Research and international field work done by University of Winchester archaeologists has helped recreate the final moments of a World War II Allied bomber that crashed into a German hillside in 1944, paving the way for a crash site memorial service this week (Tuesday 15 September).
The ill-fated RAF 10 Squadron Halifax LV881 was taking part in the infamous Nuremberg Raid on the evening of 30/31 March 1944 but was shot down and crashed in the Hessen countryside, 40km north-east of Frankfurt. Four of the seven-strong crew were killed, three airmen survived and were taken prisoners of war.
Now the crash site is the focus of a summer study initiated by local archaeological society hessenARCHÄOLOGIE, in conjunction with staff and students from the University of Winchester’s archaeology department and staff from a Dutch institution.
“This study gives us a great opportunity to provide a full account of the fate of the lost aircraft and the crew for their relatives, and to create a commemorative record of specific historic events,” said Dr Phil Marter, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Winchester and key member of the project. “We hope that our work ensures that these men’s story will not be forgotten and that their brave sacrifice remains in our memories long into the future.”
A memorial service for the aircrew’s relatives – attended by local dignitaries including the Mayor of Hungen, the Australian Defence Attaché, the current commanding officer of RAF 10 Squadron and a delegation from the RAF Association, and a German Airforce guard-of honour – has been arranged to take place at the crash site on Tuesday 15 September 2015.
Initial investigations have revealed fascinating artefacts, helping historians identify the plane and piece together some of the events leading up to the shooting down of the wartime bomber. This summer, it is hoped the site will give up its remaining secrets and allow the University of Winchester’s specialist researchers to piece together a detailed account of the warplane’s journey on that fateful night.
“This joint archaeological approach with project participants from Germany, The Netherlands and the UK has produced an excellent collaboration, bringing together vital expertise as well as representative national interest to tackle a potentially sensitive subject,” added Dr Marter. “As time goes by and the world moves on, it is increasingly urgent to alert a wider audience to the importance of World War II archaeological sites as cultural heritage and places of remembrance.”
A print-ready image of the excavation work at the crash site of Halifax LV881 in 2014 is available to download by clicking here. To find out more, visit the project webpage.