordfish biplanes – known as string bags.

“When I heard the Admiralty were recruiting for the Fleet Air Arm in 1940 (I was a metrology Assistant) I jumped at it,” said Mr Templar.

“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 nigh- flying training at a pace in May 1941 I was sent to Detling, to support night time bombardments of the Channel ports. You had a job to do and got on with it.”

His youngest daughter Bryony Blair 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.”

During his visit to Yeovilton Mr Templar met Cdr Nathan Gray, a test pilot currently flying the F-35B Lightning strike fighter.

“I feel immensely proud to meet Ian, 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.”

Cdr Gray, who flew in the Swordfish during his visit to Yeovilton, added: “We learn from our past to take into the future.

“Back in the day the Swordfish was cutting edge and their test pilots would work out what was the most advanced way to have the advantage on the enemy thinking about it now 80 years on we look back on the Swordfish and see it in its historic state, just as 50 years from now our children’s children will see the F35.

“It’s important to know where you came from and to know what you’ve got ahead of you.

“Being given the responsibility of operating this fifth-generation aircraft on board the only aircraft carrier purpose built for the F-35 for the first time in history, will be a huge privilege.”

Mr Templar, who lives in Dorset, and celebrated his 100 birthday in June, had not visited Yeovilton since 1944.


I feel immensely proud to meet Ian, what an absolute privilege it is to shake his hand.

Cdr Nathan Gray RN