Australian pilot Gordon Singleton, who made wartime history by landing a Sunderland flying boat on a Pembrokeshire airfield, has died aged 97 – almost exactly 70 years after his remarkable feat of airmanship.
On May 29th 1943 Gordon and his crew from No 461 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, landed in the open sea to rescue several airman who were transferred to a naval vessel. Later, in a prolonged drama, Gordon with a reduced crew took off in heavy seas, the Sunderland sustaining hull damage in the process.
This prevented a water landing back at Pembroke Dock so Gordon elected to touch down on Angle Airfield, something never attempted before. A masterly landing was made on the grass, without injury to the crew. Although eventually recovered Sunderland T9114 never flew again.
Gordon remained in the UK after the end of World War II and was a regular visitor to Pembrokeshire in recent years. He last visited in 2008 when, at the invitation of the Pembrokeshire Aviation Group, he unveiled the refurbished airfield memorial at West Angle Bay on the 65th anniversary of his historic landing.
He was also a great supporter of the Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust and its heritage initiatives.
His unique aviation achievement also features in the Sunderland Trust’s Fleets to Flying Boats Centre in the Royal Dockyard and a small part of his actual aircraft – T9114 – is on display at the town’s Flying Boat Centre Workshop.
Originally from Victoria, Australia, Gordon Singleton had resided for the last 18 months in a home at Welwyn Garden City. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and an extended family, to whom sympathy is extended.