The story of a miraculous wartime escape has been revealed after the tyre from a world war two Wellington bomber was recovered from the sea.
A team from Balcombe’s world war two remembrance Wings Museum managed to salvage the 6ft-wide tyre from Pett Level in East Sussex 74 years after the plane ditched.
It was exposed from its watery grave during the recent storms that battered southern England. Volunteers from the museum raced to the scene to recover it before it was washed away again.
Museum curator Daniel Hunt said: “A hasty decision was made to recover it before the sea reclaimed the relic.
“It took a considerable amount of effort to extract the tyre from the sand and at one point it almost seemed impossible. But with a lot of determination from the team the tyre was finally salvaged from the soft sand and wheeled ashore for the first time in 74 years.”
It was only then that more evidence was revealed of the six-man crew’s miraculous escape on November 9, 1940, from the Vickers Wellington N2767 of 99 Squadron that was based at Newmarket in Suffolk.
Daniel said: “While cleaning out the tyre the team noticed a very clear hole caused by a German Flak splinter.
“No doubt the aircraft was hit by flak over the target and sustained some form of damage which could have contributed to the aircraft running out of fuel.”
Incredibly, all six crew members were rescued later that night after the plane had limped back to the English coast from its mission over Dusseldorf in Germany.
The enormous tyre, which stands nearly as tall as a man, was discovered by local dog walker Chris Donoghue and recovered by hand by Chris, Daniel, Daniel’s brother, Tony Tieman and Andy Scrase.
Daniel thanked everyone involved in the recovery including aviation historian Andy Saunders and Richard Powell.
Wings Museum in Brantridge Lane between Balcombe, Staplefield and Handcross, occupies a 12,000sq ft former farm building.
At its centre is a complete fuselage from a Douglas C-47 Dakota, which visitors can walk inside and which was used during the filming of the TV hit series Band of Brothers.
Other new displays this year include a Damlier Benz 610 engine from a rare He177 Heinkel Bomber that was shot down in 1944, and personal items of a Hampden air gunner from Handcross, who was shot down and became a POW and member of the Goldfish Club.
The museum is a charity and run by volunteers and opens every Saturday and Sunday until the end of October from 10am to 5pm. For more details including entrance prices go to www.wingsmuseum.co.uk.