Pupils from Withycombe Primary School were last week treated to a visit from a very special guest who popped by to say 'ho ho ho'.

On Wednesday (December 8) the schoolchildren stared wide-eyed up at the sky in surprise to witness Santa arriving via a very different mode of transport than his usual reindeer and sleigh.

Leaving Rudolph and his fellow companions behind at the North Pole, the jolly chap was picked up in a helicopter by his friends from the Royal Marines Naval Air Squadron (RNAS) Yeovilton in Somerset.

Santa and the crew landed on the school field before each class representative went up, in turn, to meet him and collect presents to share with their classes.

The whole school were waiting for the secret operation to unfold, positioned safely behind barriers as the wind picked up from the rotor blades as they landed.

The event was a well-guarded secret from the pupils, and even some teachers, and was arranged by headteacher Emma Jones and the father of a pupil; Major Richard Moore of the Royal Marines has a child in Year 2 at Withycombe. It was also Major Moore's last flight with the squadron before moving to a staff position, so he wanted to do something extra special for his child's school.

Major Moore said: "We haven’t been able to conduct activity, such as Santa visits, for such a long time due to the pandemic and an opportunity like this was just too good to miss. With close military ties to the local area and the school, it was fantastic to say thank you and to give something back to the local community, whilst giving the school and children a bit of a surprise on the build-up to Christmas with a visit from Santa himself! The fact that this was my final flight with the squadron and my family were there to be a part of it made the moment all the more special."

Mrs Jones told the Journal: "It was an amazing day, one our teachers and pupils will treasure for the rest of their lives, we heard the helicopter before we saw it and it was a well-guarded secret, you should have seen the children's faces as they saw the helicopter come into land on the school field."

Exmouth Journal: Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter coming inRoyal Navy Wildcat helicopter coming in (Image: Withycombe Raleigh School)

Exmouth Journal: Withycombe school is gatheredWithycombe school is gathered (Image: Withycombe School)

Exmouth Journal: Wildcat Helicopter coming to landWildcat Helicopter coming to land (Image: Withycombe School)

Exmouth Journal: Wildcat helicopter drops Santa off at WithycombeWildcat helicopter drops Santa off at Withycombe (Image: Withycombe School)