THE family of a wartime air gunner came face-to-face with parts of the gun turret he actually occupied when they visited Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre.

Along with several members of her family, Jackie King of Manton, Rutland, was following in the wartime footsteps of her father, Henry John Hillyer. Known as Jack, he served for over 30 years in the RAF including time on No 210 Squadron, one of RAF Pembroke Dock’s most famous squadrons.

In the autumn of 1940, while with 210 Squadron, Jack Hillyer flew a dozen times in Sunderland flying boat serial number T9044 - the same aircraft which sank off Pembroke Dock in November that year.

Many parts of T9044 have been recovered and are displayed at the Heritage Centre. Among them are sections of Perspex from the rear turret which Jack occupied during those 12 flights. These were shown to the family.

Jackie and family brought along Jack’s logbook which lists the flights in T9044 between October 10 and 28, 1940. T9044 sank in a gale on November 12.

Holly Duggan, Jack’s granddaughter, said: “While we were researching his RAF story we found out that the Heritage Centre had displays on T9044, which he had flown in, so we just had to come here on a family visit. It is remarkable to see so many parts of the aircraft in which he flew so many hours.”

Heritage Centre Volunteer Rik Saldanha was on hand to show the family around the Centre, including the replica cockpit based on T9044. Rik, a member of the Sunderland Trust Dive Group, regularly dives on the site of T9044 and was able to tell the family about the aircraft and how it sank.

Rik added: “The logbook is a great discovery for us. We knew about the 14 operational flights made by T9044 but Jack Hillyer’s logbook lists much more - several other flights not recorded in official records.”