Wednesday 10 April 2024

Edwin Harris Dunning, DSC (1892 - 1917) – British Royal Naval pilot - first to land a plane on a moving ship

With thanks to John Daniel for finding this information for us. 

Born in South Africa on 17th July 1892, Edwin’s parents were Sir Edwin Harris Bedminster Dunning (1858 – 1923) and his wife, Lady Hannah Louise Freeman Dunning, nee Freeman (1860 – 1914).  Edwin’s siblings were Dora W. Dunning, b. 1888, Gilbert K. Dunning, b. 1895 and John D. Dunning, b. 1896.

Sir Edwin H. Dunning had been a dealer in diamonds and gold in South Africa. When he rturned to England he became a political camapigner for the Liberal Party. He was one-time Mayor of Tiverton in Devon and was knighted for public services.

Edwin was educated at Fonthill School until 1905, when he entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne. In 1907 he went to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, and in 1910, following twelve months on board the training cruiser H.M.S. “Cornwall,” he was gazetted Midshipman in the Navy, becoming a Sub-Lieutenant three years later. 

Fonthill was a primary school for the children of the aristocracy and wealthy landowners, professional families and industrialists founded in 1808 as a rectory-based school for young gentlemen in Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire. Many pupils from the school went on to Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Wellington, Rugby, Charterhouse and other public schools. It also prepared boys for careers in the Royal Navy and Army and sent a number of boys to the naval colleges.

When the First World War began, Edwin was a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Flying Corps and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1915, being appointed to H.M.S. “Ark Royal.”

In 1916 Lieutenant Edwin Harris Dunning, Royal Naval Air Service was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service with the seaplane carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal during the Gallipoli campaign.

Later promoted Squadron Commander Edwin Harris Dunning, D.S.C., Royal Naval Air Service, became the first man to land an aeroplane on a moving ship when he piloted a Sopwith Pup onto the deck of H.M.S. Furious on 2nd August 1917. 

Being congratulated after his amazing reat

Edwin was killed on 7th August 1917 while attempting another landing when strong winds blew his aircraft overboard. He was buried in Bradfield (St. Lawrence) Churchyard, Essex, where the memorial plaque presented by his Father is on display in St. Lawrence’s Church.  

His official citation was published in the 'London Gazette' on 14th March 1916: “He performed exceptionally good work as a seaplane flyer, making many long flights both for spotting and photographing.

Western Times,' 7th April 1916. 

Edwin was also Mentioned in Despatches twice - 14 March 1916 – mentioned in despatches for service at Gallipoli, and on 1 October 1917.

Sources:  Information supplied by John Daniel,

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