Thursday 9 August 2007

Mosquito Wreckage


Visiting a garden centre near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire last weekend I chanced upon wreckage from a war time crash. The remains of a Mosquito recovered from a nearby estuary.

The de Havilland Mosquito, serving with 85 Squadron, went missing on 20 March 1945 while being flown by Flight Lieutenant Gabriel Ellis from Norwich and Sergeant William Reidy from Boscombe. For 60 years their fate was a mystery. However, in April of 2004, the harbourmaster at King's Lynn spotted a propeller tip protruding from the mud of the Wash. A team from the Royal Navy's Southern Diving Unit, based at Portsmouth, was tasked to investigate and they were able to identify the aircraft as the missing Mosquito. Given the possibility that the crewmen might still be aboard, and the likely presence of ammunition, the MOD's Marine Salvage Unit was asked to recover the wreckage.

Working with the Royal Navy divers and RAF engineers, the salvage team was able to recover the major metallic parts of the aircraft - the engines, propellers and two of the four Hispano cannon; as is well-known, most of the Mosquito was built from wood and this has perished in the sea. Most importantly, they were also able to bring ashore the remains of the two airmen. The RAF's Personnel and Training Command will work with their surviving relatives to decide the most appropriate burial in accordance with the families wishes.

The undercarriage has yet to be located - the salvage team plans to return to the site in the autumn to conduct another search. 85 Squadron was a night-fighter unit, which in 1945 was serving with Bomber Command's 100 Group, supporting the bomber offensive with patrols over Germany hunting down enemy night-fighters in the air and attacking them on the ground at their airfields.