Second World War Dornier German bomber to be raised from watery grave in the Channel

The historic aircraft was shot down 72 years ago during the Battle of Britain

The only surviving German Second World War Dornier 17 bomber will be raised from its watery grave in the English Channel in an ambitious salvage effort announced today.

The historic aircraft was shot down 72 years ago during the Battle of Britain and the operation to raise it, if successful, will mark the biggest recovery of its kind in British waters.

The bomber, which is in the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast, was spotted by divers in 2008 lying at a depth of some 50ft on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.

Nicknamed the Luftwaffe's "flying pencil" bombers because of their narrow fuselage the aircraft is said to be in "remarkable condition".

Other than the effects of sea life, such as barnacles, coral and marine life, it is largely intact.

Sonar scans carried out by Wessex Archaeology, the Port of London Authority and the RAF museum have confirmed the identity of the aircraft as the Dornier Do 17Z Werke number 1,160.

The main undercarriage tyres remain inflated and the propellers clearly show the damage inflicted during the bomber's fateful final landing, experts have said.

Lifting it from the sea will take around three weeks using pioneering technology and will have to take place within a given timeframe due to tide and weather conditions.

Retrieving it will be made possible due to 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.

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."

Once it has been lifted, work will start to conserve and prepare the Dornier for display. The work will take place at the Michael Beetham Conservation centre, the RAF Museum's conservation centre at Cosford, Shropshire.

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.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: "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."

Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of the NHMF, said: "This is incredibly exciting news. The Battle of Britain remains one of the most pivotal moments in the history of our country.

"The Dornier Do 17 was one of its main protagonists and therefore the trustees at the NHMF felt it was vital that this, the last known surviving example, be safeguarded."

The Dornier Do 17 will join a range of more than 1,200 objects and places which have been safeguarded by the NHMF at a cost of more than £300 million.

These include HMS Caroline, the last surviving First World War ship, a rare collection of work by Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing and HMS Alliance, the last surviving submarine of the Second World War.

It is hoped that the aircraft will be raised by the end of this month or early June

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before