German WWII bomber raised from watery English grave

LONDON (AFP) - A British salvage team on Monday pulled off a painstaking operation to lift a German World War II bomber plane from its grave off the coast of south-east England.

Covered with barnacles and missing a wing, the dripping wreck of the Dornier Do-17 plane was slowly raised to the surface at Goodwin Sands, Kent, at the mouth of the English Channel.

Experts from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum had spent five weeks preparing to lift the aircraft, which is believed to be the only Dornier Do-17 bomber plane left from the war.

The aircraft was shot down during the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the operation to retrieve it was the biggest of its kind in British waters, the museum said.

"The discovery and recovery of the Dornier is of national and international importance," said Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye, director general of the RAF Museum.

"The aircraft is a unique and unprecedented survivor from the Battle of Britain and the Blitz (the Nazis' intense bombing of London)." The bomber was only discovered in 2008 when it was spotted by divers. Sonar scans confirmed it was a Dornier Do-17.

Attempts in the last few weeks to lift the plane 15m to the surface had been hampered by strong winds.

Work will now begin to conserve the Dornier and prepare it for display at the museum's London site.

Dye said the plane would provide an "evocative and moving exhibit" that would highlight the sacrifices made by young men from all sides.

"It is a project that has reconciliation and remembrance at its heart," he said.

The Dornier 17 was nicknamed the Luftwaffe's "flying pencil" because of its narrow fuselage.

The Battle of Britain began on July 10, 1940, and ended on October 31 the same year.

More than 2,900 British, Commonwealth and Allied airmen took part in some 600 planes - less than half the 1,750 German aircraft involved.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, the RAF defeated the Luftwaffe in what is considered a turning point in World War II.

Hundreds of German bombers were shot down during the battle, almost all of them were smelted and turned into British aircraft, according to the museum.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.