The Project Manager of the Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust, John Evans, was awarded the British Empire Medal (B.E.M.) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for ‘The Preservation of Pembroke Dock and its Military Past’.
John’s first connection with Pembroke Dock was as a reporter with the Western Telegraph in 1970 and he made the town his home in 1979 after his marriage to Christine (nee Collins).
Pembroke Dock’s remarkable naval, military and aviation history has always fascinated him and he began detailed research into RAF Pembroke Dock and its flying boats, making contacts worldwide with so many individuals who had served at ‘PD’, in peacetime and in war.
John’s idea to stage a ‘one-off’ Flying Boat Reunion to mark, in 1985, the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II eventually led to five reunions in ten years, held in co-operation with No 648 Branch of the RAF Association. These reunions, often coinciding with special ‘theme weeks’, attracted many hundreds of visitors from all over the world.
Reunions and theme weeks led directly to the setting up of the town’s Museum Trust which, in 2001, took over the running of the Gun Tower Museum in one of the two forts built to defend the Royal Dockyard. John became the Museum Trust’s first chairman.
Following the rediscovery of the remains of a Sunderland flying boat, which sank off Pembroke Dock in 1940, and the lifting of one of its Pegasus engines, the Sunderland Trust was formed by John and three Trustees in 2006. With the support in particular of Texaco and the Milford Haven Port Authority the Sunderland Trust established an office and successfully bid for funding, through the Welsh Assembly’s Rural Development Plan, for a Flying Boat Centre. This opened in the former dockyard in June 2009 and has had over 30,000 visitors.
A second visitor centre was opened by the Sunderland Trust in 2012 in a dockyard town house and this has recently transferred to the Royal Dockyard Chapel which has been beautifully restored by Pembrokeshire County Council. The very new ‘Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre’ welcomed its first visitors on April 11th, and on April 29th Her Majesty The Queen – accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh – officially opened the centre in the town’s Bicentennial Year.
John has been Project Manager of the Sunderland Trust since formation and works with a skilled and dedicated team which includes over 70 volunteers – making the organisation one of the best supported in Wales.
His specialist areas of research are flying boats and Welsh aviation history and he is often in demand for historical information on aviation subjects. John endeavours to help family and friends research individual service personnel and their careers – the ‘human story’ being so important. He has to date written and published ten books and plans to write a few more when time allows!
John and Christine – who volunteers in the Heritage Centre’s Coffee Shop – have three grown-up sons.