Crash Site Research

The aircraft crashed in the middle of the “Palatinate Forest” a low-mountain region in southwestern Germany and the largest forest in Germany. It came to rest in a mountainous gorge perhaps 1000 feet across and 300 feet deep, located close to the villages of Hofstätten and Rinnthal.

Our German guide was Uwe Benkel he and 3 other voluntary members of his “Research Group for the Missing” joined us in our search of the crash site equipped with deep penetrating metal detectors.

Uwe’s group have recovered the remains of in excess of 90 British, American and German wartime aircraft shot down during the Second World War.  They have also recovered the bodies of approximately 30 airmen listed as missing.  More of his organization can be read here.   http://www.flugzeugabstuerze-saarland.de/html/startseite.html

Kurt Daussmann from nearby Rinnthal joined us.  As a 12-year-old boy Herr Daussmann and several other school boys rode their bicycles to the crash site the day after the crash.

Initially Kurt and his friends were prevented by the German Authorities from entering the area but with the persistence of young boys their efforts prevailed and they managed to explore the remains of Lancaster JA708 before the larger parts were removed.

After 69 years the amazingly sprightly Herr Daussmann was able to lead us to the exact point of impact of Lancaster JA708.

As well as three friends from England, two of my American friends came to help too. She is a Captain in the Army and he a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines. They had a GPS and so we now know the location of the crash site for posterity.

A team led by Harald Hort from Sudwestrundfunk (SWR) Television filmed our retrieval efforts for a documentary that is to be made and released later in 2012.

In this photograph taken from Berg Trifels the area of the crash site of Lancaster JA708 can be seen between the far ridge line some 10 miles distant and the near ridge line.

This Google Earth picture shows the 300 foot deep ravine that the aircraft crashed in.  The roadway indicated by the pin and the trail beneath it were both constructed post war to facilitate logging in the area.  As we found remnants of the aircraft above and below the road it is reasonable to assume that artifacts were buried beneath the road during its construction.

Shortly after the crash a German Army unit, whose function was to retrieve the wreckage of crashed aircraft, (with the assistance of horses in this case,)  retrieved the larger remains of Lancaster JA708 which would have been smelted down and used in the German industry.

All of the artifacts we found were fairly close to the surface and relatively small, covered only by 69 years of  debris from the forest floor.  In total we found about 50 lbs of the remains of the aircraft, ranging from Plexiglas to unidentifiable pieces of molten aluminum to parts that we have identified and other pieces that will be identified in due course.

Three rounds of .303 ammunition.

Uwe Benkel takes one of the .303 rounds apart.

In Uwe’s hand is the cordite from the .303 round.  After 69 years on the forest floor the cordite was still active and flared up when a flame was applied to it.

Kurt Daussmann on the left and David Layne examine an elevator hinge bracket that was part of the wreckage found.

A close up of the elevator hinge bracket.

My thanks to Roger Audis 9 Squadron Historian and the Lancaster Engineering Team at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, Lincolnshire who identified and supplied the pictures of the elevator hinge bracket in place on Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane.”

In Uwe Benkel’s hand is an Intercom Terminal Block that was fitted to each intercom station.


My thanks to Roger Audis 9 Squadron Historian and the Lancaster Engineering Team at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, Lincolnshire who identified and supplied the pictures of a similar terminal block in place on Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane.”

A brake shoe back plate and retaining clip

My thanks to Lisa Sharp who provided a photograph of a similar brake system,  that of an Avro Lincoln that is utilized on Lancaster Mk X FM213 of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

A portable oxygen bottle as found at each crew station.


My thanks to Roger Audis 9 Squadron Historian and the Lancaster Engineering Team at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, East Kirkby, Lincolnshire who  supplied the picture of a similar portable oxygen bottle in place on Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane.”

The largest piece of Lancaster JA708 that we found was this piece of fuselage or wing.

This is the inside skin of the aircraft has been torn from the rivets holding it to the airframe, probably when exploding on contact with the ground.  The finger is pointing to shrapnel damage.

The finger points at the shrapnel entry point.

A Taylor Suit or a Sidcot Suit belt buckle that would adjust at the waist, probably from one of the gunners.

This is part number 37A N30007.  It is mounted on a bakelite surface and houses a condensor that is attached to the coil at the rear of the magneto.

This plaque reads          “STARTER GEAR MUST BE PRIMED WITH ONE PINT OF OIL THROUGH BREATHER  CONNECTION

WHENEVER MOTOR IS REMOVED OR REPLACED.”