Hurricane war plane unearthed near Thames Estuary

After decades spent locating the crash site and planning the recovery, a team used a specialist excavator on Saturday to dig 35ft deep and carefully remove the wreckage.

As the Hurricane, among the last of the 1940s war planes, was pulled from the site in Essex, one of the excavation organisers, Gareth Jones, told Sky News: “Of all the Battle of Britain digs, this is one of a handful remaining.

“It’s quite unique to find one in these ground conditions where it’s almost all still there.”

The unearthed Hurricane last flew during the Battle of Britain, sent up to defend the country’s airfields against the Luftwaffe on 26 August 1940.

In the pilot’s seat was Paddy Hemingway, a Pilot Officer aged 21 who was based with 85 Squadron in Croydon.

But the aircraft crashed that day, plummeting 17,000ft.

Mr Hemingway, however, was able to bail out and is now living in Ireland, aged 99.

Aviation historian Simon Parry said: “In the skies above the Thames was a dog fight.

“Paddy in his Hurricane flew high to try and attack a big group of Messerschmitts, but he was hit from behind.

“With his engine red hot, he decided to bail and landed safely.

“His plane would have hit the ground with a sound like a bomb on impact.”

Many decades after the crash, a team used modern imaging to find the aircraft and then secured permission to excavate the site between Basildon and the River Thames.

Among the parts recovered was a Browning machine gun and part of the famous Merlin engine, with the Rolls Royce plate still attached.

Also uncovered was the control panel with the gun button still switched to “fire”.

As the Hurricane was lifted bit by bit out of the ground, another Hurricane flew past and dipped its wings in salute.

The plane will now be carefully cleaned and restored and, if enough can be salvaged, it could even be rebuilt.

This would take years and cost millions of pounds. But if it is possible, there is also a chance it might one day return to the skies.

2019-03-31T16:35:13+00:00By |

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