Day two of our dig on Salisbury Plain where we are trying to recover as much of Spitfire P9503 of 809 squadron, which on the day it was lost was flown by Pilot Officer Paul Ballion he survived the engagement which saw his Spitfire shot down by a German JU88. Day two saw our media circus which is a must for the advertisement of Operation Nightingale and what it does but by the same token hinders what we able to achieve. Countless times whilst working in the “finds tent” did we have television cameras set up to record us working which is fine, but when they repeatedly ask you to; “Pick that up and look at your friend as though you are discussing the item.” When the item is clearly a part of the engine but the picture in the book looks better as a fuselage, it serves to make us look more than a little daft. At go three myself and `Lloydy` were laughing and joking about it while we were part of the circus but by the eighth go of camera and television footage the patience was wearing a little thin to say the least. We discovered some quite good stuff on day two, a piece of the pilot’s seat, a buckle from his harness, the release catch for the canopy which would have been one of the very last things that Plt Off Ballion would have touched as he left the aircraft, the flap lever and incredibly the dial plate of the fuel gage which was really quite extraordinary.
In the “finds tent” I was logging the items which were brought to us, and using some books and manuals, tried to identify what the various items were and where they were located on the aircraft. A lot of the items we were able to pull the serial numbers from which would enable me to look the number up in the parts book which would mean we would know exactly what the piece was and from there be able to find out what it did. Unfortunately for us though, of all of the serial numbers we did find, only a handful were we actually able to find in the book. The parts were definitely Spitfire as the serial numbers start with 300 which is Spitfire and the inspection stamps are 4S which is the code for Supermarine, Supermarine of course being the manufacturer of the Spitfire. Despite all of the media conducting their `interviews` and directing the site on what shots they wanted, the guys out on site did manage to pull a part of the engine out of the ground. The part is the reduction gear for the spinner which will be cleaned today (day three) and then logged with its own identity number, photographed by me and then bagged up ready for transportation to where it will be heading, potentially a museum.
The media left having spent the vast majority of the day on site and very shortly after that we stopped work for the day, happy that a good day’s work had been accomplished despite the constant interruptions. We were joined today by a special guest, the lady’s name was Rosemary and she is the Daughter of Plt Off Ballion, we invited her to visit the site as it was after all her Fathers aircraft, a Father who she unfortunately never got the chance to meet as she was born three months after he was shot down over the channel following another engagement with the enemy except this time he perished. He is buried in France after his body was found washed up on a French beach. We thought it would be nice for her to be given the opportunity to see where the aircraft which he had been flying and thankfully escaped from, had come to rest and to touch some of the items that her Father would have touched and used, whilst helping us in the “finds tent”. She was a an absolute delight to work with, showing an interest in everything we were doing and could not have been further from wanting to stay clean. One piece she held for a while after it being handed to her as we spoke was the release catch for the canopy. This would as I have previously said, been one of the very last pieces that her Father would have touched as he bailed out from his seriously wounded Spitfire as it made its way to its final resting place on Salisbury Plain.
With the site closed down for the day the guys disappeared off for showers at the local base while I got myself changed in to civilian clothing after washing, and on the return of the guys, we headed in to the village for some tea at one of the local pubs.
The food was really nice and the Lasagne that I ordered was far more filling than I had anticipated. Washed down with a couple of orange juice and lemonades and conversation with “Pux”, we decided to leave at around half nine. Ironically, I simply hit the sack on return to site not knowing how long I would sleep for or indeed how night number two would go. I had intended to write the day two Blog entry at the pub and upload it with photos but the internet signal was almost non existent and so I was unfortunately unable to do it. It is now 04.56 on day three of the dig. I have been up since three in the morning as I needed the loo for which I had to get up, not much point in going back to bed I thought and so I took the opportunity to write the day two Blog entry and try to up load it using my mobile phone. Pictures are a non starter to try to upload tethered to the mobile so I will simply have to upload them all on Friday when I return home, sorry.
Well, the weather should be hot again today all being well which will be nice but I can tell you that although I am in a 12 x 12 Army tent, it is bloody cold. I am sitting in my power chair with a blanket over me which is going to be upgraded to a sleeping bag in a minute. I am going to try to upload this via mobile which could take all day but I hope that it gets there. Enjoy the day.