Fleet Air Arm reveals progress on project to restore last World War II Barracuda bomber

By Richard Moss | 25 August 2011
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a photo of the remains of an aeroplane laid out across a floor
The Fairey Barracuda carefully laid out in the Reserve Collection of the Fleet Air Arm Museum© Fleet Air Arm Museum
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is preparing to restore the fragile remains of the world’s only surviving WWII Barracuda Bomber.

Despite being a regular feature of the Fleet Air Arm during World War Two as a carrier-born torpedo and dive bomber, an example of the Fairey Barracuda was not retained for posterity after it was withdrawn from service in the 1950s.

Barracudas first saw action flying from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious off the coast of Norway in July 1943 before going on to support the Invasion of Salerno in September of the same year.

They also took part in an attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz in 1944 before ending the war in the Far East supporting the campaigns against the Japanese in the Pacific.  

a black and white photo of a single wing propeller aeroplane with a torpedo slung beneath it
The Fairey Barracuda was used as a torpedo and dive bomber by the Royal Navy during World War II
The Fleet Air Arm now has several sections of Barracuda recovered from crashed examples of the iconic aircraft, which they are carefully piecing together.

“We have been collecting sections of Barracuda since the early 1970s,” says Dave Morris, the museum’s Curator of Aircraft. “We were able to rebuild the nose section a few years ago, however only now are we able to begin the process of identification and restoration of the rest of the aircraft.”

The museum will be revealing the progress of the restoration on a Reserve Collection open day on October 27 2011. Visitors will see the various sections carefully placed into position “as if a gigantic crime scene was being investigated”.

Also on display for the first time will be a Wessex HU.5, which served as a “Junglie”, the famous green helicopters beloved by the Royal Marines and a new addition to the museum’s impressive collection of Westland Helicopters.

Visitors will also be able to peruse more than 30 historic aircraft and five miles of shelving accommodating many of the Museum's two million records and 30,000 artefacts.

The Reserve Collection also includes the world's oldest aircraft carrier, the 1918 Thorneycroft Lighter H21, which is on the National Register of Historic Vessels.  This 60ft long streamlined craft was towed behind fast RN destroyers, allowing aircraft to take off at sea during the First World War.

  • The Fleet Air Arm Museum’s Reserve Collection Open Day takes place on Thursday October 27. Doors open at 10am and tickets will be available on the door for £4.
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