A 96-YEAR-OLD veteran has returned to his former RAF base to mark 75 years since serving as a flight engineer.

Doug Petty, served at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, where he flew 31 operational sorties on Halifax and Lancaster aircraft.

He flew as part of the 429 (Bison) Squadron in the 1940s.

To coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, Mr Petty returned to the base, which Ministry of Defence staff at the base called 'poignant'.

The former flight engineer said: “One of the think that sticks in my mind is that the children from the local villages used to stand at the perimeter fence to watch us take off and coming back.

"I’ve been coming back to Leeming on a regular basis and I’ve made some very good friends over the years and I’m very grateful for that."

Mr Petty has become popular with existing RAF Leeming staff since retirement and is regularly invited to visit the operational base.

Mr Petty added: "They, as well as me, are interested in keeping the history of RAF Leeming alive.”

At the D-Day commemorations, Mr Petty was joined by the family members of his former comrades.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Ann Kristo, Jennifer Witteveen and Lori McMullen - daughters of Mr Petty's former pilot Robert Mitchell, who had all travelled from their homes in Canada.

Ms Kristo said: "We didn’t know Doug until after our father died, but he has kept our father alive and I’m so glad to have met him.

"Our father only told us the things that were funny, or he made them sound funny.

"But they really were heroes.”

Station commander at RAF Leeming, Blythe Crawford, said: "Our service ethos dies if we don’t remember who and what we are.

"The RAF is now 101 and Doug has been around for three-quarters of that.

"There are so many parallels with what they went through, and how the modern RAF works.

"Camaraderie is a huge part of that.”