Walter Albert 'Toby' Yeulett's Story
Click the pictures for larger versions
Walter Albert Yeulett was born on 2nd June, 1899, in Walton-on-Thames,
Surrey. His sister (May) would go on to marry Charles Casey and become my Grandparents. Walter, or
"Toby" as he was known to the family, had taken an interest in aviation at a very young age and
when 12 he was designing and building his own model aircraft as illustrated by the picture on the left taken in 1911.
There's a nice story surrounding this model which you can find towards the bottom of the menu on the
He attended the Tiffin Boys School in Kingston-on-Thames
leaving in 1915 to pursue his interest in aviation and at the age of 17 was a student engineer with
Gordon Watney aero-engines in Weybridge, Surrey. Having gained workshop experience in the construction of
aero-engines he was working in the firm's drawing office when, at the age of 18, he joined up with the Royal
Naval Air Service on 22nd July 1917 as a Probationary Flight Officer.
As with most RNAS recruits Toby initially went to RNAS Crystal
Palace (then often referred to as HMS Crystal Palace whilst officially being HMS Victory VI) where he
would have had his basic training including the inevitable square bashing, PT and overall induction into the
Royal Navy. "HMS Crystal Palace" was run very much as a serving ship so
the recruits would quickly become familiar with the ways and traditions of the Royal Navy. The vast glass
building was sub-divided into "decks" such as a Quarter Deck where the recruits mustered and Mess Decks
for meals. Any time away from the "ship" was officially Shore Leave and they used the naval method
of measuring time in "bells" (the number of bells signifying the subdivision of any given Watch). During
Toby's time there he would also have had lectures on aircraft and engines which would have included
stripping an engine down.
I have added a page (see left menu) which includes some of the
advice that the new recruits were given in order to give an insight into the nature of early flying and of
the customs & sensibilities of the time.
On the 24th August 1917 he was posted to RNAS Chingford where he would have a
series of ground school lectures in aerodynamics, engines, navigation and meteorology. Following that the
recruits would start initial flying training. Pilots would typically go solo after 3-4 hours
of instruction and quickly progress onto cross-country flying. Around this time most pilots would pass
their Royal Aero Club "ticket" but it seems that Yeulett was one of those that didn't actually take one.
(Thanks, Ian Burns).
The photo (left) is of Toby at Chingford in the cockpit
of an Avro 504 looking, it has to be said, somewhat apprehensive!
After Chingford the recruits would then go on to RNAS Cranwell
for further training. Toby went on 13th October 1917 for more advanced flying training on
aircraft such as the BE2c. During this period he would have received training in advanced
navigation, aerial photography, use & maintenance of the Lewis gun and basic bomb-dropping.
Bombing training initially started on the ground with a model landscape being dragged underneath him and
then pulling a trigger at what he thought was the correct time to drop the bomb. After this they would
progress to dropping dummy bombs from aircraft over the testing ground at Freiston. There would be
further exams in these subjects prior to receiving a Royal Navy commission and passing
out as a Flight Sub Lieutenant.
Toby graduated at Cranwell on 28th November 1917 after a total
of 32 hours flying. His graduation exam results were: Flying Ability - 1st Class; Aerial Engines - 60 (presumably
out of 100?); Navigation - 60; Gunnery - 62; W/T & Photography - 62. On graduation and promotion to
Flight Sub Lieutenant he was posted back to Chingford for further flying and was at that time
recommended for Deck Flying.
On the 14th January 1918 Toby
was posted to East Fortune to join the pilots of HMS Furious which was, at that time, in dock being modified.
In February 1918 he was sent to the Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot at RNAS Isle of Grain in Kent
(pictured right with Flight Sub Lieutenant GR Ashton) to partake in the trials of deck landing methods
for use aboard the modified HMS Furious (see the relevant page via the menu). He returned to HMS Furious on
31st March 1918 having been reported as "progressing satisfactorily with deck landing training" on Sopwith
In March 1918 the Royal Navy created The Grand Fleet
Flying Squadron, the first formal association between seaplane carrying vessels, under Rear Admiral
Phillimore. The impressively named Flying Squadron was a group of ships equipped to provide aerial
support to the Grand Fleet's operations and was distinct from the fleet's other battle squadrons. It
initially comprised HMS Furious with the seaplane carriers HMS Nairana, HMS Pegasus and HMS Campania
plus they also had a defined group of pilots on which to draw.
Furious at the end of March and went to sea to undertake the trials of the landing deck
concept throughout the Spring of 1918. On the 1st April 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal
Flying Corps were merged to form the Royal Air Force and Toby was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. The
merger of the RNAS and RFC was extremely unpopular in the RNAS since they felt they were leaving the Senior
Service to join a much more junior organisation that was modelled primarily on Army
The photograph left, recently found, is the best picture we have of Toby Yeulett. Clearly
aboard ship and still in an RNAS Flight Sub Lieutenant's uniform we can assume that this
was taken some time around March 1918 (prior to his RAF promotion in April 1918) and
therefore almost certainly aboard HMS Furious. We don't have one photograph of him in a RAF Lieutenant's
uniform so this is the last dateable photograph we have of Toby Yeulett. It's linked to a full size
version which shows remarkable detail for the time.
During Toby's early time on board Furious he was involved in flying sea
patrols as well as undertaking test flying on and off the decks. On 13th June 1918 he made a test flight
off the deck of HMS Furious in a 1½ Skid Strutter as reported in this document written by Lieut. Col. Bell-Davies, Officer Commanding the RAF
unit on Furious and one of the leading lights of aircraft carrier
HMS Furious was a converted cruiser with the addition of a fore deck for take-offs and from
March 1918 a landing deck at the rear of the superstructure. She was therefore the world's
first aircraft carrier designed to both launch and recover aircraft aboard. After the testing of the
landing deck concept at Grain the trials went to sea but once aboard ship the landings proved virtually
impossible unless the ship was almost stationary (turbulance caused by the superstructure) and the
idea was never used operationally. See the menu for a page about deck landing
In July 1918 HMS Furious launched
the first ever bombing raid to be launched from an aircraft carrier, they attacked the Zeppelin Base at
Tondern (now Tønder) and would prove significant in ways other than being the birth of the carrier as an
offensive weapon. It was also to be Toby Yeulett's final mission and the one for which he was to be awarded
his Distinguished Flying Cross. He was just 19 when he died.