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Spitfire in a bog - part 2

On Tuesday 28 June 2011 RAF Benevolent Fund supporter Jonny McNee began the excavation of a Spitfire from a mountain bog in County Donegal, Ireland, accompanied by aviation archaeologists, university surveyors and a TV production company. In Jonny's second post he tells us about what he found.

Jonny McNee directing the dig

We watched nervously as two diggers manoeuvred over the soft bog to the crash site of Spitfire P8074 (MkIIA). Shortly after 9am, the digger began slowly peeling back the peat.

The first items to be recovered were three of the starboard Browning machine guns and two full magazines of .303 ammunition.

The Irish bomb disposal team were on hand to oversee their safe recovery. We soon uncovered a further three Browning machine guns.

Soldiers overseeing the recovery of the Spitfire's ordnance.

By now it was midday, and a crowd of local residents had hiked into the moor to watch the proceedings. Such was the community spirit on the day that each recovery was greeted with applause and cheers.

The peat soon gave way to a deep layer of blue clay. At about 25 feet we came across the complete Spitfire tail in a tremendous state of preservation, with the rear tail wheel still inflated, and the rudder fin complete with fabric covered rudder intact.

Then came the fuselage and cockpit section – most of the cockpit controls were recovered, plus the first aid kit and Bud Wolfe’s flying helmet. At 32 feet the intact Rolls Royce Merlin engine was recovered, including the propeller hub and fragments of the blades.

Bud Wolfe's flying helmet was recovered from the bog in remarkable condition.As the digger lifted the engine from the hole, cheers echoed around the mountain side from the assembled locals, reporters, army personnel and Garda (Irish Police).

A great team effort and a fantastic result – possibly the best preserved Spitfire recovered in Europe. The team were delighted in the hotel that night but exhausted. There was more desire to head to our respective baths than go wild at the bar!

I later rang Bud Wolfe's daughters to tell them our good news. It was an emotional series of phonecalls. They were naturally delighted at our success but yet clearly moved at the recovery of personal items that their father had used seconds before he successfully baled out.

The process of cleaning and preserving the recovered items is now well underway and the substantial remains of the Spitfire will soon be on display at the Tower Museum in Derry.

All involved in the project hope they will form a fitting tribute to Roland 'Bud' Wolfe and his fellow 133 RAF (Eagle) Squadron colleagues who were based at RAF Eglinton, near Derry in 1941.

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