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Forces War Records Blog


Blogger: GemSen It’s VE Day tomorrow  – a time to reflect on the events of the Second World War. It seems rather apt then that another stark reminder, a German WWII bomber is currently being recovered from the English Channel more than 70 years after it was shot down in the Battle of Britain, during 1940. Lying in more than 50ft of water, the wrecked Dornier 17 bomber was first spotted five years ago in 2008, by divers at Goodwin Sands, off the coast of Kent and sonar scans apparently show that the bomber is in “remarkable condition”. It is believed that the challenging salvage will be the biggest recovery of its kind and the delicate operation to bring it to the surface should take around three to four weeks, which is just the start of a two-year restoration project by the RAF Museum in Hendon. What's really interesting about this salvage project though is that the WWII Dornier 17 is the only known surviving example and has only lasted because of where it ended up. Hundreds of German planes were shot down during the Battle of Britain but none of them survived intact because they were all broken up and melted down to make more planes for the British Air Force. This makes the rare Dornier wreck priceless historically because if it is salvaged successfully it will be the only aircraft of its type in the world. I'm not sure I'd like the painstaking and nerve-wracking task of trying to bring it up in one piece though. Can you imagine? Apparently Seatech, the marine salvage company handling the salvage operation will use a specially designed frame that they'll build around the aircraft with divers able to work for just 45 minutes four times a day at slack water. It's going to be a very hairy few weeks for the salvage company and the RAF Museum I think, but what a fantastic project to follow  - hopefully an amazing piece of history will be brought to the surface and back to life. A turning point of WWII One of the most well known battles of World War II, the Battle of Britain was the German air force's (Luftwaffe's) attempt to gain air superiority over the RAF. During the twelve-week battle, 1,733 German aircraft were destroyed, compared with 915 British fighters. The Luftwaffe’s first disadvantage was that it wasn't properly trained or equipped for the long range operations. They also never took up a concept of strategic bombing and during the battle, and the Luftwaffe's failure was one of the turning points of World War II, preventing Germany from invading Britain. The RAF used the high performance Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters while the Luftwaffe's principal fighter planes were the Messerschmitt Bf109 and the Messerschmitt Bf110. Its favoured bombers included the Junkers Ju88, the Heinkel 111, Junkers Ju87  and the Dornier 17. The flying pencil Slim and nimble, the Dornier 17 was originally designed as a fast reconnaissance aircraft and was nicknamed the Luftwaffe's "flying pencil" bomber because of its narrow fuselage. According to the RAF Museum and reported by the BBC, the aircraft in question is believed to have crashed after being shot down by an RAF fighter during the height of the Battle of Britain, on 26 August 1940. The German pilot tried to bring his plane down on the water, but when his wingtip touched the surface, he lost control and the plane apparently flipped onto its back. The pilot and a crew member survived but two others died. The plane then sank to the bottom of the Channel where it was soon covered up by the moving sands. A grant of more than £345,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has allowed the work to begin. The BBC also reported that Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye, director general of the RAF Museum, said:
"The discovery and recovery of the Dornier is of national and international importance. The aircraft is a unique and unprecedented survivor from the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. "It will provide an evocative and moving exhibit that will allow the museum to present the wider story of the Battle of Britain and highlight the sacrifices made by the young men of both air forces and from many nations. "It is a project that has reconciliation and remembrance at its heart."
Source: BBC News and RAF Museum. Do you think the wreck will come up in one piece?  Do you have any WWII stories than have been uncovered and passed down through your family? How will you be remembering VE Day tomorrow? Comment below and let us know. Search your military past by looking at our records, or find out more about World War II by looking at our historic documents library via the Forces War Records site.
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