The Goodwin Sands, a 10-mile sandbank off the coast of Deal in Kent, have always been a place of mystery. Shakespeare declared that ‘the carcasses of many a tall ship lie buried’ on them – and now it seems the last Dornier Do17 ‘flying pencil’ bomber is also there too.
The bomber was discovered in 2008 and confirmed as a Do17 in 2011. It has been confirmed as Dornier 17 Z-2, serial number 1160, of number 7 squadron, III/KG3, which was shot down by a Boulton Paul Defiant of 264 Squadron on 26 August 1940 and made an emergency landing in the sea.
Two of the four crew members died and two – including the pilot – survived to become prisoners of war. Three of 264 Squadron’s ‘turret fighters’ were also shot down in the engagement by defending Messerschmitt 109s.
Despite the water being only 50 feet deep, the Dornier turned turtle as it sank and came to rest on the bank. The sands quickly covered it and there it has lain in tranquility – until now. The RAF Museum is preparing to raise this last surviving ‘Flying Pencil’ and conserve the wreck in its current state.
Subject to weather and equipment serviceability the operation to recover the Dornier will take place in May-June 2013, from where it will be transported to the RAF Museum’s Conservation Centre at Cosford. A bespoke lifting frame will be employed to retrieve the Dornier from the seabed, with the modular structure also being employed as a transport cradle.
Very few Do17s survived the war and those which did were quickly scrapped. The Finnish air force retained several until the 1950s but these were also scrapped, making this the last of the type left anywhere in the world.