WWII bomber found in the North Sea following project Nemo Link | Flanders Marine Institute
 

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WWII bomber found in the North Sea following project Nemo Link

Oostende (2018.06.25) - Preparations for the construction of the submarine high-voltage cable connection between the United Kingdom and the European mainland (the so-called "Nemo Link") led to the discovery of some unknown plane crash sites from WWII on and in the seabed of the Belgian part of the North Sea. The identification of an American B-17 bomber is the most advanced. Four candidates remain. The intense cooperation between industry, the services of the governor of West Flanders (as recipient of the cultural underwater heritage) and the Flanders Marine Institute VLIZ is a first result of the Act on the protection of underwater cultural heritage.

Press release by the Governor of West Flanders and the Flanders Marine Institute

The discovery of an American B-17G Flying Fortress bomber
The soil survey along the planned cable route showed a piece of an aluminum airplane wing and a heavy component with a paddle wheel. The suspicion of a plane crash site was awakened. Nemo Link stopped the work and reported the findings to the governor of West Flanders, as the law on cultural underwater heritage prescribes. The governor granted permission to store the objects.

A distorted sheet of metal, which was also present on the site, mentioned specific part numbers. The numbers appeared in the list of parts belonging to the American B-17 bombers. These were four-engine heavy bombers used during the Second World War with a crew of 9-10 people and a bomb load of 2 to 5 tons. This aircraft came massively into action in the allied bombing of German industry and large cities from British bases. Investigation of historical documents and contacts with the American authorities reduced the identification to 4 potential aircraft. In each of these planes, one or more crew members have been missing to date. Further research is needed for a final identification.

Because of the heritage value of the discovery and out of respect for the deceased and the surviving relatives of this plane crash site, the cable route has been decidedly adjusted.

Importance of the discovery
Nemo Link is the first project, since the Act on the protection of underwater cultural heritage came into force of the of 4 April 2014, in an intense collaboration between representatives of industrial actors, the Flanders Marine Institute and the Governor of West Flanders (as recipient of the cultural underwater heritage). Each discovery was given a place in the electronic register that was published on www.vondsteninzee.be.

Furthermore, there are some loose finds that relate to aircraft from WWII. For the time being, these are 'loose finds', because no other parts of the aircraft were found in the vicinity of these finds. This is very often the case with plane crash sites. Aircraft were often shot in pieces at high altitudes, exploded or fell apart when they crashed into the sea.

The research on the ‘loose finds’ indicates the presence of American, British and German aircraft:

  • The barrel of a German machine gun MG 131, which was intended for fixed or flexible deployment in aircraft and used by the Luftwaffe;
  • A radial engine of an American aircraft type Wright R-1820 Cyclone, 9 cylinder, most probably originating from a B-17 bomber, a device that massively came into action to bomb German industry and large cities from allied bases in England.
  • Aluminum metal sheet (Petrol Tank Auxiliary) from a British Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane. This type of aircraft was deployed throughout the Second World War by the Allies, mainly by the RAF. A total of 20,340 units have been built.
  • Right wing of a German Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse bomber

Press contacts

Sven Van Haelst (lead researcher VLIZ)
sven.vanhaelst@vliz.be | +32-(0)486-95 09 89

Carl Decaluwé (recipient of the cultural underwater heritage)
carl.decaluwe@west-vlaanderen.be | +32-(0)476-40 85 17


Extra materials

  • Download here the video on the project and the finds (mp4 format)
  • Download here extra photo fotomaterials of the finds (zip file)

More information

Sven Van Haest (lead researcher VLIZ)
sven.vanhaelst@vliz.be | +32-(0)486-95 09 89