The Royal Air
Force’s arrival in 1930 brought hope to a community still reeling from the
closure of the Royal Dockyard four years earlier. The sheltered Haven waters
were ideal for the operation of flying-boats and the newly formed No 210
Squadron flew here in June, 1931. Their Supermarine Southampton's – and later
Short Rangoon's and Singapore IIIs - were an ever-present part of Pembroke
Dock’s daily life in the 1930s.
During World War II Pembroke Dock
became one of the most important stations in waging the Battle of the Atlantic
and the ceaseless war against the German U-Boat. At one time in 1943 no less
than 99 flying-boats – Sunderland's and Catalinas – were at Pembroke Dock,
making this the largest operational station in the world.
From Pembroke Dock many RAF and Allied
squadrons operated at various times. Men of many nations flew from the Haven,
their patrols taking them far out into the Atlantic, deep into the Bay of
Biscay, above the Western Approaches and, as part of the D-Day operations,
protecting the sea lanes leading to the Normandy Invasion beachheads.
Known simply as ‘PD’ to all involved with flying-boats, the Pembroke Dock
community took the airmen to their hearts and a second posting to the air
station was always welcomed.
Backing up the ‘front line’ activity
of the squadrons was a substantial maintenance base, a large Marine Craft
Section with many and varied craft and a sizeable WAAF contingent, the first of
which arrived at the end of 1939.
Post-war, ‘PD’ continued as an RAF
station (201 and 230 Squadrons) until the Sunderland's were retired from home
waters in 1957.
Today, the two unique flying-boat
hangars still dominate the former RAF station but the slipway used to bring
flying-boats ashore was demolished to make way for the new port facilities. The
fine 1930s-style Officers’ Mess was knocked down in the 1980s but the former
Sergeants’ Mess – located just inside the main gate – was converted into a
Short Sunderland V of 201
Squadron. For allied merchant ships, patrolling Sunderland's were
friendly, protective giants. Against enemy submarines,
they were formidable adversaries. (Imperial War Museum CH 18020
The Welsh text expresses
the purpose of RAF Pembroke Dock-
"Watching the west from the air."
Empire Air Days attracted thousands of spectators to the Dockyard in
the 1930s. Like earlier ship launchings, they offered a chance to
view the wonders of military technology at close quarters. Here,
visitors step aboard a
Singapore III flying boat.