Specialist divers and archaeologists have completed an operation to retrieve the wreckage of a 1943 Fairey Barracuda Torpedo Bomber after more than 75 years.
It was found by National Grid engineers last summer, during a seabed survey ahead of the construction of our IFA2 interconnector between England and France.
David Luetchford, Head of IFA2 for National Grid, said: “Interconnectors are about bringing us closer to a zero-carbon future, but we must also respect the past. An important part of our job is to always have a thorough and sympathetic approach to archaeological finds.
“Over the course of the project, we’ve inspected over 1,000 targets of interest, many of which were found to be unexploded ordnance; not unusual given the history of this location. However, to have found a 1943 Fairey Barracuda torpedo bomber is incredible and such a key piece of British history.
“It’s not every day you get the chance to play a role in an operation like this and it is very lucky to have found the plane in such a small search area. We surveyed a 180-metre-wide area along the cable route and if we had chosen a slightly different route there is a good chance the plane would never have been found.”
The three-seater plane, part of 810 Squadron Royal Navy Air Station, based at Lee-On-Solent was recovered just in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It’s believed the bomber (thought to be no. BV739) got into difficulty shortly after taking off for its test flight, before crashing 500m from the coast in Portsmouth.
The Barracuda wreckage is the only one to have ever been found in one piece and the last remaining aircraft of its kind in the UK.
Work to fully retrieve the plane is expected to take around three weeks in total, as experts from Wessex Archaeology are carefully excavating the area around the aircraft and removing large amounts of silt and clay. So far, one of the wings has successfully been lifted out of the waters and work on the second is currently underway. The remainder of the plane will be recovered by lifting it in sections over the coming days.