Spitfire Uncovered 22/11/17

The family of a hero Spitfire pilot who died when his plane crashed in World War Two watched as archaeologists recovered the remains of the aircraft from a field.

On July 4, 1940 - six days before the Battle of Britain - Sergeant Emrys Ivor Lewis was killed after losing control of his Mark I Spitfire.

He had just completed a reconnaissance mission looking out for advancing Luftwaffe when he hit thick clouds and plummeted several hundred feet.

The plane was almost completely destroyed after it nose-dived to earth, coming to rest in a field in South Owersby, Lincolnshire.

Tragically, Sgt Lewis was just 11 miles from his base at RAF Kirton when he crashed.

Spitfire uncovered 22/11/17

Sgt Lewis was buried with full military honours in his hometown of Llannerchymedd, North Wales, on July 11, 1940.

However, the plane's wreckage was left at the scene.

But last Friday, aviation archaeologists uncovered the spitfire’s remains, which were covered in 20ft of earth.

Sgt Lewis' niece Beryl Wilson, 82, and her two daughters Karen and Janet made an emotional pilgrimage to witness the recovery of the plane.

Many elements of the aircraft were remarkably still intact.

Archaeologists took two days digging up the plane and recovered the propeller blades, cockpit controls, tail wheel and the Rolls Royce Merlin engine.

Spitfire uncovered 22/11/17

Gareth Jones, whose team of archaeologists led the excavation along with a team from Winchester University, said:

"It was both emotional and exciting - a truly memorable moment for everyone involved.

"The site was know by the team for many years and along with the next of kin an excavation was planned to answer some questions that remained outstanding for 77 years.

"The team would like to thank the Ministry of Defence, who gave permission for the excavation under the protection of military remains act, the land owner and Winchester University who all helped make the project such a memorable occasion for the family."

Military records show Sgt Lewis' Spitfire, model number N3294, had been used by 222 Squadron at RAF Duxford before flying in the Dunkirk evacuation.

Spitfire uncovered 22/11/17

It was then stationed at RAF Kirton Lindsey where Sgt Lewis was based.

The military report into the fatal crash said:

"On 4th July 1940 the pilot of this aircraft was undertaking a gunnery training flight and when he was flying in cloud he lost control, the aircraft dived into the ground near Withernsea.

"Sadly he was killed in the resulting crash but the exact location is not yet known."

Following last week's excavation, a minute's silence was held in memory of Sgt Lewis along with a Spitfire flypast from RAF Duxford.

The excavation was also filmed as part of a documentary which is expected to be released next year.

Spitfire uncovered 22/11/17