A SPITFIRE veteran who is a member of one of the world's most elite clubs has presented young pilots with their wings.

Tom Hughes, 85, from Ponteland, in Northumberland, was the reviewing officer at a graduation ceremony for eight RAF students and four Royal Navy students at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, near York.

Mr Hughes is a member of the Caterpillar Club, an informal worldwide organisation for anyone whose life has been saved by a parachute.

The badge of membership is a small golden caterpillar.

Mr Hughes joined the RAF in 1940, and took part in Operation Torch - the invasion of North Africa - flying the Spitfire MkV and MkIX with 72 Squadron.

He became the only RAF pilot to join the Caterpillar Club after he jumped from an enemy aircraft during the invasion of Sicily when he was a flying a captured Messerschmitt 109 fighter.

The aircraft suffered a major coolant leak and Mr Hughes was forced to bale out.