The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, has welcomed the arrival of an historic WWII Spitfire aircraft found in northern France in November 2010 to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, for extensive conservation treatment.
The Spitfire aircraft was flown by Flight Lieutenant Henry ‘Lacy’ Smith from Sydney, NSW, when it was shot down by anti-aircraft fire on 11 June 1944.
“The Spitfire MJ789 crashed into the River Orne, near Caen, in northern France, where it was recovered almost 70 years later,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The wreckage of the aircraft will now undergo extensive conservation before being placed on display at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, Victoria next year.”
A team of RAAF Museum technical and curatorial personnel will mechanically clean all items of the aircraft, to ensure maximum desalination of the engine and fuselage, a process which is expected to take more than six months.
“The conservation work is essential to ensure the aircraft’s long term preservation and prevent further deterioration of this special piece of our wartime history,” he said.
Once the Museum is satisfied with the desalination process, the wreckage will be prepared for display.
After the aircraft was recovered in November 2010, Flight Lieutenant Smith was buried with full military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Ranville, Normandy, France in April this year.
‘Lacy’ Smith was part of the Number 453 Squadron, which following the D-Day Invasion carried out operations that included harassing the retreating enemy, attacking enemy convoys, bombing missions, armed reconnaissance and bomber escort duties.
They were the first Australian squadron to go into action on 6 June 1944 and operated from advanced bases at the beachhead providing tactical support for the troops landing on the Normandy beaches.
The squadron ceased operations over Europe in October 1945.
Today, No. 453 SQN is a Joint Battlefield Airspace Control (JBAC) squadron headquartered at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales (NSW).
Once the conservation processes begins it will be impossible to view the aircraft until the work is completed.
Interviews are available with the Director of the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, Dave Gardner by contacting Defence Media Operations – 02 6127 1999.
Photographs of the conservation process are available at http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/Grid.fwx?archiveId=5003=&search=11120958
Media contact: Minister Snowdon: Marcus Butler 02 6277 7820
Defence Media Operations – 02 6127 1999