Spitfire dig day three.

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I am going to start with pictures from day one and day two as I have been unable to upload any until now, so have a look and see what was going on…

This is how they got my chairs to the dig site….

IMG_0547    Here they are using metal detectors to find metal and marking the `hits` with flags, this will map the area out and then the digging can start…

IMG_0548    This is the survey team at work, with the equipment they have they can not only find the areas that metal is present but also get a grid location using GPS…

IMG_0557   Then the digging starts….

IMG_0555     And `finds` are lifted from the ground, on the left hand piece you can actually see the green paint still attached to the metal. This is part of the camouflage colour scheme so this would have been either from the fuselage or upper side wing as the underside of the aircraft was a light colour to blend in with the sky….

IMG_0553      And another piece…

IMG_0558      The `finds` are then brought in to me and the `finds team` in the `finds tent`.

IMG_0669    Here the team clean the “finds` and try to locate a serial or part number…

IMG_0567    Then hand them to me where I look at the serial or part number if there is one and look it up so that I can tell what it is.

IMG_0558           I then photograph the `find` and give it a unique number which as you can see, is in the photograph. I then write on a log sheet what the item is and all other details about it.

IMG_0560      The item is then bagged and put in to a `bay` which relates to the trench it came from.

IMG_0565          A couple of other items from day one for you to see…

IMG_0561 IMG_0564         So now some pictures from day two…

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IMG_0605         A piece with some numbers…

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IMG_0573     Part of the electrical system…

IMG_0577     And a cover of some description…

IMG_0578      The next part was a release catch for an inspection panel…

IMG_0583          I found it in the parts book…

IMG_0584      And matched to one of the places it would have potentially been…

IMG_0585      The next piece was really good…

IMG_0586   Using a different book I confirmed what I thought it was…

IMG_0587          It was the fuel gage from the Spitfire, amazing! So it was logged, photographed and bagged…

IMG_0588  “What the hell is that?” we heard from inside the tent…

IMG_0594     Now save the silly comments, simply chuckle to yourselves…

IMG_0593     This was an item that orientated the aircraft as this is the Pitot tube which would have been on the left wing. It also shows that the aircraft went in nose first. Then after digging down a few feet this was discovered…

IMG_0595   Which caused a stir, and excited the media who were visiting…

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IMG_0601 IMG_0604 IMG_0603Meanwhile, back in the `finds tent`, the recovered Pitot tube…

IMG_0610      And a plate with some writing to discover what it was for and where it was from which as you can clearly see was from the radio unit. This radio that the pilot would have sent his contact report and his last transmission before bailing out…

IMG_0614          A gasket from somewhere, could it be from the manifold maybe?…

IMG_0615      And this which was half of a cog. I looked in the engine manual and discovered where this had come from. Stupidly though I forgot to write down for my own notes and now can not remember where it was from, bugger!…

IMG_0616         As well as the press we had a very special guest, her name is Rosemary and she is the Daughter of the pilot who was flying this Spitfire. He, as I said before unfortunately died in another engagement three months before Rosemary was born, she spent all day with us on site and helped in the `finds tent` cleaning items. One of the items was the release catch of the canopy which would have been one of the last things that her father had touched before leaving the stricken fighter aircraft. It was an absolute delight to spend time with Rosemary, and I think that from what she was saying, she was delighted that we had tracked her down and invited her to visit us.

More recovered bits…

IMG_0617 IMG_0618    They seem insignificant until you get the experts in and then the bits that look like they should be thrown away actually mean something…

IMG_0621 IMG_0620    Then we found the flap selector switch…

IMG_0619      And then the bit that everyone was excited about showed itself after some hard scraping with trowels so as not to damage the item…

IMG_0622Intrigue surrounded the hole in the ground…

IMG_0626      And finally it was ready to be extracted from the chalky ground which had held it since 1940…

IMG_0624     This was the reduction gear for the propeller.

DSC00166         So they were the pictures for day one and day two. Now I shall tell you about day three.

It started for me at three in the morning when I awoke with my bodily functions requiring some attention, and as it is such an effort and long process to get up and sort it out I decided that this would be when I got up. The internet had been really crap as you would expect, and so I figured it would be worth a go to see if I could do the Blog and upload it at that time of the morning. The signal was not too bad and I did manage to get the words at least up on line. After watching the sun rise and the others on the site getting up and wondering around I collard one of the guys to put the cook set on and heat water for washing and cups of coffee, something I can not do on my own for obvious reasons. `Pux` did the food run and set the containers out for people to get their breakfast and then work commenced again. It was on day three that we had several experts on site that would hopefully be able to identify some of the parts and bits we had found. They did indeed know their stuff and threw some light on various pieces which helped me to log them.

