A week-long excavation to unearth a Mark 1 Spitfire, which crashed at Holme Lode in the Great Fen, on 22 November, 1940, was carried out in October 2015 by a team from OA East in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust and other partners.
Spitfire X4593 of 266 Rhodesian Squadron Royal Air Force was based at RAF Wittering. On a routine training flight with two other Spitfires, Pilot Officer Harold Edwin Penketh was seen to break formation, entering a dive from which he failed to fully recover. Witnesses stated that his aircraft partially recovered at around 2,000ft but then re-entered a dive and struck the ground vertically.
A geophysical survey of the site was conducted by Peter Masters from Cranfield University Forensic Institute, and the remains of the plane located. The subsequent excavation was led by OA East, with members of Operation Nightingale, Great Fen staff, and volunteers from the Great Fen Archaeology Group, among others, also joining the dig.
The team lifted the remains of the plane, and recovered many interesting objects, including the propeller, the substantial remains of the Merlin engine, the oxygen tank, the headrest, and pilot’s helmet.
In September 2016, the Wildlife Trust unveiled a memorial stone and display panel on the site to commemorate Harold Penketh's sacrifice in November 1940. A service was held by the Bishop of Huntingdon, RAF chaplins and the local Dean of Holme. The surviving members of Harold's family were also present and met the excavation team for the first time.
Click on the links below to read about the excavation as it happened: