The aircraft, a Martin 187 Baltimore light attack bomber, was lost 80 years ago because it plummeted into the Mediterranean Sea. Investigators searching for the aircraft have now finally situated the stays after six years, counting on British, Italian and Commonwealth records to piece the mystery together.
The bomber had been flying on a surveillance mission on the time of its ill-fated end.
The squadron’s records noted the bomber took off at 12:45 on June 15, 1942, on a reconnaissance mission.
An entry within the squadron’s Operations Record Book said: “Took off on a shipping search in Pantelleria area but did not return to base.
“No wireless contact.”
The aircraft had flown from its base in Malta prior to it being forced to ditch into the waters of the Med.
Speculation suggests the aircraft had either been hit by enemy fire, or had suffered from engine failure.
The Baltimore had down about 500 metres off the coast of Linosa, a tiny island that lies south of Sicily.
It floated for a number of minutes before dipping beneath the waves, giving local fishermen time to row out and attempt to avoid wasting the 4 crew members.
The personnel involved have been identified as Sergeant Francis Baum, a pilot within the RAF; Flight Sergeant Alick Greaves, an observer from the Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant William Edward Fincham, a wireless operator and air gunner from the Royal Canadian Air Force; and Sergeant Robert Tettrell Purslow, an air gunner with the RAF.
It’s believed Sergeant Greaves lost his life on impact, together with his body being taken to the Medjez El-Bab War Cemetery in Tunisia.
The aircraft was found on the seabed in 2016 however it took six years for locals to piece together war records and eyewitness accounts of locals before they might discover it.
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1000’s of Martin Baltimore bombers were made during World War 2 but they were mostly scrapped at the tip of hostilities – the one found now ranks as certainly one of the best-preserved on this planet.
Speaking of the find, the team said: “The wreck is in a wonderful state of preservation, other than a crack halfway along the fuselage and a small missing a part of the left-wing.
“It is barely partially submerged within the sand – the wings and the tail are still raised above the seabed.”
Alberto Samona, the official in control of cultural heritage for Sicily said: “Once more, a collaboration between local people, fishermen, divers and maritime heritage specialists has led to the invention of an exceptional wreck.”
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The wreck, found at a depth of 85 metres, was originally regarded as a wholly different aircraft – an RAF Bristol Beaufort.
But it surely has now been positively identified as a Martin Baltimore, flown by 69 Squadron of the RAF when the unit was based on the airstrip of Luqa in Malta.
Historians have said: “The squadron’s missions were mostly concentrated within the eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and Ionian Seas, the Libyan coast and later the Sicilian Channel.”
The Martin 187 Baltimore was a twin-engined light attack bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company in the USA because the A-30.
The model was originally ordered by the French in May 1940 as a follow-up to the sooner Martin Maryland, then in service in France.
With the autumn of France, the production series was diverted to Great Britain and after mid-1941, supplied by the US as Lend-Lease equipment.
1,575 units of the aircraft were produced during production.
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