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CMDR Edwin H. Dunning RNAS Memorial
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CMDR Edwin H. Dunning RNAS Memorial

This is the CMDR Edwin H. Dunning RNAS Memorial
It is located in Swanbister Bay in Orphir
Picture added on 01 April 2013 at 11:23
Comments:
Does anyone know what it says on it ? I looked at it recently but the writing has weathered away
Added by John Wells on 01 April 2013
I never knew this existed,just read about his landings with the Sopwith Pup in Scapa Flow. This memorial would be worth looking after/restoring.
Added by Alistair Cameron on 01 April 2013
Unfortunately he died (aged 25 years) during the second attempt.
The memorial is dying too. Hard to find HY3605 : Smoogro Jetty, even harder to read.
'SQUADRON/ COMMANDER - EDWIN DUNNING/ DSC RNAS - JULY 1982 AUGUST 1917 - ON 2ND AUGUST 1917 LT. DUNNING - TOOK OFF FROM RNAS FLYING FIELD - AT SMOOGRO TO MAKE THE FIRST EVER - LANDING ON THE DECK OF A SHIP AT SEA. - DUNNING MADE A SECOND SUCCESSFUL - TOUCHDOWN ON THE FOREDECK OF - H.M.S. FURIOUS ON 7TH AUGUST 1917 - AND WAS KILLED ATTEMPTING A THIRD - LANDING THAT DAY. - THIS STONE IS PLACED ON SMOOGRO - FORESHORE ON MEMORY OF THIS - DISTINGUISHED PIONEER NAVAL AIRMAN'
The stone was designed by Brian Clouston, Architect and was carved by Alan Stout who was the Stone Mason for Saint Magnus Cathedral.
I found this on the internet as the stone in almost impossible to read.
In answer to Alistair that is why I put the photo on here.


Added by Stuart Croy on 04 April 2013
Stuart Croy's helpful comment says Dunning died during his second attempt, although the memorial inscription says he 'made a second successful touchdown' before the third and fatal one. The memorial gives 2nd and 7th August as the relevant dates, Edwin as Dunning's first name, and both Squadron Commander and Lt. (Lieutenant) as his rank.
Gregor Lamb's 'Sky Over Scapa 1939 -1945' says '. . . drowned while attempting a second landing . . .', gives the dates as 5th and 10th August, first name as Edwin and rank as Squadron Commander.
W S Hewison's 'Scapa Flow in War and Peace' also says Dunning was killed in his second landing attempt, gives 5th August for the first landing and 'shortly afterwards' for the second, gives Edwin as his first name and Commander as his rank.
Howard Hazell in 'The Orcadian Book Of The 20th Century' goes with the 'third attempt' version, gives the dates as 2nd and 7th August, the name as Edmund and the rank as Squadron Commander (also, like Hewison, just Commander).
Wikipedia quotes from an official-sounding plaque in the church where Dunning's remains are buried, which is very clear about the fatal attempt being the third and the dates being 2nd and 7th August. His full name is given as Edwin Harris Dunning and his rank as Squadron Commander. Wiki's table of RNAS ranks gives Squadron Commander for a pilot as equivalent to Lieutenant for a non-pilot. (Squadron Commander would be two ranks below Commander. Confusing?)
All authorities accept the importance of Dunning's achievement. Funny there should be so much vagueness about it.
I agree, some sort of permanent (and factually accurate) memorial in Orkney would be very appropriate.

Added by Ian Hourston on 07 April 2013
I intend to make some enquiries regarding the memorials future and hopefully we will get some positive results .
Added by Alistair Cameron on 08 April 2013
Thanks for your the information , It would be well worth saving
Added by John Wells on 08 April 2013
In the recently published book 'Lost to the Isles' by David Earl and Peter Dobson there is a brief account of Dunning and his achievement. It quotes the inscription on the Smoogroo memorial almost word for word as given by Stuart Croy above. (The only differences are an amended date of birth - 1892 for 1982 - and omission of the word naval at the end.) It says 'the memorial was erected in the early 1990s' but doesn't say at whose instigation/expense.
As regards the memorial's future, have you had any 'positive results' Alastair?
Added by Ian Hourston on 05 December 2013
I never knew of this memorial. In the book Beardmore Aviation there is a narrative of the crash. Dunning flew a Beardmore built Sopwith Pup, here is what was written -" The C.O. of the Pup squadron was Squadron Commander Dunning and he was most impressed with his pilots. At the end of each training day, before they would land at Smoogro the pilots would fly along the side of Furious and run their aircraft wheels along the 228’ foot deck, controlling their approach by “blipping” the engine. This inspired Dunning.
Without the knowledge of his immediate superior, or informing him of his plans, Dunning attempted to land on the forward deck of H.M.S. Furious. On 2nd August 1917, Dunning, flying a Beardmore Pup, landed on the fore - deck of H.M.S. Furious. As his aircraft came in it drifted over the centre of the deck, rope toggles hanging from the Pup were grabbed by the deck crew and as Dunning cut the engine the Pup was landed (pulled would be better) to the deck. This was the very first time an aeroplane had been landed on a moving ship at sea.
Still without informing the Admiralty or his superiors, E. H. Dunning tempted the fates again five days later and this time they were not so forgiving. His first attempt was a success, but the wind was gusting and in catching the aircraft, an elevator was damaged. By his third attempt he had changed to Pup N6452. As he came into land, he was too far forward. He waved the deck party away and then opened the throttle fully, but the engine lost power. The Pup stalled, came down heavily on its starboard wheel and fell over the side of the ship. The Pup then landed in front of the moving carrier with H.M.S. Furious sailing over the stranded flyer. The Pup was fitted with air bags and when it was recovered, it was found that Dunning had been knocked unconscious in the cockpit and had drowned."
The book was started about 1987 and finished in 1991. This looks like before the memorial was installed. A great idea that it was done

Added by Charles E. Mac Kay on 07 April 2014
Visited the memorial today (5 Oct 2014). Could not see any trace of the text of the inscription and the emblem is much eroded. Having said that, the light was not great.
The co-ordinates are
HY 36397 05484
58.931861,-3.106604
Added by Andrew Hollinrake on 05 October 2014
A photo of the first landing can be found on line. In my holiday cottage in Rendall there was a watercolour rendition of that photo, as well as one of the take-off from an airfield in front of Smoogro house (signed N. Foster 1994). The coordinates of the memorial indicate that it is below Smoogro House, though online war history sites suggest it was further west at Tow Ness, in front of Swanbister house.
Added by William Firth on 12 July 2016
We are coming up to the 100th anniversary of this event. It should not go unremarked. The inscription is now lost to weathering but I copied it carefully for my piece in Geograph (not able to place a link here). Somwhere on the web is a picture of the pristine stone - my link ui Geograph is now broken - anyone?
Added by Derek Mayes on 04 April 2017
There is a YouTube 'video' of the two landings (one fatal) on the web. I cannot post the direct link here but - Dunning trials Scapa Flow August 1917 - search in Youtube will find it
Added by Derek Mayes on 04 April 2017
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