The Department of Archaeology has been working in partnership with Saxion University in the Netherlands and a team from hessenArchäologie (archaeological authority for the Hesse region of Germany) to investigate the crash site of a WWII Halifax LV881 bomber that was shot down northeast of Frankfurt.
The aircraft took part in the infamous Nuremberg Raid on the night of 30 March 1944, widely regarded as one of the most disastrous of the war for RAF Bomber Command. RAF 10 Squadron Halifax LV881 flew from RAF Melbourne in Yorkshire but was shot down at around 12.30 by an Me110 night fighter and crashed just outside the village of Steinheim. Four of the crew were killed but three others managed to bail out and were taken prisoner. (Photo: students excavating the crash site)
The Archaeology Department is playing a central role, both in work at the crash site and subsequent project research back at in the UK. Artefacts, largely from the forward compartment of the bomber, have been cleaned and photographed by Winchester Archaeology students, and undergraduate dissertation work is focussing on the analysis of this material. (Photo: Winchester students processing finds from the crash site in the Archaeology Teaching Laboratory)
A collaborative project
The project team has also forged links with the RAF 10 Squadron Association which is assisting with efforts to trace relatives of the crew and examine surviving contemporary documentation relating to the events that unfolded that night. These investigations have revealed that all three men who were taken prisoner of war survived their ordeal and one is still alive today at the age of 91.
The project recognises the growing interest in wartime archaeology and the importance of developing rigorous archaeological approaches to the investigation (and preservation) of aviation heritage. It seeks to forge new links with European and UK groups, to share ideas and expertise and form new bonds of friendship through the exploration of our shared wartime heritage. It also acknowledges the vital role of these sites as places of memorial and remembrance for families, communities and nations. To this end, representatives from the project paid tribute to the crew in November 2014 during the annual 10 Squadron Remembrance Service at former RAF Melbourne in Yorkshire. Also, relatives of the crew visited the Archaeology Department in March 2015 to see how work is progressing. Surviving veterans from wartime 10 Squadron have been providing invaluable background information on operations from RAF Melbourne, and they continue to follow the project with interest.
A further year of fieldwork will take place at the crash site during the summer of 2015. The Archaeology Department is also developing longer-term collaborations with partners in Germany and the Netherlandswith the aim of enabling similar investigations to take place in each of the participating organisations’ home countries.
For more information about the project contact Dr Phil Marter.