Theo Eaves RAF Radio Operator – Wellington Bomber
|DOB||October 29, 1922|
Theo (christened Sidney Theophilus George) Eaves was born on 29 October 1922 in Birmingham. His father had served in the Royal Flying Corps in World War 1 (which became the RAF on 1 April 1918 when the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were merged).
Theo’s father was a jeweller and returned to his trade in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham after the end of World War 1 although he was retained as an RAF Reserve. This involved undertaking two weeks training each year and in July 1939, before the start of World War 2, he was called up for his usual training and didn’t return home until the end of the war, since he was re-enlisted in the RAF.
When war broke out in September 1939, Theo was 16 and attending Handsworth Grammar School. In 1940 his father arranged for him to have a flight in an Avro Anson airplane when the crew were undertaking bombing practice in the Bristol Channel with 12 lb bombs. The Avro Anson has windows along each side of the plane and Theo was seated just behind the pilot, getting an excellent view of the target practice and he describes it as the most exciting thing that could happen for a 17 year old schoolboy and at that moment he decided he wanted to join the RAF. At about this time Theo’s school (Handsworth Grammar School in Birmingham) was evacuated to Gloucestershire so Theo made the decision to leave school and work (as a booking clerk at Birmingham New Street Station) until he was old enough to enlist. He did this in November 1941, volunteering for the RAF and was called up in February 1942.
Theo was trained as a wireless (radio) operator, having to learn the Morse Code (and still can translate text into Morse in his 90’s, it was so well drilled) and reach the standard of 23 words per minute. Training involved flying in a Proctor airplane transmitting and receiving messages in flight. Upon qualification he was awarded Sergeant stripes and was sent with other graduates of the training programme through the Mediterranean to Port Said, to Alexandria and into the Canal Zone. The group crewed up on the way out – as was custom in the RAF it was left to the men to sort themselves out into crews of 5 members for a Wellington bomber plane (a pilot, radio operator, navigator/bomb aimer, observer/nose gunner and tail gunner).
The Wellington bomber crews flew out of Italy once the Allied victory in North Africa Campaign in March 1943 enabled the invasion of Italy to be launched. They made raids in France, Germany, Italy & Greece and eastern targets in Hungary & Romania, targeting fuel depots, communication lines, and key military installations. In the Normandy Campaign Theo’s crew were directed to attack Marseilles to disrupt the roads and railways & slow down any German troops directed towards Normandy.
Theo completed 35 bombing raids, which constituted a ‘Tour of Duty’ when crew members were then put on light duties for 6 months to help address the stress of battle they had under-gone.
At the end of his tour Theo was asked what he wished to do next. As he now had increased hope he could survive the war he asked to be sent on a Radar Course, as many of the new aircraft had radar. This was agreed and he was granted leave to return to the UK for the course. He was sent to St. Helens Technical College where he completed their basic course and then finally qualified as a radar mechanic. He was posted to No.2 Radar School, Yatesbury. It was there he was promoted to Warrant Officer with a team which organised the lecture schedules and timetables for new recruits (this proved a very useful skill when in his post war career in the teaching profession he was eventually promoted to Headmaster of two secondary schools – firstly North Salford Secondary Boys, and later as Head of Irwell Valley High School – and inevitably required to do the school timetables)
Theo was discharged from the RAF in 1946 and returned to his home in Sutton Coldfield (near Birmingham) to marry his fiancée of 3 years.
After the war Theo trained as a teacher and ended his career as Head Teacher before embarking on a long and very active retirement. Theo joined Normandy Veterans and Friends in 2016 and has been a loyal supporter of the Legacy project, undertaking visits to primary and secondary schools to share his World War 2 experiences as part of ‘living history’.