A VETERAN pilot who protected Arctic convoys during the Second World War has stepped back in the cockpit to take controls of a Tiger Moth plane after a 68-year absence.
Derek Pearn of Beaver Hall in Bradnop will be 90 next May.
He joined the navy in 1942 and then travelled to Canada to train as a pilot for 12 months.
On his return he was transferred to Yeovilton Air Base and then onto an aircraft carrier.
Derek said: “ When I joined the Navy I was sent to do my training in Canada in a Tiger Moth aircraft. I remember it was so cold.
“I was in the Fleet Air Arm protecting the Russian convoys and allied ships carrying essential items.
“I was recently talking about the war days to my family and I just said I wondered if I could still fly the aircraft.
“To my total surprise the family then went on to organise a day out at Duxford Air Base in Cambridge, where I was to be taken up in a Tiger Moth.
“I met the pilot and we took off after four attempts because of the weather conditions.
“After we were in the air the pilot said get ready because you are to take over the flying of the aircraft.
“I then had 45 minutes of flying all over the Cambridge area. As soon I got hold of the stick it all came back.
“It’s like riding a bike, you never forget. It was amazing to get back in the cockpit and it was a dream come true.
Derek, who has four children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandhildren sadly lost his wife Mary five years ago.
After leaving the forces he qualified as pharmacist in 1948. He said: “I married in 1948 and lived in Hereford, before getting a job in Manchester as a pharmacy manager.
“We then went on to have our own pharmacy in Hurdsfield near Macclesfield for 32 years.
“When we retired in 2001 we converted a shippon at my daughter and son-in-law’s home at Beaver Hall.
“I have since helped out in the business. It is wonderful to be here. However my wife Mary sadly died five years ago.”
Derek has been presented with the Arctic Star this year by the British Government in recognition of his bravery in protecting the Arctic convoys. Derek said: “I have now received the Arctic Star after all these years from the Government.
“However the Russians presented us with one just after the war in recognition of our work. They were extremely grateful.
“There were 24 of us in the 882 Squadron and 16 of us came back. It was part of life and comradeship where we helped one another.
“The difficult part was landing the aircraft on the carrier when the waves were lifting the ship high.”
Derek has now set his eyes on another two dreams.
He added: “I now want to consider going in a glider and doing a parachute jump.”