South West Wales

Bid to raise WWII flying boat from Pembroke Dock seabed

Mk 1 Sunderland Image copyright Pembroke Dock Sunderland Heritage Trust
Image caption A Mark 1 Sunderland

A heritage group is calling for the public's help to raise a unique World War II seaplane from the estuary seabed in Pembroke Dock.

The Mark 1 Sunderland sank in a violent storm in 1940 but was rediscovered by divers in 2006.

Parts of the aircraft are already on display in a museum.

Now the Sunderland Trust has launched a crowdfunding campaign to salvage the remainder of the wreck.

It hopes to raise £50k to pay for a new underwater survey to be carried out so the boat can go on public display as the main exhibit in the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre, which tells the story of the Battle of the Atlantic.

Trust chair Gareth Mills told the BBC: "The divers have worked continuously for the last 10 years but the last survey on the T9044 in the dockyard was done six years ago.

Image copyright Pembroke Dock Sunderland Heritage Trust
Image caption Rare wartime colour of a Mark 1 Sunderland similar to T9044

"If we are going to realise the dream of lifting the Sunderland in one we need to have an updated survey done to ensure that we can do that safely."

The heritage centre has also announced it will be running a new flight experience from April where visitors can sit in a reconstructed Sunderland cockpit and take a simulated flight around Pembrokeshire. The replica has been created by a group of volunteers.

The Sunderland Flying Boats were an iconic World War II aircraft, and at one time 99 of them were stationed at the former RAF station in Pembroke Dock.

It was the largest wartime station for the Sunderland flying boats, which sought out and attacked U-boats.

The T9044 sank without casualties on its moorings in 1940 but was only discovered under 60ft (18.3m) of water by divers after a lobster pot became entangled on it, nearly 70 years later.

The heritage centre opened two years ago and rare artefacts on show there include a Bristol Pegasus engine complete with propeller and a restored tail gun, which is the only one in existence.

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