PHOTOGRAPHS from the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre archive this week recall two famous names in RAF history.

To the public in wartime Britain two Royal Air Force personalities who became household names were Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris and Air Vice-Marshal Donald Bennett.

Both are remembered especially for their involvements with RAF Bomber Command during crucial years of World War II – Harris as commander-in-chief from 1942 to 1945 and Bennett as leader of the Pathfinders Group which led the way in identifying targets in Germany and Occupied Europe.

Naturally, their parts in the story of RAF Station Pembroke Dock are far less well known – yet both made significant contributions to the development of the new RAF station on the Milford Haven Waterway and its flying boats.

In the first weeks of 1933 the long serving CO of 210 Squadron at RAF Pembroke Dock, Wing Commander Robert Leckie, handed over command to Wing Commander Arthur Travers Harris, newly back in the UK following a long tour in the Middle East.

Arthur Harris was a keen exponent of night flying and was quickly in the cockpit of 210 Squadron’s Supermarine Southamptons.

In 1981, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, in correspondence with Pembroke Dock aviation historian John Evans, recalled: “I really went to flying boats as a long time night flying pilot to help the flying boat fraternity over their apparent difficulties in the dark. We did a lot of night flying there without trouble and I taught all of my crews. Don Bennett was an outstanding pilot and held a nap hand of ‘tickets’ eventually.

Donald Bennett, an Australian, was already a member of 210 Squadron. He remembered: “Under Wing Commander Harris we led a very active operational life. We did intensive night flying which was rare in those days and carried out fishery protection patrols mainly in the Bristol Channel, dropping flares to identify poachers (mainly French) and then calling in the naval patrol to make an arrest.”

Harris’ stay at Pembroke Dock was short and in July 1933 he relinquished command of 210 Squadron.

Fred Perry was one airman who vividly remembered night flying with Wing Commander Harris, on take offs and landings in Angle Bay.

“I was the wireless operator – my job was to send and receive messages by Aldis lamp. At the time all the crew were chewing gum because we had a leaking radiator on an engine. Each time we landed we passed the gum over to the rigger to plug the leak and chewed some more! On one occasion when I leaned over from the front cockpit to pass the word for landing to the Wing Commander he told me to stop chewing. The next day he sent for me and apologised. He had found out why I was chewing!”

In May 1985 Donald Bennett returned to Pembroke Dock as chief guest at the first Flying Boat Reunion held in the town and unveiled a plaque dedicated to all who served at RAF Station Pembroke Dock from 1930 to 1959. This plaque is now displayed at Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre.

Sir Arthur Harries died in 1984 and Donald Bennett in 1986 – two famous names indelibly written in RAF history, and that of Pembroke Dock.

Photographs from Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre Archive