The remains of a Messerchmitt Bf 110, shot down during a Battle of Britain dogfight, have been unearthed during a dig at Lulworth in Dorset
An archaeological dig at a Ministry of Defence site near Lulworth in Dorset has uncovered evidence of a German Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter that was downed by RAF fighters during the Battle of Britain in August 1940.
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Large quantities of material, including fragments of propeller, Daimler Benz engines, ammunition, parts of the perspex canopy and other elements were uncovered by a team working at the Lulworth Ranges as part of Operation Nightingale, a groundbreaking initiative that uses field archaeology to aid the recovery of service personnel injured in conflict.
The week-long excavation, organised by the Defence Archaeology Group and assisted by Wessex Archaeology, was codenamed Exercise Adlertag after the Luftwaffe operation to destroy the RAF during World War II. It sought to determine the exact location and extent of the crash site and to recover the remains of the air frame.
Contemporary eye-witness reports tell of the German squadron being intercepted by the RAF off the Dorset Coast and of an aircraft being shot down.
Magnetometry, ground penetrating radar and laser-scan surveys were followed by metal detector searches. Excavations then revealed how the aircraft had crashed directly into the clifftop at a near-vertical angle and had then been engulfed in flames.
The aircraft is believed to have been from V (Z) Lehrgeschwader 1 which was on a mission to attack Portland on August 13 1940.
It is thought to have been either crewed by Lieutenant Günter Beck, who was killed and buried at Portland Royal Naval cemetery, and bordfunker (radio operator) and rear gunner Uffz Karl Hoyer, who is listed as missing, or pilot Fw Hans Datz, who was made Prisoner of War together with bordfunker Uffz Georg Lämmel who was killed and then buried at Portland.
Spent ammunition cases found at the crash site show the rear gunner fired back at the RAF fighters.
Despite being armed with some heavy weaponry, the twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 suffered high losses during the Battle of Britain due to its comparative lack of maneuverability, which made it an easier target for RAF fighter pilots than its Luftwaffe counterpart - the single seat Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Later in the war, the Bf 110 was more successful as a night fighter and as a fighter bomber working in support of ground actions, and despite its poor showing during the Battle of Britain it served with the Luftwaffe throughout the Second World War.
The dig, which took place in late August and was made partly in response to the vulnerable location of the crash site right in the middle of the South West Coastal Path, follows on from work by the group to excavate the remains of a Spitfire from 609 Squadron shot down over Salisbury Plain during a dogfight in October 1940.
“The week proved to be very productive with large quantities of material recovered,” said a Wessex Archaeology spokesperson, adding that the remains would be processed by an "enthusiastic" volunteer team before further analysis can take place.
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- Find out more about Wessex Archaeology's work at www.wessexarch.co.uk.
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