Visitors to Learn of Flying-Boat Port's 200 Years of Military Connections; the Remarkable 200-Year History of Pembroke Dock ('PD') as One of Britain's Foremost Military Communities Is to Be Captured at a Visitor Centre. SION MORGAN Reports on a Lottery-Funded Effort to Record Pembrokeshire's Significant Role in History
THE Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust was set-up in 2006 with the initial aim of recovering the world's only surviving flying boat of its kind and a key British weapon in World War II.
The Sunderland T9044 lay on the seabed in Pembroke Dock after sinking in a gale more than 70 years ago.
Many parts of the aircraft have since been recovered and restored and four years ago a Flying Boat Interpretation Centre and Worksh1op was opened to the public in Pembroke.
Now a catalyst for wider heritage initiatives centred on Pembroke Dock's remarkable military heritage, the Sunderland Trust has secured grant funding for the setting up and fitting out of the Fleets to Flying Boats Centre in the Fleet Surgeon's House, an impressive Georgian building dating from the earliest days of the Dockyard.
The new centre will feature important milestones and storylines spanning two centuries of military history in the town - as John Evans from the Sunderland Trust explains.
"Pembroke Dock is a modern town, created in the early years of the 19th century around the new Pembroke Royal Dockyard, established in 1814. For over a century fine ships were produced here for the Royal Navy, spanning the decades and the changes in ship design and construction - from 'wooden wallers' to sleek, fast cruisers.
"More than 260 ships for the Royal Navy were built here up until 1922 and as the premier Royal Dockyard, Pembroke Dockyard built five Royal Yachts for Queen Victoria, from 1843 to 1899.
"Then suddenly in 1926 the Royal Dockyard was closed by the Admiralty, turning the town from one of the most prosperous in Wales to one without a future, without hope.
"Thousands of men lost their livelihood and had to move with away their families."
Although traditionally known for its shipbuilding Pembroke Dock has long and successful connections with the British Army, which was stationed there to defend the Royal Dockyard. As a garrison town it was home to some of the most famous regiments in British history, according to John Evans.
"From Pembroke Dock men left to fight in campaigns such as the Crimea, the Zulu and South African Wars, the Great War, World War II."
The last Army connection ended in 1967 but by then Pembroke Dock was better known for its RAF presence.
The Royal Air Force arrived in 1930 to establish a flying-boat station in part of the former Dockyard, a move which brought economic hope to the hard-hit community.
"Throughout the 1930s the RAF gradually built up their station, constructing a slipway and two massive hangars (which remain to this day), plus accommodation for the airmen and converting the Dockyard buildings for their own uses," John Evans said.
As the 1930s progressed RAF Pembroke Dock assumed an ever more important role in the Service, becoming part of Coastal Command in 1936 and home base to two flying-boat squadrons. …