The wreckage of a Second World War aircraft is being recovered from the seabed 500 metres off the Portsmouth coast after being discovered by National Grid engineers.
Workers were conducting a seabed survey last summer, ahead of the construction of a new subsea electricity cable between England and France, when they discovered the 1943 Fairey Barracuda Torpedo Bomber.
Work to fully retrieve the aircraft is expected to take around three weeks in total as experts from Wessex Archaeology carefully excavate the area around the aircraft and remove large amounts of silt and clay.
One of the wings has successfully been lifted out of the water and work to recover the second is underway. The remainder of the plane will be recovered by lifting it in sections over the coming days.
The interconnector, the Interconnexion France-Angleterre 2 (IFA2), 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.
It is National Grid’s second electricity subsea interconnector to France and is a joint venture with French System Operator RTE and follows the success of IFA which had been running since 1986.
Once live, it will provide an additional 1GW of capacity – enough electricity to power a million homes.
The government has targeted 9.5GW of additional interconnector capacity in its Clean Growth Strategy.
Interconnectors are recognised as a key tool in enabling the flow of excess zero carbon energy from where it is generated to where it is needed most.
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-metre-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.”
The Barracuda wreckage is claimed to be the only one to have ever been found in one piece and the last remaining aircraft of its kind in the UK.
Remarkably the plane’s pilot, thought to be a Sub Lt. D J Williams, survived both the crash and the war and efforts are being made to trace him and his family.
The recovery of the wing comes as the UK, France, Canada and the United States commemorates the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.