WWII bomber on display in 2000 pieces
'Unique in the world'. More than 2000 fragments of a British bomber from the Second World War will soon be on display in the Overloon War Museum. Volunteers put the remains of the crashed plane together this weekend in a special exhibition room. "Unique in the world, nowhere else is an aircraft exhibited like this," says a spokesperson for the Brabant museum.
She calls the remains of the 31-meter wide and 21-long Lancaster NN775 an "aircraft puzzle". The silhouette of the aircraft, which is exhibited on a sloping slope and with the nose down, is still clearly recognizable. The British warplane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire on March 5, 1945, after bombing a benzene factory in the German city of Gelsenkirchen. The Lancaster crashed near the Belgian town of Glabbeek, nose down, and dug itself several meters deep into the swampy bottom. All seven crew members were killed, the bodies of four of them were found shortly after the crash.
"Immediately after that, the plane had already disappeared. There was nothing left, just a large puddle," said Benny Ceulaers of the Belgian Planehunters Recovery Team in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.
Ceulaers and his team of volunteers helped out when the bomber was finally excavated in 2016. "When it turned out that the entire aircraft was still in the ground, with part of the crew. We did the salvage and found the remains of three crew members." They are buried in the British military cemetery Heverlee, near Leuven.
The Belgian recovery company is happy that the wreckage of the Lancaster will soon be on display in Overloon. "This kind of salvage of a complete aircraft does not happen very often. There were several museums that wanted to exhibit a part, but we wanted to show the whole aircraft."
For Ceulaers, this feels like an ode to the crew members who died. In aircraft salvage, the missing persons are always the most important to him and his team, he says. "We already have enough wreckage in that sense. I want to give those boys a grave."
The war museum has the wreckage of the bomber on permanent loan. They can be seen there from 10 July.