The Canadian Halifax HR871 dived off the coast of Falsterbo in southern Sweden in 1943 when bad weather forced its seven-man crew to abandon the aircraft.
It made global headlines again after the wreckage was discovered four years ago. Since then divers from the Swedish Coast and Sea Center (SCSC), Lund University researchers and members of the Canadian Halifax 57 Rescue group, have been hard at work examining the seabed for more traces of the plane.
“Right now we're mapping out the area and taking pictures of it. After that we're going to try to uncover all the parts. Most of them are probably still covered by sand dunes so there's a big chance we'll find even more,” Jan Christensen, an underwater photographer and member of the SCSC, told The Local.
“We hope to salvage it at some point this summer or early autumn, but the weather is a very important factor and can be unstable, so it depends,” he said.
INTERVIEW: Veteran tells of Halifax WW2 crash in Sweden
Another Halifax aircraft from 1943 not related to the story. Photo: AP/TT
Almost 11,000 Canadians were killed carrying out around 28,000 Halifax bomber raids during the Second World War. After the war ended, the planes were all destroyed and melted down to be used for construction. Only one has been recreated in Canada, using parts from other crashed aircraft in Norway and Belgium.
Financed through donations, the Bomber Museum Command of Canada now hopes to use the parts to be salvaged in Sweden to build a second replica of one of the world's most iconic bomber planes. It received permission from the Swedish government earlier this year to carry out the recovery operation.
“There's been a lot of stories written about this in Canadian media, there's a lot of interest,” said Christensen, who has been down to take pictures of the wreckage and is pleased to see the project come to fruition.
“It's really exciting. It's great that we're allowed to dig through history like this,” he said.
The Halifax was struck by lightning on a mission in Nazi Germany on August 3rd, 1943, and lost two of its four engines. It went down in the sea off Falsterbo after the seven-man strong crew, who all survived, decided to steer the plane north and ditch it in neutral Sweden.
One of the soldiers on board, who famously crashed into a cow when he landed in a field in Skåne county, told The Local in 2012 about his memories from the night of the crash.
“The prospect of ditching in the North Sea or being attacked by a night fighter were not worth considering, being unable to avoid with any evasive action,” veteran John Alwyn Phillips explained at the time. “So with varying degrees of enthusiasm it was generally decided to at least make an attempt at reaching Sweden.”