Lancaster ED603 with remains British airmen to be salvaged from IJsselmeer

A squadron of Lancasters over France in 1944  Photo: Breeze, via Wikimedia Commons

A salvage operation to recover the remains of three members of the crew of a British Lancaster ED603 shot down over the IJsselmeer in 1943 may start next summer, Omrop Fryslân reports.

The bodies of four members of the seven men crew were washed ashore at the time but the remains of wireless operator Raymond Moore, air gunner Charles Sprack and flight engineer Arthur Smart are probably still on board the aircraft, chair of the Aircraft Recovery Group Johan Graas told the broadcaster.

‘We have been trying to salvage the plane since it was spotted by Volendam fishermen in 1996, precisely because of the missing airmen,’ Graas said.

It took until 2021 for the mayor of Súdwest-Fryslân to put in a request for finance with the national plane wreck salvage programme to recover the Lancaster, and another plane, the Manchester L7390, also shot down by a German night fighter but a year earlier, in 1942.

‘It’s going to be a massive operation,’ Graas said. ‘The salvage area measures 35 by 35 metres and a dam will have to be constructed around it so everything that needs to be found will be found.’

Memorial to WWII bomber crew

Graas puts the number of war planes downed over the then Zuiderzee at between 250 and 300, many of which have never been found. ‘We do a lot of searching ourselves, and so far we have identified some 12 to 15,’ he said.

The salvage programme was started in 2019 and has a budget of €15m. Some 30 to 50 of the 5,500 war planes shot down over the Netherlands during the second world war are thought to still contain human remains.

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