Holme Fen Spitfire archaeologists making 'world first' models

Spitfire which crashed in Holme in 1940 Image copyright Aviva Group Archive
Image caption The Spitfire crashed in a field in Cambridgeshire in November 1940

An ill-fated Spitfire and the crater formed when it crashed are to be recreated as 3D models to help archaeologists study what happened.

Parts of the plane were excavated from Holme Fen in Cambridgeshire in October, where it crashed 75 years ago.

Lead archaeologist Anthony Haskins said a new technique called "photogrammetry" was being used to create the models.

He believes it is the first time in the world such technology has been used in aviation excavation.

The technique involves taking lots of photos of the hole and crater and, using software to stitch them together into a complex image, eventually creating a three-dimensional model.

Image copyright Oxford Archaeology East
Image caption Models will be created of the plane's engine to try to establish what went wrong

Archaeologists are also hoping to make a model of the plane's engine and its components.

Mr Haskins, field work project officer for Oxford Archaeology East, said the models would enable the team to answer some of the questions about why and how the plane crashed.

"One of the things about creating a crater is trying to work out the angle of plane impact, at least to study it, and get a better understanding of how he crashed," Mr Haskins said.

"We're tying to understand the story behind what happened."

Image copyright Oxford Archaeolgy East
Image caption A fault with the oxygen tank system is one of several theories about why the plane crashed

Although the models will be helpful, Mr Haskins said he does not think they will provide definitive proof of what caused the crash.

"Unfortunately I don't think we're going to be completely able to prove why it crashed but we'll have a better understanding.

"We won't be able to understand the original impact as we only have a partial record - in the 1940s their focus was recovering the pilot's body rather than investigating.

"We've done the only aviation excavation using this technology in the UK for definite and as far as I'm aware in the world."

Image caption The Spitfire was excavated from Holme Fen, Cambridgeshire, earlier this year

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