Amateur historians unearth Australian Spitfire in France

19th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Amateur aviation historians have unearthed the wreckage of a Royal Australian Air Force Spitfire that crashed in northern France during World War II and the skeletal remains of its pilot.

The wreckage of the plane, which was shot down in action and crashed in May 1942 near the village of Hardifort, was dug up from beneath five metres (16 feet) of soil, local officials said.

The fighter was in pieces but the bones of its pilot -- identified by tags as W.J. Smith of the RAAF, service number 400942 -- were recovered.

Officials from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which manages war cemeteries for citizens of British Commonwealth nations who died during the First and Second World Wars, have taken charge of the pilot's remains for eventual burial.

The wreckage of the plane will eventually be delivered to La Coupole, a former rocket base turned war museum in the nearby town of Saint Omer.

The 89-year-old former mayor of Hardifort, Jean Bogaert, assisted the researchers in finding the wreckage and remembered seeing the plane crashing when he was 20 years old.

"We saw it in the distance and there was a loud noise, a cloud of dust and that was it," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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