View Full Version : Fighter plane dig - live, Sunday (Merged)

3rd May 2004, 14:43
Apologies to the Moderator, but I saw this in the 30th April edition of Broadcast magazine www.broadcastnow.co.uk and thought it would be of interest to all here.
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Five to dig for WWII hero’s fighter plane

Five will bring central London to a standstill with a live event, in which a team of archaeologists attempt to dig up a second word war Hurricane fighter plane from underneath a main road by Buckingham palace, writes GLEN MUTEL.

Fighter Plane Dig…Live, Produced by indie Mentorn, will tell the story of Sergeant Ray Holmes, whose heroics saved Buckingham Palace from a direct hit by a German Dornier bomber during the Battle of Britain.

Holmes rammed the attacking Dornier with his own fighter, and then bailed out crashing his plane into the Buckingham Palace Road.

Over the bank holiday weekend in late May, archaeologist Chris Bennet will cordon off one of London’s busiest junctions between Buckingham Palace and Victoria Station to try and pinpoint the Hurricane’s location.

Five will join the dig on Sunday in peaktime for a live 90 minute special. The weekend’s footage will also be turned into a 60 minute documentary and shown later in the year.
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6th May 2004, 17:04
The London dig is not the only televised search going on that weekend - another dig is to take place in Germany to retrieve a Spitfire XIV lost in April 1945 - how do I know - I am one of the "diggers" - a play on words because the pilot was an Australian, who survived and will be there for the weekend. The loss is reported in FCL, and can be worked out from the clues - cheers Allan125:cool:

astir 8
28th May 2004, 07:46
9 pm Channel 5 Sunday 30th May - the Hurricane which crashed after the pilot deliberately rammed a Do 17 over London is to be excavated "live"

(Hurricane pilot baled out and is to appear on programme, don't think the Dornier crew got out. Isn't that the incident which was either filmed or photographed from the ground? - I've seen stills of the Dorier descending without its tail)

PS Are they really going to be digging live at 9 pm?

28th May 2004, 08:25

Got there ahead of you old bean.

:p :D

Was there a competition then? The topics are now merged.

Errant nonsense!

28th May 2004, 10:47
allan125, will your efforts be shown on UK TV?

astir 8
28th May 2004, 14:59
Nobody's perfect

31st May 2004, 09:03
Good Idea but the production was appaling, bit like big brother with old airplane bits. Certainly didn't do the people involved justice and as for the RAF, looked like a bunch of stand-ins including the senior officer. Shame really.

London Jets
31st May 2004, 17:44
I thought both the presenters in London were a joke, neither of them had much of a clue about what they were doing and what they were talking about. The bloke was far more interested in showing people the model aircraft than doing anything to warrant him being involved and the girl was far to OTT and quite obviously didn't have a clue.

You could almost hear the IWM screaming NO to them, especially when They asked Ray Holmes if he wanted to take any of his plane back home with him!!

I think I could have done a better job at presenting it!!!!

Having said all that I would like to congratulate the rest of the team who made the dig possible, years of planning and to see the results must be rewarding. Good luck to them for the rest of the project.


astir 8
1st Jun 2004, 07:29
Started watching it - but it was a bit painful - especially the blonde. Must have another go at the video sometime.

Baldrick's D day dig was much better

1st Jun 2004, 08:27
I'm back, apologies if I got anyone's back up. :O

The programme was a bit of a disappointment as far as I was concerned. Holmes wasn't on great form and the whole thing was strung together with big gaps.

On a more fundamental issue, was the exchange of one already crippled Dornier for one healthy Hurricane a good one?

Also, I had never heard of the oil spray/flame thrower weapon. Can someone verify this?

PPRuNe Pop
1st Jun 2004, 12:34
What form did you expect Ray Holmes to be in then? He is 92 you know - and not a well man. :rolleyes:

1st Jun 2004, 12:57

I have seen a properly-sourced reference to the flame-thrower somewhere (John Ray's book??).

ISTR (very dimly) that this included an interview with a Dornier pilot who also flew a similarly-equipped machine, with equally pathetic results.

Iron City
1st Jun 2004, 14:29
Having done my own bit in historical archaeology (no aircraft unfortunately, just kilns, apothicary wholesaler, and a lot of back gardens) I don't know how the live broadcast could have been reasonably expected to turn out any other way.

Most archeology is hours and hours of painstaking dirty work that doesn't really come together until it all goes in the lab. The live televising must have been akin to the early space program "T minus 38 minutes and holding for something or other 2 hrs 14 min 34 sec into the hold" Then Walter Cronkite does another interview with Von Braun or somebody. At least Cronkite knew what he was doing.

1st Jun 2004, 21:45
As some of you guys know, I was lucky enough to be part of the dig in Germany – which was actually carried out by a professional German archaeological Team and they were certainly digging for more than the transmission time. It created a large amount of interest in the area and had several hundred (or more) visitors over both Saturday and Sunday.

These are just my own comments after reading lots of comments on both this and other bulletin boards, and I personally think that some of the comments are rather unfair in the circumstances. This small piece won’t answer all the comments of course – and would I go again if asked – you bet!! I haven’t seen the programme yet, of course having got back to Cornwall late last night, but I had hoped to be able to see it tonight to see what all the fuss is about, but I have been too busy with catching up with e-mails etc, so my comments are mainly about the German side.

