AMONG the many displays at Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre is one featuring a wartime Sunderland flying boat crew and an amazing survival story exactly 80 years ago.

A row of immaculately kept war grave headstones in a picturesque village cemetery in Norway are everlasting reminders of a wartime tragedy which forever connects Norway and Wales.

All but one of the ten graves marks the resting place of an airman from a Pembroke Dock-based Sunderland flying boat which was shot down exactly 80 years ago this week.

In early April 1940 the so-called ‘Phoney War’ erupted into bloody conflict when German forces invaded Norway and Denmark. This was to have a direct impact upon the RAF station at Pembroke Dock and one of its squadrons, No 210.

The only way to find out what was happening in Norway was by aerial reconnaissance and No 210 Squadron was chosen for the task – it was to be a fateful decision. The large, four-engined Sunderland had the range but it was ill-suited for the dangerous task ahead.

Hastily, a ‘scratch’ crew was assembled – some were meeting up for the first time – and they flew first to Anglesey and then the following day (April 9) on to Invergordon, in Scotland. By then German forces were already sweeping into Norway and Denmark.

Having switched to another Sunderland – serial number L2167 – the crew took off to carry out a reconnaissance of Oslo. It was like venturing into a lion’s den as the German air force had total air superiority.

Bravely the crew carried out their task, taking photographs of shipping and the nearby airfield, from which two Messerschmitt Me110 fighters took off. They caught up with the Sunderland as it headed west and a short bloody battle ensued from which there was only one winner. The once majestic Sunderland and its ten-man crew was sent plummeting to earth, falling near the village of Sylling.

In one of the most remarkable survival stories of World War II, wireless operator Ogwyn George, a Welshman from Mountain Ash, miraculously survived a fall of perhaps 3,000 ft, without a parachute, into trees and snow high in the mountains. He was found by a local man, brought to a hospital and recovered to become a prisoner-of-war for five long years.

Ogwyn George’s remarkable survival story is told at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre and information and photographs of the other nine members of L2167’s crew is displayed. It is one of the most poignant of all the stories connected with the town’s flying boat legacy.

Each year, on Norway’s National Day on May 17, the villagers of Sylling come to pay their respects to the ten airmen who lie in the little cemetery.

Nine of them are from Sunderland L2167 – the tenth being an air gunner, John Ellwood, from a Whitley bomber which crashed in late April 1940.

Research for the Heritage Centre tracked down John Ellwood’s family and pictures of the young airman were forthcoming. All of these photographs are now with the community in Sylling.