IMG_0654      One of the gentlemen who knew their stuff was a guy called Andy Saunders, when he arrived on day one and I spoke to him it got on to the conversation of my having built several Airfix Spitfires. When he returned on day three he told me he had something for me. He returned several minutes later with a book entitled “Spitfire Mark 1 P0375” which was actually written by him! It is about a Spitfire which was found in the sand off France which they restored and it flew again. I am really looking forward to reading it and judging by the inside of the book, I may well be looking to get more of his books as well. I’ll take this opportunity to say a massive “Thank you” to him for the book, it was a fantastic surprise.

DSC_0256       More and more bits recovered from the field were brought in to us…

IMG_0631        To clean…

IMG_0628      And identify…

IMG_0632Photograph and log, in this case it is a counter balance for the propeller…

IMG_0663          A Dehaviland plate from the fuselage…

IMG_0653      And the reduction gear having been cleaned…

IMG_0649     This shows the site from a raised platform (stolen from Graham Moore R.A.F!)…

Spitfire dig aerial pic.And this is the depth of the hole the reduction gear came out of as modelled by Graham and `Pux`…

IMG_0680    More bits were given in to us to do our thing with but the reduction gear was the biggest part we recovered. Obviously you have to remember that it is a military training area and the aircraft went down in 1940. The Air Force will have gone to the site and recovered the guns early after the crash. Boys will have gone to get souvenirs and good knows how many others have found bits over the years, on top of this the aircraft would have hit the ground at 300 plus mph and there would, I would imagine, have been an explosion of sorts scattering bits everywhere. This is of course assuming the aircraft did not break up on the way down. After the metal detectors found nothing else the decision was made to make it the last day of digging.

Day four, (today), the survey team would make one last survey of the area and make notes on reports of the site of any `hits` for another dig in the future. Today then, the site would be collapsed. Tents down, equipment away and depart ready for the hole to back filled tomorrow, (Friday). To that end I left site on the afternoon of day three as I would be more of a hindrance than a help as I can not help with the tents or lugging equipment round. So I said goodbye to the old friends I have there, Dave Hart, “Captain” Paul and “Kenny” being just three and to the new ones I have made, “Lloydy” being just one of them who I really did have a good laugh with (thanks mate). Finally then with the “Goodbye’s” done, `Pux` and Graham helped me in to the Hilux and while `Pux` lifted the power chair on the the truck, Graham and Paul loaded my other belongings and chairs in to the truck and the Hilux. With us loaded we headed off to the RV point where my Wife would be meeting us.

Upon arrival at the RV, my chairs and kit were off loaded…

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DSC_0248          It may seem overkill to you, the reader, seeing the pictures, but there is no way of getting my chairs to the site except by all wheel drive. The equipment that needs to be taken to site requires trucks such as the one shown, just to transport it, so it means that I am able to participate as they have the equipment to help me. While My equipment and I were loaded in to the “Chucklebus”, `Pux` allowed my Son to sit in the cab of the new truck. He has been in the old “4 Tonney’s” plenty of times, but as I am unable to help him in to the trucks any more he had not yet been in one of these.

DSC_0252      You can see by the smile on his face he was chuffed.

DSC_0253        With me all strapped in and the equipment loaded in to the “Chucklebus”, we waved “Goodbye” and headed home.

My few days away would not have been possible without Richard Osgood from Defence Archaeology Group who invited me on the dig. My Wife for driving me and more importantly collecting me (most would leave me on the Plain I’m sure!). My friend Paul who always shares the accommodation I am in and helps me if I get in to difficulty. The old and new friends on these digs who help make my life a little easier and ultimately rescue me when I get stuck in long grass, undulating terrain or mud (after banter, laughing and generally taking the piss out of me!) And to my friends from the Royal Air Force, Graham and `Pux` who get the task of moving me and my stuff on to and off of the area but don’t worry about doing it. So my first `camping` trip went well. I know now that I can do it and that as long as I could convince someone to put our tent up, my Wife, kids and I could go away as a family camping on a camp site.

I appreciate that this has been a long Blog and I thank those of you who have read it to the end. Hopefully you can see what we have been up to and also, whilst the entire team were not in the photo’s, you get some idea of just how many injured service personnel now take part in Operation Nightingale.

DSC_0257    Until next time.

Good evening all.

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