Sunderland secret revealed
11:40am Saturday 6th October 2012 in News
The wreck of Sunderland flying boat T9044, which sank off Pembroke Dock 72 years ago, may hold another secret – a silk dressing gown belonging to a pilot who flew the aircraft on operational patrols.
Christine Chapman, a recent visitor to the Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust, recalls her father, Norman Chapman, saying that T9044 still had the box containing his dressing gown when the aircraft sank in November 1940.
The then Pilot Officer Chapman flew T9044 in the autumn of 1940, carrying out six Atlantic convoy patrols with his crew.
“My father said that his dressing gown, bought for his honeymoon in 1937, was still on board, together with other personal items, and that the aircraft was rammed by a fishing boat,”
She was delighted to find a photograph and information on her father at the Flying Boat Centre, which tells the story of T9044 and people who flew it.
Christine has a special affection for Pembroke Dock, both through her father’s long association with the RAF Station, and because she was baptised in the RAF Station Church (formerly the Dockyard Chapel) on Easter Sunday 1940.
During her visit she was taken to see the beautifully restored chapel by John Evans and Martin Cavaney of the Sunderland Trust.
“This has been a marvellous day,” said Christine.
“My father and mother had very fond memories of Pembroke Dock. They returned here in the mid-1960s, not long before my father retired from the RAF, and in a local newsagents my father was welcomed by name. He never forgot that.”
Norman Chapman was a regular airman who joined up as an RAF Halton apprentice in 1928.
He retired as a Wing Commander, having been awarded the OBE and one of the first wartime Mention in Dispatches, in February 1940.