Peter Dye, the DG of the RAF Museum, put me onto this amazing story. Last month a Polish team discovered a crashed P-40 Kittyhawk in the Western Desert in Egypt, near Wadi al-Jadid. Egypt is a big place, but why it was never spotted before is not clear – perhaps it was covered by sand; at any rate, it is remarkably complete – not a scrap of rust and the roundels still quite clear. The cockpit is incredibly well preserved – it’s more than seventy years old, after all! According to Peter, it is most likely from 260 Squadron and came down on 28th June, 1942, at the beginning of the First Battle of Alamein, following Eighth Army’s flight from Gazala and Tobruk. That Eighth Army survived to fight another day after their drubbing in May and June ’42 was in small part down to the efforts of the Desert Air Force, of which this aircraft was one. However, it seems the plane crash landed – the undercarriage is retracted, and most of the ammunition was still in the wings (see attached Youtube film here). Interestingly, the parachute was also still in place, suggesting the pilot survived the landing. He is still report ‘missing’ however, which suggests the poor bloke survived the landing but not the desert. Wadi al-Jadid is rather in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, what a find! I’m anxious to know more…
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James Holland is a historian, writer, and broadcaster. The author of the best-selling historical novels, he has also written nine works of historical fiction. He regularly appears on television and radio, and has written and presented the BAFTA-shortlisted documentaries. Co-founder and Programme Director of the Chalke Valley History Festival, he has his own collection at the Imperial War Museum, and is Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
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