Spitfire XII EN223
F/O Harold Heninger
Crashed 6 January 1944
On 6th January 1944 F/O Harold Frederick Heninger of 91 Squadron was posted missing after a bomber escort operation in the Rouen area flying Spitfire Xll EN223. Reports indicate that he turned back to escort another pilot, who had engine trouble, back to base. After flying abreast for a while at 4,000ft Heninger was seen by his charge to drop back with black puffs of smoke coming from his engine and Heninger then called to say that he was bailing out.
Although the Canadian pilot baled out, his parachute failed and fell close to where his Spitfire crashed in the hamlet of Mesnil-Durdent.
The excavation was filmed part of the BBC World War II Unearthed series, presented by Dan Snow.
It had been decided that the ground was stable enough to dig around the wreck and leave any wreckage standing in a column that could be removed by hand, thus causing a minimum of further damage. This entailed the use of a very large digger – and and equally large hole. Remarkably, the fuselage was discovered from tailwheel to prop boss crushed into a ball of wreckage less than 2 metres high, 4 metres below ground. When the Griffon engine was inspected in became apparent that a con-rod had failed and punched a hole in the crankcase that had instantly caused the oil to drain out – the cause of the crash. The wreck had remained untouched since the crash because the Germans could see no point in recovering it as the pilot was not in the aircraft when it crashed.
Further photos of the dig can be found at: