Spitfire Crash Paper Fragments

According to my co-worker Tony, every man near his age had a toy version of the Spitfire growing up. It earned legendary status after victory was had by the British during the Battle of Britain thanks to the Spitfires speed and agility against the Germans.

In November 1941 American pilot Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe took off in his RAF MK II Spitfire from Eglinton (now city of Derry airport). Unfortunately the plane went down due to engine trouble, crash landing in a remote bog in Donegal. Luckily the Nebraska pilot was able to parachute to safety, his plane however was not so lucky. It was slowly swallowed up by the bog as years went by until June of this year, when it was excavated nearly 70 years later.

Some of the artifacts found included the pilots helmet and gas mask, six machine guns, about 1,000 rounds of ammunition, the pilots first aid kit, and as chance would have it 7 paper fragments.

The Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service asked that the fragments receive conservation treatment as it is rare for paper to survive a crash of this kind.

Spitfire paper fragment

It’s easy to see that this particular piece has been in a bog for some time. As I started the cleaning process I was amazed at the large chunks of peat stuck to and hidden inside the folds of the paper. It took a lot of dry cleaning, several bathes of water and finally suction table cleaning with IMS before I felt confident encapsulating the fragments.

Spitfire fragment after cleaning and encapsulation

Even after all that, I have to say it still looks dirty to me, but it is much better off than before. The clean fragments will be heading back to the Derry Museum Service and will be exhibited sometime in the near future with the other artifacts found during the excavation.

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