German bomber on display for first time at RAF Cosford after 70 years underwater - in pictures

By Nick Humphreys | Telford | Attractions | Published:

From bombing chip shops to being raised from the seabed – this is what is left of the last Flying Pencil, a Second World War German bomber.

John Warburton with a German Dornier bomber at RAF Cosford on display this week

The Dornier Do-17 played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain and this aircraft is being painstakingly restored by technicians at RAF Cosford, where it is on display until tomorrow.

A crane pulled the aircraft from the sea in 2013. Photo: Iain Duncan/RAF Museum/PA Wire

It was pulled from the seabed in 2013 at the Strait of Dover after more than 70 years underwater, and had suffered considerable deterioration and was covered in crustaceans.

John Warburton, a technician at RAF Cosford’s Michael Beetham Conservation Centre was there when the plane was lifted from the sea.

A close up of the propellors of the German Dornier bomber

He knew instantly that the conservation team had a huge job on their hands.

“When we got hold of it, there was about seven lobsters stuck to it as well as crabs and other sea life. One of the guys who was helping remove the wing had a lobster grab onto his glove. He shook it off and it ran across the wing.

Bullets that would have been used by German soldiers


“The plane was covered in fishing nets when it was brought up. It’s a big project.

"Our main objective is conservation. If we can restore it enough to refit the wing, we will do that.

Air and oil bottles on the undercarriage of the aircraft

"We’re looking at possibly displaying it as a skeleton.”


Dornier Do-17s were used as light bombers and were one of the three main types the Luftwaffe used during the first three years of the war.

John Warburton with a German Dornier bomber at RAF Cosford on display this week

Newer models were favoured for bombing in later years, but the planes were used in other roles up until the end of the war.

This plane in particular was involved in the Battle of Britain and, as midday struck on August, 26, 1940, it attempted to attack airfields in Essex.

Lifting equipment raises the remains of the bomber from the English Channel. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The aircraft was shot down and forced to make an emergency landing on the Goodwin Sands in Kent at low tide.

John said when the plane was raised, people in Reigate had less than fond memories of the plane. “When we went to pick it up, the people at our hotel told us they remembered it bombed their chip shop and then went to go across the English Channel. They weren’t too keen on it being restored.”

Components of the German Dornier bomber which have been painstakingly restored after it was pulled from the sea

After the plane was raised, it was sprayed with a citric acid solution for months in purpose-built hydration tunnels. That process helped to remove marine growth, rust and corrosion in the aluminium structure.

It attracted plenty of attention during RAF Cosford’s Open Week.

John said: “We actually had a German man in his 90s who flew a Dornier in the war come and see it when it was brought here six years ago. He was brought to tears. He lost friends and colleagues who flew in the planes.”

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Shrewsbury.


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