Fishguard and Goodwick
The picturesque harbour of Lower Fishguard was once home to fifty coastal trading vessels. Fishing was also important, and smoked herrings were exported to southern Europe. Fishguard’s ‘twin town’ of Goodwick was a fishing village until mid-Victorian times, after which it began to develop as a seaside resort.
In 1899 a huge harbour complex was constructed here for the Great Western Railway Company. For a brief period before the First World War the great Transatlantic liners called at Goodwick, and it still serves as a terminal for car ferry services to Ireland.
On the cliff top footpath at Harbour Village is a brick observation post, built to overlook the seaplane station (see below). At Dyffryn, behind the town sign, is a WW2 spigot mortar post. Once very common, but now rarely found, this would have been used by the local Home Guard as a mounting post for an anti-tank mortar.
Fishguard’s Air Station
During the latter part of World War I a seaplane station was established at Fishguard Harbour. The site chosen was three acres to the north of the railway station and work began early in 1917 under the supervision of Squadron Commander John T. Cull, DSO, Royal Navy.
A canvas and wood hangar was erected, along with sheds and a ramp for the launching and recovery of seaplanes. As a temporary arrangement two GWR railway carriages were installed as on-site accommodation for the men, who were billeted in Goodwick village, and the Fishguard Bay Hotel became the officers’ quarters. The base came under the operational control of the Vice-Admiral, Milford Haven and, following the formation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918, it became a RAF station. Seaplanes operated at Fishguard included the Sopwith Baby and various versions of the famous Short 184 family – both single-engined biplane types. Their role was anti-submarine and maritime protection patrols over the Irish Sea and St George’s Channel, helping to protect merchant shipping and the ferries to Ireland. The aircraft were operated by No’s 426 and 427 Flights, later becoming No 245 Squadron, RAF. Tragedy struck the newly opened station on a Sunday evening in April 1917 when a Sopwith Baby piloted by Flight Lieutenant Bush crashed into a cliff on take-off. The pilot was injured in the fire that followed but remained fully conscious and was treated at his quarters at the Fishguard Bay Hotel. Sadly, 26-year-old Bush died the following Tuesday and his funeral with full military honours was recorded in the newspapers and by a local photographer. When fully staffed the air station had a complement of 30 officers, 13 senior NCOs, 135 junior NCOs and other ranks and 54 women – 19 of whom were designated as ‘household’. There were 12 seaplanes allocated to the station. The authorities had estimated that the station would be completed by 31st March 1919. By then the Great War was over and the military had no long term plans for the station. No 245 Squadron disbanded in May of that year and soon Royal Naval Air Station Fishguard was consigned to history. A slipway near the lifeboat station is all that now remains of the seaplane base.