Ramsgate; Bomber Plane Recovery
11 June 2013, 13:07
Historians have successfully lifted the only surviving German Second World War from the Sea at Ramsgate.
Divers and Historians managed to lift The only surviving German Second World War Dornier Do 17 bomber last night out of the English Channel.
The aircraft was shot down off the Kent coast more than 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain, and the project is believed to be the biggest recovery of its kind in British waters.
Attempts by the RAF Museum to raise the relic over the last few weeks have been hit by strong winds. But yesterday the operation finally succeeded, and today the museum was hoping to be able to tow the raised aircraft into port.
The team last attempted to lift the aircraft on June 2. But bad weather thwarted that attempt within 40 minutes of success, when a sudden increase in winds made the sea too choppy to complete the lift.
The plan - three years in the making - was adapted and involved attaching lifting equipment to what were believed to be the strongest parts of the aircraft's frame and raising it whole, in a single lift instead of constructing a cage around it, which had been the original plan.
The existence of the aircraft at Goodwin Sands became known when it was spotted by divers in 2008 at a depth of some 50ft lying on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.
Sonar scans by the RAF Museum, Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority then confirmed the identity of the aircraft as the Dornier Do 17Z Werke number 1160.
It was nicknamed the Luftwaffe's ''flying pencil'' bomber because of its narrow fuselage. The aircraft lifted from the sea bed is said to be in ''remarkable condition''.
Experts are excited by the find because, apart from the effects of sea life, such as barnacles, coral and marine life, it is largely intact.
Amazingly the main undercarriage tyres remain inflated, although the propellers clearly show the damage inflicted during the bomber's fateful final landing, experts have said.
Mr 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.''
Work will start next to conserve and prepare the Dornier for display.
It will be placed in two hydration tunnels and soaked in citric acid for the first stage of its conservation. Once the delicate process is complete, the aircraft will be displayed at the museum's London site within the context of the Battle of Britain story.
A grant of more than £345,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), which was set up to save the country's most precious heritage, has allowed the work to start.
Museum spokesman Ajay Srivastava said last night: ``It has been lifted and is now safely on the barge and in one piece. The operation has been an absolute success, the aircraft looks great and I believe it will be towed into port tomorrow morning.''