Category Archives: FRANCE

British-French Interconector Brings Crashed WW2 Plane Back to Light

Lost WW2 Aircraft lifted from the sea after more than 75 years

Specialist divers and archeologists finished an operation this week to recover the wreckage of a 1943 Fairey Barracuda Torpedo Bomber (thought to be No. BV739) – just in time for D-Day’s 75th anniversary.

The three-seater plane, part of 810 Squadron Royal Navy Air Station, based at Lee-On-Solent is believed to have got into difficulty shortly after taking off for its test flight before crashing 500m from the coast in Portsmouth.

It was found by National Grid engineers last summer during a seabed survey ahead of the construction of new subsea electricity cable between England and France.

The cable, called an interconnector, will be buried in the seabed and will stretch for 240km between Fareham, Portsmouth and Normandy, France and deliver cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy for UK consumers. The UK government has targeted 9.5 GW of additional interconnector capacity in its Clean Growth Strategy. This is because interconnectors are recognised as a key tool in enabling the flow of excess zero carbon energy from where it is generated where it is needed most.

The Barracuda wreckage is the only one to have ever been found in one piece and the last remaining aircraft of its kind in the UK.

Boats on water – Retrieval boat and dive barge for the operation 

David Luetchford, Head of IFA2 for National Grid said: “Interconnectors are about bringing us closer to a zero-carbon future, but we must also respect the past. An important part of our job is to always have a thorough and sympathetic approach to archaeological finds.

Over the course of the project we’ve inspected over 1,000 targets of interest, many of which were found to be unexploded ordnance, not unusual given the history of this location. However, to have found a 1943 Fairey Barracuda torpedo bomber is incredible and such a key piece of British history.

It’s not every day you get the chance to play a role in an operation like this and it is very lucky to have found the plane in such a small search area. We surveyed a 180-meter-wide area along the cable route and if we had chosen a slightly different route, there is a good chance the plane would never have been found.”

Work to fully retrieve the plane is expected to take around three weeks in total as experts from Wessex Archaeology are carefully excavating the area around the aircraft and removing large amounts of silt and clay.

So far, one of the wings has successfully been lifted out of the waters and work on the second is currently underway. The remainder of the plane will be recovered by lifting it in sections over the coming days.

Wessex Archaeology lead archaeologist Euan McNeil said: “Our team has been working closely with all those involved to ensure that any risks to heritage assets on the seafloor are mitigated. This aircraft is a rare find and a fantastic opportunity to understand more about a piece of wartime technology.

“We have been undertaking the excavation under a licence from the MoD, and it has taken careful planning to ensure that we lift the remains and any associated material which may have been scattered as it sank – without causing its condition to deteriorate significantly. This has involved excavating the silt around the plane and sieving it for artefacts, then carefully dividing the remaining structure into manageable sections for lifting.

“The recovery of the Fairey Barracuda will aid an ongoing Fleet Air Arm Museum project to recreate what will be the world’s only complete example of this type of aircraft. This will give us a chance to examine a unique lost piece of aviation history”

Once retrieved, the parts will be taken to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset where it will be studied and used to rebuild a full-size Barracuda in the site’s aircraft hangar.

David Morris, Curator at The National Museum of the Royal Navy has been working on the project for several years and visited four other Barracuda crash sites to retrieve suitable parts.

He said: “This is an incredible find and a wonderful piece of British history. There are very few blueprints of the Barracuda plane design available so this wreckage will be studied to enable us to see how the plane segments fitted together and how we can use some of the parts we currently have.

“This find is a huge step forward for our project and we can’t wait to get it back to the museum and share our findings with the public.”

The plane’s pilot has been named as SUB LNT DJ Williams who managed to escape the crash and survived WW2.

How do you build a medieval castle from scratch?

World’s Biggest Archaeology Experiment – Building a Medieval Castle from Scratch

Construction crews in a picturesque forest in the Burgundy region of France are undertaking their own version of time travel. They are working backward to painstakingly build a medieval castle from scratch.

The Guedelon Castle project is being called “the world’s biggest archaeology experiment.” Crews use 13th-century materials and construction techniques, often learning as they go. To make the experience even more authentic, the team of about 50 master builders even don medieval attire as they go about their tasks.

The project started with another castle–at least two, if you want to get right down to it. Castle-lover Michel Guyot had bought the red brick Chateau de Saint-Fargeau –a castle with history that includes Joan of Arc and the French Revolution–and was restoring it.

As that work proceeded, he was shocked to learn that, like an absorbed twin, the current brick castle was hiding a smaller stone castle with its walls. The castle had gone through a number of transformations over the decades. Unfortunately, some of them were by fire.

Reconstruction project. 

As Guyot read the report on his current castle by architectural and fortification experts he had brought in, one line stood out: “Reconstruction Saint-Fargeau castle would be an amazing project.”Guyot was hooked on the idea. But if they proceeded, where to put it? It turns out, he didn’t have to look far.

The nearby Guedelon forest, about 10 miles away, had all the raw materials they needed: water, timber, earth, sand, clay, and an old rock quarry for the massive blocks of stone they would need.

Guedelon medieval castle arrow slit

The work began in 1997. When it is finished sometime in the 2020s, workers will have created an authentic version of a 13th century castle.

Visitor come from near and far to witness the transformation. The castle’s architectural features include curtain walls, great roof timbers, rib-vaulted guardrooms, and ever-evolving murals. The newly constructed castle initially was based on the Saint-Fargeau castle, but the design was later adjusted to reflect other old castles in the area.

The project is more than just an eccentric whim. Its creation also is based on giving back in many ways. One of those ways is through tourism. Guided tours of the castle are offered and a medieval-style restaurant is open to feed them. The site is now a major draw, with annual visits in the hundreds of thousands.

Horse carriage driven by people in front of the castle being created since 1997 using 13th-century building techniques.

The Guedelon Castle is also a major education enterprise, with tours aimed at groups wanting to learn about medieval times, in particular the working conditions and techniques. And those working there continually expand the knowledge base as they hone their craft through hands-on experimental archaeology. The construction team includes quarrymen, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenters, and rope makers.

Among the reasons the castle is popular with visitors is that they have face-to-face access with these craftsmen and are welcome to ask about anything related to the work.

Some people want to take a further step and get their own hands dirty. For those who speak French and are in good health, Guedelon Castle offers a variety of working holidays and options. And because the castle is a certified heritage skills training center, that work could be valuable experience for someone wanting to continue to bring the past to life.

Guédelon uses local material from an abandoned quarry and surrounding woods.

The project is ever-evolving. One of the newest additions, the mint, is in the castle courtyard. The goal here is to learn about the making of alloys and minting coins, medieval-style of course.

With at least five years of work still ahead of them, there’s still plenty to see as the castle continues to rise. In 2018, plans are to hoist more than 250 hand-hewn beams onto the chapel tower and assemble the pepperpot roof timbers. Work will continue on the twin towers of the gatehouse, and masons plan to finish the parapet of the castle’s Pigeon-Loft Tower.