Bomber lifted from watery grave
The only surviving German Second World War Dornier Do 17 bomber has been lifted from its watery grave in the English Channel.
The aircraft was shot down off the Kent coast more than 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain and the project is believed to be the biggest recovery of its kind in British waters.
Attempts by the RAF Museum to raise the relic over the last few weeks have been hit by strong winds but the operation was finally successful. The team last attempted to lift the aircraft on June 2 but again bad weather thwarted the attempt within 40 minutes of success when a sudden increase in winds made the sea too choppy to complete the lift.
The plan - three years in the making - was adapted and involved attaching lifting equipment to what were believed to be the strongest parts of the aircraft's frame and raising it whole, in a single lift instead of constructing a cage around it, which was the original plan.
The existence of the aircraft at Goodwin Sands became known when it was spotted by divers in 2008 at a depth of some 50ft lying on a chalk bed with a small debris field around it.
Sonar scans by the RAF Museum, Wessex Archaeology and the Port of London Authority then confirmed the identity of the aircraft as the Dornier Do 17Z Werke number 1160.
Nicknamed the Luftwaffe's ''flying pencil'' bombers because of their narrow fuselage, this aircraft is said to be in ''remarkable condition''. Experts are excited by the find because other than the effects of sea life, such as barnacles, coral and marine life, it is largely intact. Amazingly the main undercarriage tyres remain inflated but the propellers clearly show the damage inflicted during the bomber's fateful final landing, experts have said.
Mr Peter Dye, director general 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 and from many nations. It is a project that has reconciliation and remembrance at its heart.''
Once it has been lifted, work will start to conserve and prepare the Dornier for display. It will be placed in two hydration tunnels and soaked in citric acid for the first stage of its conservation. Once the delicate process is complete, the aircraft will be displayed at the museum's London site within the context of the Battle of Britain story.