A VETERAN pilot has made an emotional return to Poole Harbour, where he test flew the town's once iconic flying boats seven decades ago.

Captain Bill Lock, now an honourary vice-president of the voluntary group Poole Flying Boats Celebration, made the trip with residents of his Dorchester care home.

He told the Daily Echo: "I came to Bournemouth as a fighter pilot, but I excelled down in South Africa at navigation, so, consequently I was steered towards the flying boats."

Captain Lock, now 95, described the seaplanes as "heavenly" to fly.

For eight years in the 1940s the famous flying boats splashed in and out of Poole, connecting Britain with its colonial outposts across the globe.

Some even consider Poole the birthplace of British Airways, its forerunner BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) having established itself during its time in the harbour.

BOAC became the town's biggest employer, creating around 650 jobs, from telephonists to baggage handlers to flight stewards.

At the height of the Battle of Britain, there was only one way a civilian could fly in or out of Britain - via the Imperial Airways flying boat service from Poole.

Captain Lock, who took a boat trip around Poole Harbour - organised by his Colton Care Castle View home - said: "I flew them on the South Africa run. They were very, very happy days.

"We did roughly four or five landings a day up and down the River Nile. It was a wonderful time."

The flying boat operation shifted to Poole from Southampton in 1939 due to the fear of attack by the Luftwaffe. Five runways were laid out across the water.