Orkney Islands Council
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Naval aviation pioneer remembered 100 years on

Naval aviation pioneer remembered 100 years on
21 July 2017

The Royal Navy pilot who completed the first ever aircraft landing on a moving ship is to be remembered in Orkney on the 100th anniversary of his landmark achievement.

On 2 August 1917, Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning landed a Sopwith Pup on the deck of HMS Furious in Scapa Flow at the dawn of carrier aviation.

Tragically, attempting to repeat the landing on 7 August, his aircraft lost power resulting in a hard landing and the plane, with Dunning still in the seat, was swept overboard by strong winds. He was killed as a result.

Despite this, his significant achievement has had a huge legacy and it is particularly timely that, a century later, it is the 'Year of the Carrier', when the RN's new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has sailed for the first time to conduct her sea trials.

There is a memorial to Squadron Commander Dunning in Orkney, on the shores of Swanbister Bay below Smoogro House.

It was commissioned by Brian Clouston, who once owned Smoogro House, and was carved by Alan Stout, then stonemason of St Magnus Cathedral, and unveiled in 1992 on the 75th anniversary of Dunning’s death.

Mr Clouston funded the memorial with donations coming from Balfour Beatty, the building company which had responsibility for the building of the Churchill Barriers, and British Airways, who flew members of the family to Orkney for the official unveiling.

Unfortunately today it is difficult to make out the gold lettering and wording, as the sea and weather have taken their toll on the rock on which the inscription is carved. The memorial stands at the end of a jetty and can easily be missed by visitors to Orkney.

To mark the centenary, the Royal Navy is to re-dedicate a memorial to the aviation pioneer.

A new plaque has is being produced by a local craftsman Stuart Wylie, and will be unveiled at Scapa at 11:00 on 2 August by Rear Admiral Fleet Air Arm Keith Blount OBE RN, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers).