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calendar   Wednesday - June 12, 2013

Saving the last flying pencil

1940 Luftwaffe Relic Retrieved From Watery Grave

WWII Dornier bomber wreck pulled from the Channel off of Kent is last of its kind

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Shot down in the Battle of Britain by an oddball fighter plane you’ve never heard of, the plane has rested in 50 feet of water for 70 years. Now recovered, can it be restored?


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Dornier Do 17s in the sky, ca 1940

The Dornier Do 17, nicknamed “the flying pencil” for it’s long thin fuselage, was a “fast light bomber” designed in the interwar period. The idea behind it was that it would be as fast or faster than the fighter planes opposing it, and thus could evade them and drop it’s few bombs on target. With a bomb load of just over a ton and a top speed of only 255mph, by the time WWII got really hot the plane was more of a sitting duck. Although 2100 of them were built, not one survived the war intact.

A British museum on Monday successfully recovered a German bomber that had been shot down over the English Channel during World War II. The aircraft, nicknamed the Luftwaffe’s “flying pencil” because of its narrow fuselage, came down off the coast of Kent county in southeastern England more than 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain. The rusty and damaged plane was lifted from depths of the channel with cables and is believed to be the most intact example of the German Dornier Do 17 bomber that has ever been found.

“It has been lifted and is now safely on the barge and in one piece,” said RAF Museum spokesman Ajay Srivastava. The bomber will be towed into port Tuesday, he added.

A few fragments of the plane dropped off as it was being lifted, but officials said divers will retrieve them later. The museum had been trying to raise the relic for a few weeks, but the operation was delayed by strong winds and choppy waters. In 2008, divers discovered the aircraft submerged in 50 feet (15 meters) of water.

image [ May 3, 2013] The operation will see the retrieval of what is the only known survivor of the Luftwaffe’s ‘flying pencil’ bomber from the Goodwin Sands, off the coast of Kent where it crash-landed in 1940. Using pioneering techniques, it will take approximately three weeks to complete the lift which has been made possible thanks to a grant of over £345,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

The aircraft is the only known example of its kind in the world and was spotted by divers in 2008. After sonar scans conducted by the museum, Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority the identity was confirmed as Dornier Do 17Z Werke nr. 1160 (aircraft history below).

The aircraft is in remarkable condition – considering the events surrounding its loss and the effects of spending so many years under water. Other than the effects of sea life such as barnacles, corral and marine life, it is largely intact. The main undercarriage tyres remain inflated and the propellers clearly show the damage inflicted during the bomber’s final landing.

Amazingly, researchers were able to identify the very airplane itself, who the crew were and what happened to them, and even who shot it down with what kind of plane.

Over 400 Do-17 participated in the Battle of Britain during the course of which nearly 200 examples were destroyed. [sitting duck, indeed!]

Research by the Air Historical Branch and the RAF Museum suggests that the wreck is Do-17-Z2 Ser No 1160 of 7/III/KG3 (5K + AR) lost on 26 August 1940, the height of the Battle of Britain.

The Dornier 17 was part of a large enemy formation intercepted by RAF fighter aircraft at midday on 26 August 1940 as they attempted to attack airfields in Essex. This particular aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on the Goodwin Sands at low tide after an attack by Defiant fighters of No 264 Sqn that left both engines stopped and the crew wounded.

The Dornier, flown by Feldwebel (Flt Sgt) Willi Effmert attempted a wheels-up landing on the Goodwin Sands. He touched down safely and the aircraft sank inverted. Effmert and his observer were captured but the other crewmen died and their bodies were washed ashore later.

Of the flight of 7 bombers that this one was part of, 6 were shot down that day, by half a dozen Boulton Paul Defiants from RAF No. 264 Squadron, which themselves suffered 50% casualties from the Dornier’s escorting Messerschmidt Bf109 fighters.  War is hell.

Lots more pics at these links:
Daily Mail Online
UK Mirror
This is Kent
The Guardian


See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/12/2013 at 01:06 PM   
Filed Under: • Archeology / AnthropologyBattling Brits planes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobilesWar-Stories •  
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