By Matthew Payne & Victoria Wilkins: People from all over the country have flocked to see a veteran Staffordshire bomber pilot at RAF Cosford.
More than 400 visitors made the trip to the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre in Cosford, Shropshire, to see 90-year-old Ronald Cooper and the planes that the centre are restoring.
Ronald, from Uttoxeter, was visiting the centre to see work on the Wellington Bomber, the aircraft he flew during World War II.
The veteran pilot arrived to a standing ovation from crowds, who then listened to his experiences, memories and tales of life overseas and as an instructor.
He told StaffsLive: “Seeing this bomber transported me back to when I was 20.
“These planes were one of the most successful bombers seeing it makes me feel so alive.
“I flew 39 times and for a total of 260 hours and on my 40th flight I was told I had done above and beyond my call of duty.”
Accompanied by three generations of his family, the veteran observed work on the bomber, which is expected to take up to five years until it is restored to full capacity.
His memories included a mission where 80 of his comrades and co-pilots were lost.
“I truly believe a guardian angel was watching over me the night we were flying blind over Italy,” he explained.
“It was the biggest loss we had seen so far and I wasn’t able to understand why it wasn’t me that had died.
“That memory will stay with me forever, because someone, somewhere, wanted me to stay alive.”
Ronald’s career as a pilot took him to places such as Florida, Italy and Germany and finally to Palestine where he taught other pilots to fly the Wellington.
The hangar, which is open for one week only from November 14-19, showcased other planes undergoing restoration such as the MK1 Sopwith Dolphin and the Handley Page Hampden TB1.
The Wellington’s outer shell, made entirely from Irish linen fabric, has been stripped down before work can be done to remake it.
Kyle Anderton, 20, from Telford, Shropshire, has worked as an apprentice at the museum for four years.
He said:”Working with these planes and the Wellington is such a great experience and being able to see Ronald come back to see the plane is wonderful.”
Cosford’s award-winning centre also played host to other special guests including Mary Stopes-Roe, daughter of Barnes Wallis, designer of the Wellington Bomber’s famous structure and Mary Bonigal, a fabric fitter for the Wellington.
The centre’s final open day is on Saturday (November 19) from 10.15am to 1pm.
The hangar will be open again next November to show further progress on the Wellington.
Click below to see an interview with WWll veteran Ronald Cooper and conservation worker Kyle Anderton: