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November 10, 2011
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13 weekly prizes of a
A WWII Spitfire that lay at the bottom
of a French river for 68 years before
being found and retrieved this year will
go on display after a six to eight month
conservation process -- but it cannot be
restored to its former gleaming glory.
The aircraft, flown by NSW air-
man FLTLT Henry 'Lacy' Smith,
arrived in Australia on September 7
for conservation and display at the
RAAF Museum at Point Cook.
RAAF Museum director Dave
Gardner said the aircraft was put into
an immersion tank to remove encrust-
He said the aircraft was in good
condition given it had been in water
for 68 years but it was not in a condi-
tion to be restored.
"We are going to conserve it in its
current condition and treat it and put
it on display as it came from the estu-
ary," Mr Gardner said.
He said the Spitfire would tell an
evocative story about Australian fight-
er operations in the European theatre.
"It's another link with the past that
we at the RAAF Museum are here to
The aircraft was discovered in
the River Orne near Caen in northern
France 68 years after being shot down
by anti-aircraft fire on June 11, 1944,
five days after the D-Day invasion.
FLTLT Smith was buried
with full military honours at the
Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery
in Ranville, Normandy, in April this
A team of RAAF Museum tech-
nical and curatorial personnel are
mechanically cleaning all items of the
aircraft to ensure maximum desalina-
tion of the engine and fuselage.
Mr Gardner said the Spitfire pro-
vided a much-needed artefact on
RAAF fighter operations.
"We have several artefacts
that came back from the Bomber
Command side of things and we have
got an array of objects on display," he
"But up until recently he didn't
have much from the fighter operations
which the RAAF participated in dur-
FLTLT Smith was part of
453SQN, which after the D-Day
invasion carried out operations that
included harassing the retreating
enemy, attacking enemy convoys,
bombing missions, armed reconnais-
sance and bomber escort duties.
It was the first Australian squadron
to go into action on June 6, 1944, and
later operated from advanced bases
providing tactical support for front-
After Germany surrendered in
May 1945, 453SQN was selected as
part of the Allied occupation forces. It
was disbanded in January 1946.
CONSERVATION PROJECT: From left, Brett Clowes, Terry Roberts and Gary Walsh work on the fuselage
remains; bottom inset, Emily Constantine shows the tail wheel component to RAAF Museum director Dave
Gardner; top inset, the Spitfire being removed from the river.
Photos at Point Cook: LS Paul McCallum
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