September 23, 1944, a British bomber of the type Avro Lancaster III crashed at the Humeloseweg near Zelhem (NL). The plane landed almost vertically. Because part of the bombload was still present on board, there was a huge explosion, killing six of the seven crew members. The plane wreck and its crew have never been officially recovered. The municipality of Bronkhorst decided to salvage the aircraft wreck for safety reasons and out of piety for the next of kin.

The municipality had several goals: cleaning up contamination and UXO,  but also creating a more concrete picture of what had taken place for the family memebers of the deceased crew members and their commemoration. In addition, the results were used for educational purposes.

Execution
Because of the risk of explosives in the subsoil, it was of great importance to carry the work out safely. The salvage operations were therefore carried out under current legislation and archaeological supervision

End result
October 23, 2013, evidence was found that the crashed plane was indeed the Lancaster ED470. When cleaning the last recovered parts, a piece of armor plate appeared with the number 470. This made it possible to identify the plane crashed in Zelhem. No large explosives or material remains have been found in the crater. After the salvage operation, the detection area could be declared free of explosives.


75 years after the Second World War, airplane wrecks with human remains can still be found in the Dutch subsurface or seabed. In September 2019 a special multi-year project financed by the Dutch Government was started  for the salvaging of many dozens of World War II aircraft wrecks with missing crew members.

Promising salvaging operations
The Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945 (SGLO) convinced Dutch politicians to do something about the situation and handed over a list of promising salvages. The SGLO has been researching crashed aircrafts and their crew for years. Over 5500 aircraft were lost in the Netherlands during the Second World War. A large part still remains in the Dutch subsurface. In about 400 aircrafts, the remains of crew members are probably still present. Recent research shows that the number of locations where remains of missing crew members can be found with some degree of certainty is limited. According to the insights of the SGLO, it concerns 30 to 50 locations.  

First salvaging operation
The first aircraft in the series of promising salvagings with missing crew is the Short Stirling W7630 MG-M, a RAF aircraft that crashed in 1942. The excavations in Echt-Susteren, Limburg, started on September 16th. In September 1942, returning from Düsseldorf, the damaged aircraft landed on a field which belonged to an abbey. Two crew members managed to escape with a parachute. One of the pilots survived the war, two others were found dead and were immediately buried. The other four occupants are missing and will hopefully be found in the coming weeks, after almost eighty years  

Role of T&A Survey
For the salvaging of the Short Stirling, T&A Survey has mapped and visualized the horizontal and vertical delimitation of the crashed aircraft, as well as the environmental and soil conditions. T&A carried out the same survey for an aircraft salvaging operation in Markermeer. In the coming years, about three aircrafts per year are expected to be salvaged.



Client
Project goal
Municipality of Almere
Demarcation survey for salvaging operation of Short Stirling MKIII BK716
Municipality of Echt-Susteren
Demarcation survey for salvaging operation of Short Stirling W7630 MG-M
Municipality of  Bronckhorst
Archeologische begeleiding berging vliegtuigwrak uit WOII te Zelhem
Province of Friesland
Demarcation survey crash location of a Lancaster in Ald Dwinger landfill
Vallei en Veluwe Water Authority
Demarcation survey crash location WWII aircraft near mill "De Vlijt" in Wapenveld
Municipality of Werkendam
Demarcation survey crash location of a Lancaster in Werkendam