Halifax W1048 TL-S from 35 Squadron had taken off from RAF Kinloss in Scotland on the evening of 27th April 1942 to take part in an attack on Tirpitz in Fættenfjord, Norway. Several hours later the crew found themselves fighting to keep the Halifax in the air having been hit by AA fire during the attack. In the early hours of April 29th, the pilot - Pilot Officer Don MacIntyre from Canada, skilfully crash landed the Halifax on the frozen surface of Lake Hoklingen about seven miles inland from Fættenfjord. All onboard managed to escape from the aircraft and their story is told here .
26 years later.....
The divers used a primitive but very effective method to conduct their search. Their equipment was no more than a rowing boat and a long length of rope with a hook attached to one end. Over a period of a few weekends the divers 'fished' around in the lake hoping to hook the Halifax. The low water temperature and the depths that had to be reached limited the number of dives that could be made each day. Each time the hook caught fast to something a diver would swim below to check out what it had caught on. Time and time again the diver would resurface with the news that they had caught nothing more than an old tree trunk or other useless debris.
Finally, late on Saturday 24th August the hook caught hold of something and the divers were convinced that this time they had found the Halifax. Infuriatingly it was too late in the day to send anyone down to check, so a buoy was attached to the rope and a small raft left to mark the spot.
On Sunday 25th August, Edgar Bjørstad and Ole Storås made the dive that was to reveal the missing Halifax.
And so finally, 26 years after sinking to the bottom of the lake, the Halifax had been found.
The Draugen divers contacted the Norwegian Historical Aviation Society and informed them of the discovery. This set off a chain of events that led to the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, London, being able to offer the Halifax a home.
In October 1972, a team of five RAF divers and a civillian diver, Peter Cornish, arrived in Norway to meet up with the Draugen divers and conduct a survey of the Halifax in order to make plans for the recovery which would take place the following year. Peter Cornish had been called upon by the museum at Hendon because of his previous experience at recovering WW2 aircraft from underwater.
The Recovery ....
Finally on June 30th the wreck of the Halifax started to break free from the mud on the bottom of the lake and rise to the surface. It was a momentous occasion for all those involved and for the thousands who had gathered on the shore to watch the spectacle.
After 31 years resting on the muddy bed of Lake Hoklingen, Halifax W1048 TL-S saw the light of day once again. Jens Aassved, one of the Draugen Diving Club members recalls that inside the Halifax it was as it had been in 1942 when the crew left the aircraft. He recalls seeing shoes and a parachute as well as other personal belongings and equipment.
Return to the UK ....
The initial plan was to restore the Halifax to her original appearance. The forward fuselage section was sent to RAF Wyton for restoration, however, this was not a successful project and was abandoned. It became apparent that a great proportion of the aircraft was in a very fragile condition and that if full restoration was undertaken little of the original aircraft would remain. The front gun turret was refurbished as a separate project and one engine was restored. Other than this, it was decided that the Halifax should be left in the condition that she had been found and would be displayed at Hendon. Meanwhile, the Halifax was sprayed with PX-9, a lanolin based preservative. Unfortunately, prior to this application the airframe had already started to corrode, it was later discovered that the Halifax should have been treated with another product prior to the PX-9 which could have prevented further corrosion. The application of PX-9 had not coated the Halifax uniformly, and as a result some areas continued to corrode. With the opening of the Bomber Command Hall at Hendon in 1983 the Halifax finally had a home. The display is a reminder to visitors that war has its costs in material and in lives and serves as a memorial to the aircraft and crews who did not return to these shores.
In 2002 Jens Aassved and several other members of Draugen Diving Club who were involved in the discovery and recovery of W1048 TL-S paid a visit to the RAF Museum in Hendon to visit 'their' Halifax. A further visit is planned for some time later in 2004.
Continuing care ....
In order to attempt to halt any further corrosion on the Halifax it was sprayed with Waxoyl - a delicate process which took a year to complete. After a full inspection a report was written for the museum detailing the condition of the Halifax and what The Society of Friends team could do by way of preservation/restoration. The museum concluded that the external surfaces of the Halifax were, as far as possible, to remain as they were other than any work required to stabilize it. The interior of the Halifax could undergo some conservation work. Currently work is ongoing in the interior to halt any further corrosion. This is a long and laborious process due to space limitations, keeping stress on the structure to a minimum and working within health and safety parameters. Work is also being carried out on two of the wing mounted bomb racks.
My grateful thanks to the following people for their assistance with information and images for this page: