WWII Spitfire parts recovered from County Donegal bog set for display


2015-06-26 12:30:53


WWII Spitfire parts recovered from County Donegal bog set for display

The parts tell the remarkable story of an American RAF pilot whose plane went down in Ireland

The remains of a Spitfire, the engines of which failed back in 1941, have been recovered from a peat bog in Inishowen peninsula, County Donegal.

The dawn of the Spitfire

Ireland was neutral in WWII, and story of the downed Spitfire is an example of the remarkable consequences of this. Its pilot was Roland Wolfe, an officer from 133 'Eagle' Squadron which was an American unit in the RAF.

Wolfe abandoned his doomed plane and landed safely, just 13 miles from the safety of his intended destination, RAF Eglinton. (Southern) Ireland was enforcing a robust neutrality which meant that any combatants from either side who were found on Irish soil were locked away.

Whilst for some this might seem like an attractive possibility: sitting out the fighting honourably in the relative comfort of a non-hostile country's internment camp, for Wolfe it was intolerable.

He was not taking part in the war because he was following US orders - the exact opposite in fact, as America had not joined the war in 1941, and Americans flying with the RAF did so on their own initiative and were stripped of US citizenship to avoid compromising the nation's neutrality.

So he walked straight out of the camp and returned to Britain to serve - only to be re-returned to Ireland by the British for fear of upsetting a neutral power.

The tail wheel of his Spitfire will now be displayed at the City of Derry airport (previously the site of RAF Eglinton). The BBC is planning a documentary about the extraordinary war of Ronald Wolfe later in the year.

Parts from historical aircraft often capture the feel of their remarkable stories. This was shown recently with a rather different plane part: a Concorde nose cone which was sold for $100,000. Don't miss our exclusive interview with Concorde collector Simon Jones.

Of course, other pieces of aviation memorabilia can tell their own stories just as clearly. Remarkably, the very first company cheque signed by the Wright Brothers (representing the birth of the US airforce) is for sale on the private markets.

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