LANCASTER BOMBER DV202

In July 2014 the documentary ‘The Lancaster: Britain’s Flying Past’ was broadcast on BBC2. The programme described the Lancaster bomber and the critical role it played in World War II. During the programme particular attention was paid to Flight DV202. According to records, this was brought down during a huge bombing raid on the missile base at Peenemunde, on the Baltic coast near the German border with Poland, in August 1943. DV202 crashed into Kolpinsee Lake and the entire crew lost their lives. The rear gunner on the mission was Flight Sergeant Stan Shaw. The bodies of several members of the crew are recorded as having been recovered and buried on the south shore of the lake. Their families never knew exactly what happened to the crew, until now . . .

Following the documentary Merlindown commenced a survey of the crash site and, after we received additional information from the family, the following occurred.

Details of the remains that had been found begged the question as to why the German Red Cross would have buried any remains in the southern area of the lake. It didn’t make much sense. So, on the next scan, we used a higher-altitude image which gave a deeper penetration of the lake and surrounding area. Instantly features appeared, and upon further tweaking with the Merlindown system, a remarkable discovery was made which answered many questions. We had located the rest of the aircraft, including the rear quad gun coupler. These were not in the lake, however, but in a marshy area nearby and not far from the potential graves.

By following the bomb craters on the ground it is easy to work out the path taken by the bombers on their approach to Peenemunde. As it passed the lake, DV202 must have been at an altitude of least 10,000 feet when she was shot down. The rear fuselage, including the section from the upper ball gun turret to about the bomb bay area, separated from the forward section, which included most of the main wings. The rear section tumbled down to impact in the marsh, and parts of the main wings and engine went into the lake near to the southern shore.

This scenario explains where the bodies came from and presents the likelihood that we have the rear gunner, the upper gunner and the radio operator. Their records would suggest the positions occupied by these crew members during the flight.

Merlindown’s scans show that the rear fuselage section is virtually intact and that the rear gun cupola, though separate from the fuselage section, is in reasonably good order as the gun positions can be observed. In the lake itself several items have produced impact craters on the lake bed with objects situated within them. They are not bombs, as first suspected. One is likely to be an engine and the others part of the rear fin structure.

DV202-Crash-24This Merlindown deepscan image shows the whole of the crash site. Only the white-lined objects are actually located above ground. Everything else is buried.

 

 

DV202-Crash-20This deepscan image penetrates the ground and, a few layers down, the rear section and the cupola (top-left of image) are revealed. Note its shape (the straight white band on the back is where the doors are situated to provide access to the inside of the bomber). At the opposite side of the cupola (bottom of cupola image as seen here) is where the guns were mounted. The guns are still in situ, and are more in evidence on other images (not reproduced here).

What this suggests is the debris may just be visible on the surface, although probably obscured by plant growth, and that the terrain is boggy under foot, which would explain why nobody has seen it before now.