TWO friends who together removed the last float from the RAF's final ever flying boat have reunited after more than 60 years.

John White, from Christchurch, and John Smith were two young ‘instrument bashers’ with the RAF in 1959 when the service’s last flying boat, the Short Sunderland, operated from Seletar in Singapore.

The Sunderland was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats throughout the Second World War. In addition to the RAF, the type was operated by several other air forces.

The RAF continued to use the Sunderland in a military capacity until 1959, when they were discontinued.

Bournemouth Echo: RAF Short SunderlandRAF Short Sunderland

As each aircraft was withdrawn from service, dismantling work began.

The final act of dismantling was for airframe mechanics to remove one wing float so that when beaching gear was withdrawn, the aircraft would lower onto a wingtip – providing a walkway for contractors with their power saws.

When the call came for the removal of the last operational aircraft’s float, John White and John Smith volunteered.

Decades after last seeing each other, the two men reunited in Bournemouth.

The old friends, joined by John White’s wife Diana, had dinner on Bournemouth Pier and reminisced about playing their part in history with the withdrawal of the “legendary” RAF bomber.

Bournemouth Echo: A young John White sat on the last operational RAF Short SunderlandA young John White sat on the last operational RAF Short Sunderland

John Smith said: “Diana listened tolerantly as two octogenarians suddenly saw themselves as twenty-somethings again.

“We served together on Sunderland flying boats at RAF Seletar. It was sad to see the fleet dwindle in size but they were from an earlier age. Our role, as instrument tradesmen, was to maintain the instrument panels, the autopilot, compasses and navigation equipment.

“John had led an interesting life. By the time I served with him he had already survived a shipwreck and after leaving the RAF he returned to merchant shipping, spending some time as captain of coasters plying between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“We lost contact. Some twenty or so years ago we remade contact through the RAF Seletar Association.”

Very few Sunderland flying boats exist in present day. However, in 2010 a scuba diver – also with the name John – discovered the wreck of a plane moored 25 metres beneath the waves off Calshot.

The plane is believed by diver John Greenwood to be Sunderland ML883, which was struck by a surface vessel during a gale in December 1944 and was moored off Calshot before sinking.