A GROUP of diving enthusiasts claim they have found a part from one of Britain’s rarest wartime plane wrecks just 200 yards off Hastings Pier.
The Hastings Sub Aqua Club members were looking for the wreckage last Saturday when one diver stumbled across a Rolls Royce engine nut.
Steve Hazel was about 10 metres down on the surface when he spotted the half-inch wide piece of metal lying on the floorbed.
He scooped it up and handed it to the club’s equipment officer Stuart Farquhar.
Stuart is convinced it belonged to an RAF Armstrong Whitley bomber which ditched in the sea on June 19, 1940 while returning to its base in Driffield, North Yorkshire. It carried the RR stamp of Rolls Royce who manufactured its Merlin engines. Stuart’s research showed that the N1476 had been on a bombing run to Wanne Eickel, an industrial area of the Ruhr in Germany when it was attacked by two Messerschmitts over the English Channel and severely damaged.
A fire in the port engine was extinguished but flared up again and Captain Dunn decided to shut it down. He ditched the plane at 0427 hours and all the crew were safely rescued. Two airmen required hospital treatment for their injuries.
It was reported to be the fourth time Captain Dunn had crashed in five weeks of operational flying. He died on September 22, 1940 after ditching again in the North Sea returning from another bombing raid.
In the 1980s part of the undercarriage was raised from the N1476 bomber and put on display at The Aviation Museum in Robertsbridge.
Now Stuart plans to hand the nut to Dr Elliott Smock who has spent the last 13 years rebuilding an original Armstrong Whitley bomber as there are none left in tact in the world.
He said: “We have not dived this site since 1990 and we found it straight away without any GPS location device.
“It is very exciting to find a piece of history like this.
“There was a story that it was a Flying Fortress down there but we never believed that.
“Hopefully we can get down there again in the next month and find more parts to help Dr Smock rebuild his plane.”
Dr Smock, based in London, started his project in 2000 after recovering parts of a Whitley bomber from East Scaraben mountain in the far north of Scotland.
He has assembled several parts and needs a propellor hub, guns and an engine.
“I am very interested in the nut,” he said. “There could be lots more parts of the plane waiting to be discovered on the sea bed.
“It is an exceptionally rare machine and I am very keen to put one back together in as complete a state as possible.
“The Whitley was one of the RAF’s main bombers during the early part of the war - the only night bomber it had in 1940. It was a precursor to the Lancaster and vital for our heritage that one can be preserved.”