Personnel from RAF Global Enablement have been working alongside the Dutch Military to recover a submerged Lancaster bomber and the remains of its lost crew.
Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transport Squadron (JARTS), part of Support Force, were invited to work alongside their Dutch Air Force counterparts to recover parts of the Lancaster bomber which was shot down over Ijsselmeer , Northern Netherlands.
JARTS welcomed the unique and important training opportunity offered by the complex recovery of the RAF Lancaster Bomber ED603. It crashed in 1943 with seven members of crew on board whilst on route back to the UK following a bombing raid over Germany.
“This was a once in a lifetime, unique and engaging opportunity which was a privilege and an honour for all involved. The site was an impressive feat of engineering and the hospitality from all of our Dutch friends and colleagues was unequivocal.
It was important to recover the aircraft and remains of the aircrew so that closure could be provided to their respective families. It was a sobering and tasteful reminder of those that fought and lost for our futures in the war and provided an opportunity to pay our respects.”
Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transport Squadron
With a Cofferdam built around the area of the Aircraft and leaving the Lancaster remains exposed on the seabed, the team from JARTS assisted with the recovery of parts of the aircraft, delicately lifting, washing, and inspecting components. The aim of the recovery was to find the missing crew members and to provide closure for their families. Human remains were found, and painstaking work is ongoing to confirm the details and identities of those recovered.
The recovery of the British Lancaster ED603 is part of a €15m Dutch national aircraft recovery project which aims to retrieve numerous aircraft and their crew that crashed across Holland, ensuring proper burials for the aircrew who have been missing for so long.
The bodies of Flight Lieutenant Eric Tilbury (Pilot), Pilot Officer Harold E. Howsam (Navigator), Pilot Officer Gordon Fletcher (Bomb Aimer) and Flying Officer Gordon R. Sugar (Air Gunner) were found on the lake shore weeks after the crash, however Pilot Officer Arthur Smart (Flight Engineer), Pilot Officer Charles Sprack (Mid-Upper Gunner), and Flight Sergeant Raymond Moore (Wireless Operator) were registered as missing.