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Back from the deep: £600,000 rescue operation lifts German bomber from the Channel bed

  • German bomber has lain in English Channel since the Battle of Britain
  • Part of £350,000 project to retrieve the plane and display it at the RAF Museum
  • Aircraft is in 'remarkable condition' and the wings and engines are intact 
  • Museum staff say they are 'delighted' that the plane is out of the water
  • It was shot down by fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain in 1940

In the skies over Britain in the summer of 1940, the German Dornier 17 was an all too familiar sight.
But few examples of the Battle of Britain bomber survived the fall of Nazi Germany and some 70 years later military historians say there is only one left.
That unique aircraft has finally been raised from the bottom of the English Channel in the biggest salvage operation of its kind in British waters.
It will eventually be restored and go on display as an ‘evocative and moving’ reminder of the young men of both sides who lost their lives in the battle for air supremacy in 1940.

 Rising leviathan: The Dornier 17 aircraft is lifted from waters of the English Channel. It was shot down during the 'Battle of Britain' in 1940 by RAF Boulton-Paul Defiant fighters. Two of its four-man Luftwaffe crew were killed as it crashed into the sea, but the other two were captured by the British and became prisoners of war

 Recovery: Workers secure the remains of the crashed Dornier , the only surviving one of its type. It is known as the 'pencil bomber' because of its extremely thin fuselage

 Success: Earlier attempts to raise the craft from the sea bed were thwarted by high winds but the project finally came to fruition today. Some parts of the aircraft fell into the seas as it was being raised, but the RAF Museum tweeted that these parts will be recovered by divers. The wings and engines are intact, amazingly

Artefact: The team watches as the aircraft is painstakingly lifted out of the sea. Aviation enthusiasts are excited because the bomber is in 'remarkable condition'

 The wreck was salvaged from 50ft of water on Goodwin Sands, off the Deal coast in Kent, after a three week delay because of strong winds. Despite being shot down and spending more than 70 years under the sea, it is said to be in remarkable condition.
It crashed after being attacked by RAF Hurricane fighters on August 26, 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain. Two of its four-man crew were killed and the other two became prisoners of war.
The Do 17 – nicknamed the ‘flying pencil’ because of its narrow fuselage – was one of the principal bombers used by the Luftwaffe in the early years of the war, including during the Blitz.
The recovery of the aircraft from the seabed is a £600,000 project by the RAF Museum in North London. Its team were able to raise the aircraft  by placing metal cables around the strongest part of the frame and lifting it whole.

 In the air once more: Despite the nearly 73 years it has lain on the sea floor, the German bomber is in remarkable condition, with the wings and engine still attached

Rise: A salvage worker stands next to one of the Luftwaffe bomber's water-damaged engines Rise: A salvage worker stands next to one of the Luftwaffe bomber's water-damaged engines. It will soon go on display at the RAF Museum in London

 Under the sea: The Dornier Do 17 bomber lay off the coast of Kent and is remarkably well-preserved. Even the tyre pressure of the landing wheels is believed to be intact
Peter Dye, of the RAF Museum, said: ‘The discovery and recovery of the Dornier is of national and international importance. The aircraft is a unique and unprecedented survivor from the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.
‘It will provide an evocative and moving exhibit that will allow the museum to present the wider story of the Battle of Britain and highlight the sacrifices made by the young men of both air forces. It is a project that has reconciliation and remembrance at its heart.
Experts say that apart from being covered with barnacles and teeming with marine life, the Dornier is largely intact. The undercarriage tyres remain inflated although the propellers were damaged when the aircraft crashed.
Chris Goss, a writer on the Luftwaffe, said the discovery of the plane was a ‘fantastic find’.
He said: ‘This aircraft is going to be the only one of its type in existence. This aircraft is complete and therefore its price from a historical viewpoint is invaluable.’ The plane was found on Goodwin Sands by divers in 2008. 
Sonar scans by the RAF Museum, Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority confirmed its identity.
The recovery was backed by a National Heritage Memorial Fund grant of £345,000.
A two-year restoration will take place at the RAF Museum’s site in Cosford, Shropshire, and it will later go on display at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London.

 From the depths: The Second World War Dornier 17 aircraft is lifted from waters of the English Channel today. It was first detected at Goodwin Sands in 2008

 Underwater images of the WW2 Dornier lying in 50ft of water off the Kent coast. It is the only surviving World War Two Nazi bomber to be raised from its watery grave in the English Channel

In action: A Dornier bomber similar to the one which crashed into the sea during the Battle of Britain. The planes were 52ft long with a wingspan of 59ft, and could carry 2,000lb of explosives while manned by a crew of four. None of the aircraft were believed to have survived for long after the end of the Second World War

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