RAF hero Bob stars at launch of centenary airshow

WW2 veteran Bob Calvert as he climbs into a full size replica of the Hawk fighter jet. Multiple RAF aircraft will be on show in Newcastles Donard Park from Friday,
WW2 veteran Bob Calvert as he climbs into a full size replica of the Hawk fighter jet. Multiple RAF aircraft will be on show in Newcastles Donard Park from Friday,

A former RAF radio operator whose team helped shorten the Second World War by two years has marked the air force’s centenary.

Robert Calvert, 93, from Newcastle in Co Down, read Morse code military communications which played a vital part during the conflict.

He also worked on a seized German U-boat coding box as part of a special high-security project which spent six months translating its contents into 120 languages.

The decorated veteran said: “They found out in the end about 120 U-boats all around the world - it reduced the war by two years.”

Mr Calvert is a nonagenarian about to celebrate his 94th birthday later this month.

After D-day he was based in Belgium, Holland and Germany. Following the war he served in Egypt, North Africa, Germany and Cyprus.

He was guest of honour as the RAF prepares to commemorate its own special 100th birthday at an airshow in Newcastle this weekend. Full-size replica RAF aircraft will be on show from today.

Northern Ireland became a vital base in World War Two, with 25 airfields from the Ards Peninsula to Lough Erne primarily focused on winning the Battle of the Atlantic.

Aircraft based here sank many U-boats and assisted in the scuttling of the most famous German battleship of the war, the Bismarck.

Mr Calvert recalled his important wartime role.

“I was security-cleared, and I was very proud of it, to go on a little coding machine that was found in a U-boat that the Americans had sunk off the coast of America.”

The Americans took the crew of the enemy submarine to shore and one who spoke German overheard a member of the captured group disclose: “We did not take that top secret stuff with us.”

That prompted a six-month effort processing the information and the discovery of large numbers of the enemy craft, Mr Calvert recalled.

Analysis of German military signals meant Allied convoys could be directed away from the U-boats and helped win the Battle of the Atlantic.

The ex-serviceman said: “The RAF was my life. When it is a very interesting job you like it.

“I loved the Morse code. It is always in your head, always ticking along, it does not do you any harm.”

The RAF100 Aircraft Tour includes interactive Stem-related activities allowing visitors to experience the science behind the world’s first air force to reach its centenary.