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Have you ever witnessed any aircraft crashes during World War Two? We are looking to hear from anyone with ANY information regarding aircraft crashes in the UK and Europe. Have you ever wanted to know more about why it crashed or perhaps you have often wondered about the pilots name, age etc. If so we can often help.
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Aviation Archaeology - Spitfire XI PA929

Spitfire XI PA929
Michael Aidan Mc Gilligan
16 Squadron (PRU)
Lost 8 June 1944
Bletchingley, Surrey UK
Background information:

Spitfire PA929 from No. 16 Squadron based at RAF Northholt was lost over Redhill crashing at Bletchingley Surrey on 8th June 1944. The Pilot was Flt Lt. Michael Aidan Mc Gilligan (111245) who tragically lost his life. It is believed the pilot lost control in cloud returning from a PR Mission. Although the records assume the aircraft lost control in cloud, the unfortunate pilot could just as likely have suffered oxygen failure resulting in him loosing consciousness. Flt. Lt. Mc Gilligan an Irishman was aged just 25 and tragically never witnessed the eventual victory that he and his colleagues had fought so hard to achieve. Flt. Lt. Mc Gilligan is buried in Grave 59 in the Common Wealth War Graves section at Redstone Cemetery just a few miles from where his Spitfire plummeted to earth.

On the evening of 12th October 2012 a deep search survey was carried out by Forster Magnetometer, the readings were marked using spray paint in advance of the excavation which would take place on Sunday 14th October 2012. The impact point was easy to pick out with a shallow crater still being evident after nearly 70 years.
To carry out the excavation an 8 ton tracked digger was hired by the Wings Museum, this would make digging much easier in the thick clay and would also achieve a better result when back filling.
During our research we had discovered that the site had been dug by hand in the 1970’s. During the previous dig the pilots throttle controls, blind flying panel, one instrument face and a smashed rudder pedal had been recovered.
On Sunday 14th of October 2012 a small team of volunteers from the Wings Museum gathered to carry out the excavation and at approximately 10am the dig commenced by first removing the top soil. The digger gently scraped back the layers of clay until slowly but surely a dark stain appeared along with some very corroded fragments of Aluminium. At this point it was clear to the team that much of the wreckage had already been recovered probably during the recovery carried out shortly after the crash and also during the 1970’s dig. At a depth of about 3 feet the end spool from an F-24 Reconnaisance camera film was found on the edge of the crater. At a depth of about 5-6 feet the smell of aviation fuel filled the air and there was much more evidence of black oil staining from the engine. At this depth a number of fragments of smashed Merlin engine casing and an exhaust stub were discovered along with other minor components relating to the airframe and engine area. Several fragments of skinning from the airframe were found still clearly retaining the reconnaisance blue colour of the PRXI Spitfire. Finally at a depth of 7 feet the propeller hub was reached which was found to be in very good condition, the constant speed unit from the very front of the engine was also found.
The team then focused on searching through the spoil heap where several more minor components were found. While the digger slowly began to back fill the excavation another end plate from an F-24 Camera this time clearly marked “Spool Reel Camera – AM” and the Kings Crown with a makers mark of “JHT”. Another interesting find was a bayonet fitting from the oxygen mask which was found to be stamped “AM Ref: 6D/526 Mk IV.
Deep searching the crash site, note crater.
The team assembles
Gently scraping back the layers of clay
The growing spoil heap!
Propeller hub from Spitfire PA929 still as shiney as the day it crashed!
Back at the museum after cleaning and oiling.
With thanks to all those who helped with the excavation and the MOD for their co-operation and a special thanks to Gareth for his driving skills with the excavator!

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