On October 7th 1940 the Luftwaffe launched an attack by Me110s on the Westland aircraft works at Yeovil. escorted part of the way by Me109s. The attack was met by Spitfires of 609 Sqn and in the ensuing dogfights over Dorset several aircraft were lost. Pilot Officer Staples abandoned his Spitfire over Blandford Forum and landed with severe burns. Local legend has it that he flagged down a bus which took him, along with all the passengers, to hospital in Blandford. Oblt Anton MADER of 1/JG 2 and Lt Egon MAYER of 3/JG 2 both made claims at the right time and area so were likely to be the victors. The pilotless and burning Spitfire came down on the bank of the river Stour near Shaftesbury. An eyewitness remembered ‘looking into the cockpit and seeing all the dials’ Unfortunately, since then the course of the river had been altered by the water board. The labourers had found some scrap metal during the work which they duly exchanged for beer tokens.
Comparisons of aerial photos and a lot of time spent amongst brambles finally located the site.
One tiny fragment of the aircraft remained on the surface but the deep seeking magnetometer suggested more. The landowner would only allow a hand dig, being concerned for his tenant’s livestock. Lots of shovel work got down to a prop blade at nine feet depth. Despite attaching a hand winch to a nearby tree it could not be moved. Shifting more soil from the bottom of the hole revealed the prop boss, glycol tank and what felt suspiciously like another blade. A chance encounter with the tenant revealed that his father owned a field where another plane had crashed and some people were planning to dig it up. Those people were us, and after a few it’s a small world comments a tractor was organised for the following day to lift out the prop. Unfortunately despite the tractor being large, the prop still refused to budge. Attempt three was made the following weekend, this time with a JCB. The three bladed DeHavilland prop saw the light of day for the first time since October 1940 along with a smattering of pieces from the engine and cowling. It is hoped that the propeller can be used as part of a major commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the BoB next year, three bladed Spitfire props being a bit of a rarity.