American sailor wants to track down family of Portsmouth RAF pilot he met in 1949

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AN AMERICAN sailor’s quest to find a British RAF pilot he met on a visit to Portsmouth in 1949 has revealed unseen footage of the city.

When American Byron Nilsson visited Portsmouth in June 1949 as part of a training tour with USS Missouri, he spent the day with RAF pilot Ted Cooper.

Ted, his wife, his wife's sister and Byron from the American veterans home movie footage

Ted, his wife, his wife's sister and Byron from the American veterans home movie footage

Byron shot some home movie footage during his visit, which can now be seen for the first time in the city.

During their time together, the pair drove through the city and into the countryside before having dinner at Ted’s house with his wife, three-year-old daughter and fellow American sailor Midshipman D Synder.

It was there Byron asked to see the pilot’s old RAF hat because the design was so different from his US navy one with its chin strap and buttons. The pair then decided to swap hats before Byron, who lives in Liverpool, New York, left Portsmouth with his shipmates.

Now, nearly 60 years on Byron wants to track down the family of Ted and return his pilot’s hat.

I hope someone reading this article will know Ted and help me return it to his family.’

Byron Nilsson

He said: ‘Initially, Ted had offered for me to take the cap, however, I suggested an alternative, a swapping of our hats.

‘The next day, Ted and his wife came aboard Missouri and we did the trade.

‘I recently found the hat and wanted to return this important piece of family memorabilia. I hope someone reading this article will know Ted and help me return it to his family.’

Byron, 89, said the only information he had on Ted was that he was an RAF pilot who flew Spitfires in the Second World War, he used to help with the fire brigade when on leave from the RAF and spent time in Canada training pilots.

The RAF cap Byron Nilsson wants to return to its rightful owner

The RAF cap Byron Nilsson wants to return to its rightful owner

At first, the two men stayed in contact and Ted would send Byron copies of Punch magazine while Byron would send him the New York Times Sunday book review sections. However when Byron began active duty in 1950, they stopped.

As part of his efforts to track down Ted, Bryon has shared a video of his time on USS Missouri and the visit to Portsmouth. The footage from his 8mm movie camera shows the shipmates completing exercises while sailing on the battleship across the Atlantic Ocean.

It also shows them entering Portsmouth Harbour and Byron’s time with Ted, Ted’s wife and Mr Synder driving through the country.

During his time ashore, Byron visited HMS Victory but had to ask some Royal Marines to help them get onboard.

A still from Byron Nillson's home movie showing HMS Victory

A still from Byron Nillson's home movie showing HMS Victory

He added: ‘We decided to walk to HMS Victory, which was in dry dock, and see if we could tour the ship.

‘When we arrived we saw a sign which stated “No visitors during maintenance”. As we were leaving, a platoon of Royal Marines arrived and the lieutenant asked if we would like to go aboard the ship. We responded with an enthusiastic “yes” and he joked we would have to “join” the Royal Marines.

‘We said we would and then enjoyed a memorable guided tour of the ship.’

A still from Byron Nilsson's home movie shot in Portsmouth in 1949

A still from Byron Nilsson's home movie shot in Portsmouth in 1949

A still from Byron Nilsson's film

A still from Byron Nilsson's film

A still from Byron Nilsson's film of Portsmouth

A still from Byron Nilsson's film of Portsmouth