Pupils across Dorset have been reunited with family members as Royal Navy helicopters flew over to visit local primary schools this week.

Commander Coleman of the 846 Royal Navy Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton, contacted staff at St. Mary's C.E. Middle School, Puddletown, towards the end of November to confirm a Santa visit.

Pupils watched with excited faces as a Royal Navy Merlin MK flew over and landed in the school’s sports field.

Dorset Echo:

It was a particularly special moment for year 5 pupil Willow Nicholls, who is the Commander's niece.

Kellie Gaughan, administration officer for St Mary’s, said: “The children were ecstatic, all waving, jumping up and down.

“Willow had not seen her uncle for a few months, and it was the first time she had seen him land his helicopter and it made her very happy! It was just a great treat as we end a very busy term ahead of the Christmas break.”

Willow’s mother had originally been in contact with the school to say her uncle was planning a festive trip. The school subsequently arranged a visit with the Commander where he could take his daughter up to the helicopter to meet Santa.

Dorset Echo: Other pupils also got to meet Santa as he got off the helicopter and handed out sweets to them.

Santa’s helicopter visit became a source of local interest as an intrigued member of the public in Puddletown captured the moment on social media.



Coincidentally, another helicopter visit from Santa happened in the same week to a different primary school.

Royal Navy pilots Lt Cdr William Thornton and Lt Cdr David Lilly flew their Wildcat helicopter to Sherborne Primary School where Santa (Lilly) greeted the excited children. 

Dorset Echo:

Sherborne Primary School were chosen due to their proximity with the RNAS Yeovilton where the helicopters are based. Additionally, Lt Cdr Thornton’s son Gabriel is a pupil at the school and was also very excited to see his dad land for the first time.

Felicity Griffiths, deputy headteacher, said “This was a really magical experience for the children; seeing a real helicopter land at school was an amazing surprise! We’re so grateful to the brilliant pilots, and to RNAS Yeovilton for all their efforts in pulling this together and delivering some festive joy”.