I was actually at the dig itself (at Veelboken in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – between Lubeck and Schwerin) from about 10.30 a.m. on Sunday and stayed there until about 12.30 at night – a long day, but a lot happened. Until the hole got too deep about 4 people were in the hole in quite bad conditions with the digger taking pieces out to their instructions. A few hiccups came along which were unavoidable and the following are just a few examples 1) As soon as 20mm ammunition was found all digging stopped (German regulations) until an ammunition technician came from Schwerin to declare it safe. 2) Soil contamination due to the fuel/oil mix coming up requiring it to be placed in a skip lorry and taken away etc. etc. They also had to find the skip lorry at very short notice which wasn't easy on a Public Holiday Sunday. A member of the local volunteer fire crew helped there with a friend or family connection. I should also state that the site was very wet requiring constant pumping out which were not good conditions to work in at all, plus as they got nearer to the Spitfire the smell of fumes was at times overpowering for those in the hole which got got to be very deep in the end.

Whilst I appreciate people’s comments about the TV side I was there and know that it was meticulously rehearsed – in fact a former Luftwaffe pilot (who shot down 2 Spitfires before being shot down himself by a Spitfire) was present and took part in the rehearsals. But time limitations meant he could not be shown.

Although Guy had rehearsed and rehearsed he proved that he can professionally think on his feet when, quite late in the proceedings, both the control column and the head armour plate, and straps, were unearthed during transmission. The armour plate being the easiest to show and explain as it was easier to clean before transmission!!!

The producers had found two German witnesses to the event but whilst we were there on Sunday a lady came up and told us that she was working in a nearby field and it turned out that she was the nearest witness. But, again, too late to do anything about it.

I have been in touch with the Producer today, and he advises that they were lucky to get any air time for Germany at all as the main story was the Buckingham Palace plane (Of course) and no one was really expecting them to find anything. When they realised they had found the engine – the German contribution was cut back by the people in London. He also states that it was a shame not to have included the German pilot as well. But Germany was always there as back up in case nothing was found in London. With regard to comments on this and other bulletin boards it must be said that the the programme was made for ordinary viewers and pulled in two and a half million. (Not bad for a minority interest programme on Channel 5 that was competing with Hell’s Kitchen, Big Brother, Football Diaries and Captain Corelli’s Mandarin on terrestrial, let alone digital). I can understand how aircraft enthusiasts would be disappointed but they weren't the intended audience!

Maybe people should realise that the freedom to criticise was bought for them by people like Vic - and the fact that the only Boeings these days flying over Germany contain tourists and not bombs!!! It was a privilege to meet both Vic, and his former enemy – both are very modest quiet men and they were only doing their duty as required by the countries at the time. A TV team from Channel 9 News in Australia were sent over from London to film part of the event – and talking to them after speaking to Vic they were very impressed with him.

I have no idea at all why the programme was put together as it was - I thought that they would be filming during the day at both locations and then, after careful editing, making a complete documentary. Although I believe that a documentary will follow. Perhaps if enough people wrote to Mentorn or Channel 5 they might find out the reason why it was made as it was. We were in a cold dark wood and certainly not in a pub like Ray Holmes so I personally found it very atmospheric with the digger and pumps working away in the background. I will just have to make an effort tomorrow to catch up with things and see my recording.

Today has just been hectic what with having to fit work into my hobby !! Time Team has the time to be 100%, but so can anybody if you can edit any bloopers, but it was certainly an interesting experience taking part in a completely live operation with jumps between London and Germany. Some were totally unexpected and I think that Guy did a good job in the circumstances. The TV crew were from Berlin and Guy certainly wasn't using an autocue. He had a set of notes which he briefly referred to before a scene and then carried on and a guy was holding a monitor up so he could see what was being transmitted.

To show different view points my wife didn't think that it was very good - especially the London piece, but my father - who is a 125 Wing HQ veteran - enjoyed it, especially Germany. But then again to him it was personal!! He had also been invited over, to give the viewpoint of a member of 125 Wing on the ground, but didn't feel up to it.

If anybody thinks I can answer any other questions on the event from Germany just ask. I finished my weekend off at Duxford as I had a late flight home, so a good weekend all round. cheers - Allan :D :D

2nd Jun 2004, 02:37
Can somebody describe what was actually unearthed at these digs including pictures if possible. Thanks

2nd Jun 2004, 08:10

This is by no means a comprehensive list but from the Hurricane, they got the engine block, a seperate piston, the spade grip from the top of the control column and also a bit of the seat back with a piece of harness still attached.

In fairness they did well considering the a/c prolly went in vertically.

In Germany, the only thing I recall seing was a badly smashed up (drop?) tank, although there would obviously be more.


2nd Jun 2004, 19:14
I was in Germany and only have video film (non digital) and not too much of that as all that was being pulled out for a long time wasn't worth filming. :D Just lots of little bits - then later they found part of the tail assembly and aileron. an engine bearer, oxygen cylinders, parts of the undercarriage assembly, armour plate for the pilot, the control column, a small amount of the propellor, and several pieces of engine. It had gone in very hard into clay, was very deep, and smashed to pieces. Earlier they had found part of the upper and lower skin of a wing, clearly showing the remains of the upper roundel and the paint (minus rivets which had rotted away) - several 20mm cannon shells, without the head, a punctured tube. the wireless aerial etc. The best people to contact about what was pulled out are the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, whose website address is
http://www.arc-duxford.co.uk/ - John Romain was at the dig, spoke on TV, and bought lots of bits and pieces back with him. The e-mail address of ARC is: [email protected] - hope this helps. cheers Allan :D :D