Bold plan to salvage resort-built plane from Greek sea bed

A Wellington crew pictured at Squires Gate
A Wellington crew pictured at Squires Gate
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An audacious bid has been launched to bring back a lost part of Blackpool’s aviation history to the town.

The people behind the planned aviation museum at Blackpool Airport have revealed they are in negotiations to recover a Second World War bomber.

The Wellington has lain on the sandy bed of the Aegean Sea since 1943 after being brought down on a mission over Greece.

The twin-engine medium bomber is one of the 3,842 Wellington Bombers built at Squires Gate between 1941 and 1945 by the Vickers company.

According to the website of the wreck diving company which found it, the aircraft is a Mark 13 Wellington shot down after a raid against enemy shipping. It was apparently damaged by anti-aircraft fire and the crew, who all survived, had to ditch the Wellington at sea.

John Coombes, from the Fylde Coast Museum of Aviation and Aircraft Manufacturing, which is being set up at Hangar 42 at Squires Gate, said it would be a real coup for Blackpool to bring the bomber home. It is not clear how much salvage and relocation would cost but the figure is expected to be more than £100k.

He said: “The Wellington was one of the archetypal British bombers of the Second World War and so many were built here in Blackpool at the factory at Squires Gate which still can be seen.

“It would be wonderful to have one here at the museum right near the place where it was originally made.

“Although in the early stages of the project the interest in returning this aircraft to the very site where it was built is of significant local and national interest, we have established a new collection fund with Lloyds Bank named the ‘LSA Aircraft Preservation Fund’ from which we will aim to receive donations towards various wartime aircraft recovery and refurbishment projects which will be undertaken at Blackpool Airport.”

The museum group is currently holding open days to let local people and aircraft enthusiasts see the early work being carried out at Hangar 42. The next is on Saturday from 10am to 3.30pm which will include a display of Military Vehicles at Hangar 8 and again an opportunity to sit in the Aircraft and fly the Spitfire flight simulator.

He added that the Hangar 42 project was focusing on the educational and health benefits of the ‘Working Life’ feel of an operational WW2 RAF Hangar. Plans for school field visits were being put together and they hope that there could also be health benefits for the elderly whom may be suffering from memory related disorders.

Funding was key to the future of the project, as were volunteers, with a number of fundraising and awareness days planned for Blackpool Promenade over the Bank Holiday weekends and Summer holidays this year.

He added: “We feel that this facility will become a real community centre and with the plans for 1940’s entertainment, WW2 NAAFI and fully operational aircraft and vehicles we hope that more and more people will become part of the LSA Spitfire team success story.”

It is thought the aircraft could be one from 38 squadron which took off from Berka in North Africa to attack Axis shipping near Greece. It attacked a ship in a harbour but was hit in the starboard wing and engine by anti-aircraft fire and was forced to ditch in the sea. The crew, led by Flying Officer Bob Watson Adams, took to a dinghy and made it to a nearby island. There they were cared for by Greek peasants until they were taken to a second island to meet some British commandos who arranged for a gun boat to pick them up.