Salvaged from the seabed: WW2 German bomber gunned from skies to be rescued in £345,000 operation

Yahoo! News
The Dornier 17 bomber in the skies during World War 2 (SWNS)

Over 70 years ago it was gunned down off the English coast as the Second World War raged in the skies.

The Dornier 17 German bomber was blasted from the air during the Battle of Britain in 1940, and has remained beneath the waves off the Kent coastline ever since.

But work began yesterday to raise the unique wartime aircraft from its watery grave in the English Channel, in one of the most ambitious salvage operations ever undertaken in British waters.

A team of divers spotted the rare aircraft lying 50ft down and upside down on the Goodwin Sands just off the Kent coast in 2008.

Sonar scans identified the plane as Dornier Do 17Z-2, serial number 1160, and it is the only surviving example in the world.

Its main structure has been remarkably preserved and some of its undercarriage tyres are still inflated.

Apart from minor damage to the forward cockpit, observation windows and propellers the slim aluminium frame has survived the corrosive effects of the sea water.












Plans were drawn up to recover it in the biggest salvage operation of its kind undertaken in British waters.

The £345,000 operation - paid for by the National Heritage Memorial Fund - began yesterday.

The team will have to work within tide and weather conditions and the exercise is expected to take three weeks.



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A huge frame will be built under and around the plane before it is slowly lifted from the sea bed and put onto a floating platform.

It will then be towed to shore in Kent and loaded onto a large lorry and driven to Shropshire, where it will be restored at the RAF Museum's conservation centre at Cosford.

The Dornier will be put in two hydration tunnels and soaked in citric acid for the first stage of its conservation.

SEE PATHE FOOTAGE OF ANOTHER DORNIER WARTIME AIRCRAFT - THE DO-S FLYING BOAT:



It is planned to eventually put it on public display at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said on Friday: 'Today marks the beginning of an exciting project to raise the last surviving Dornier Do 17 bomber from the English Channel.

'I'm delighted the RAF Museum and the NHMF have joined forces to make this project possible and I know that it will be a tremendous addition to the museum's collection where it will serve to educate and entertain all who visit.'

Director general of the RAF Museum, Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye, said the project to remove and restore the plane has 'reconciliation and remembrance at its heart.'


He said: '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.'

Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of the NHMF, said: 'We felt it was vital that this, the last known surviving example, be safeguarded.'

The Dornier - nicknamed the 'flying pencil' because of its narrow fuselage - was the least well-known of the Luftwaffe's bombers.


A fleet of 1,700 were built as passenger planes before Hitler ordered their conversion to bombers.

A total of 171 of them were lost during the Battle of Britain with 54 shot down in August 1940.

This last surviving example, from the Luftwaffe's number 7 squadron, 3 Group, third Bomber Wing, was shot down on 26 August 1940.

Two of the four-strong crew members died as it ditched in the water but two - including the pilot - survived to become prisoners of war.

Decorated German pilot Gerhard Krems, 92, is the last man alive to have flown a Dornier.

He flew 250 bombing missions between 1940 and 1944 - 39 of them during the Battle of Britain.

Herr Krems said: 'The Dornier 17 was the best plane for low flying. You could fly really close to the ground.

That's me flying one. You can see how low I am. The tree-tops are above me.'



















































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