Memorial Service for Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning

Royal Navy personnel from the RAF Marham Met Office attended a memorial service in August to commemorate the death of Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning DSC RNAS. 

Sqn Cdr Dunning performed the first ever landing of an aircraft, a Sopwith Pup, on the deck of a moving ship, HMS Furious, on 2nd August 1917 in Scapa Flow, Orkney.

He made a further successful landing on the 7th August, but he died later that day attempting a third.  An updraft had caught his port wing and this threw the aircraft overboard.  He was knocked unconscious, the ship’s crew were unable to reach him in time, and he drowned, he was 25 years old.  He received a posthumous Mention in Dispatches.

He was buried at St Lawrence’s Church in Bradfield, Essex beside his mother.  An alabaster memorial, which stands almost 2 metres high, was commissioned by the Admiralty, it reads:

The Admiralty wish you to know what great service he performed for the Navy.  It was in fact a demonstration of landing an aeroplane on the deck of a Man-of-War whilst the latter was under way.  This had never been done before; and the data obtained was of the utmost value.  It will make aeroplanes indispensable to a fleet; and possibly revolutionise naval warfare.  The risk taken by Squadron Commander Dunning needed much courage.  He had already made two successful landings; but expressed a wish to land again himself, before other pilots did so; and in this last run he was killed.  My Lords desire to place on record their sense of the loss to the Naval Service of this gallant Officer.

His Captain wrote ‘I shall never cease to admire and regret him.  He was so keen and full of enthusiasm and such an excellent and capable fellow in every way. Both Officers and men serving under him deeply feel the loss of so fine an Officer and Gentleman.’

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