VIDEO: Discoveries made at Fenland Spitfire excavation “beyond expectation”

0
Have your say

Archaeologists who excavated the wreckage of a Spitfire which crashed 75 years ago have said their finds exceed all expectations.

The team completed their work at the field in Holme Lode Farm, Cambridgeshire, on Friday and are now processing, cleaning and sorting artefacts recovered from the soil.

The propeller from the Spitfire that crashed and killed Pilot officer Harold Edwin Penketh, found during an excavation at Holme Lode Farm, Cambridgeshire, to recover the crashed Spitfire. Photo credit Caroline Fitton/PA Wire

The propeller from the Spitfire that crashed and killed Pilot officer Harold Edwin Penketh, found during an excavation at Holme Lode Farm, Cambridgeshire, to recover the crashed Spitfire. Photo credit Caroline Fitton/PA Wire

Among the items recovered are a badge from the nose cone of the plain, the oxygen tank and the propeller.

Stephen Macaulay, project director for Oxford Archaeology East, said: “We hoped that because the Spitfire crashed in peat soil that the artefacts would be well-preserved but the condition of many of the finds including the headrest, oxygen tank and pilot’s helmet were beyond our expectations.”

Other finds from the week-long excavation include the aircraft’s starter motor and parts of the wing and canopy.

The hole which was dug around the crash site was filled in over the weekend.

The engine block from the Spitfire that crashed and killed Pilot officer Harold Edwin Penketh, found during an excavation at Holme Lode Farm, Cambridgeshire, to recover the crashed Spitfire.Photo credit: Caroline Fitton/PA Wire

The engine block from the Spitfire that crashed and killed Pilot officer Harold Edwin Penketh, found during an excavation at Holme Lode Farm, Cambridgeshire, to recover the crashed Spitfire.Photo credit: Caroline Fitton/PA Wire

Pilot officer Harold Edwin Penketh was 20 when he died in the crash on November 22 1940 during a training flight, after what was thought to be a failure of the oxygen system or a physical failure of the plane.

His body was recovered from the crash and taken for burial in his home town of Brighton, but the remains of the plane, which had plummeted vertically into the ground at high speed, were left to vanish into the peat.

Geophysical surveying by Cranfield University pinpointed the site of the wreckage and the operation was launched to recover artefacts before the agricultural landscape is restored to wetland as part of a conservation project.

The land, owned by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, will soon be turned into natural habitat to link up remaining fragments of fenland and create a 14 square mile Great Fen landscape.

Archaeologists excavating a site near Holme Lode Farm in Cambridgeshire to recover the first artefacts from a Spitfire which has lain buried in a field for 75 years Photo credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Archaeologists excavating a site near Holme Lode Farm in Cambridgeshire to recover the first artefacts from a Spitfire which has lain buried in a field for 75 years Photo credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The team which worked on the site includes people from the Defence Archaeology Group which oversees Operation Nightingale, a scheme using archaeology to help the recovery of injured veterans and service personnel.

A Volunteer holds the the remains of a pillow as archaeologists excavate a site near Holme Lode Farm in Cambridgeshire. Photo credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

A Volunteer holds the the remains of a pillow as archaeologists excavate a site near Holme Lode Farm in Cambridgeshire. Photo credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

A volunteer holds the leather covering of a head rest as archaeologists excavate a site near Holme Lode Farm in Cambridgeshire to recover the first artefacts from a Spitfire. Photo credit  Chris Radburn/PA Wire

A volunteer holds the leather covering of a head rest as archaeologists excavate a site near Holme Lode Farm in Cambridgeshire to recover the first artefacts from a Spitfire. Photo credit Chris Radburn/PA Wire