Remains of Northamptonshire Spitfire shot down during Battle of Britain are finally unearthed

People at work as the remains of a Spitfire shot down over Salisbury Plain Upavon in Wiltshire during the Battle of Britain are being unearthed for the first time
People at work as the remains of a Spitfire shot down over Salisbury Plain Upavon in Wiltshire during the Battle of Britain are being unearthed for the first time

The remains of a Spitfire flown by a Northamptonshire pilot who was shot down over the south of England during the Battle of Britain are being unearthed for the first time.

Pilot Officer Paul Baillon baled out of the damaged aircraft in October 1940 and the wreckage has been buried in the earth of Salisbury Plain ever since.

Now a team of archaeologists, injured soldiers and veterans are uncovering the wreckage of the MK1a Spitfire P9503 at the crash site at Upavon in Wiltshire.

It is believed the pilot, who was serving with 609 Squadron, baled out after damage to the plane’s oil tank meant his visibility was severely reduced and he could not land safely.

PO Baillon, from Northamptonshire, survived the Battle of Britain but was shot down and killed over the English Channel weeks later on November 28.

The body of the pilot, who was a solicitor before the outbreak of war, was washed up on the French coast several weeks later. He is buried in the Bayeaux War Cemetery.

His daughter, Rosemary Baillon, who never met her father, has been watching the work being carried out.

“At the first threat of war, my father joined the Royal Air Force volunteer reserve and learned to fly at Sywell, Northamptonshire,” Miss Baillon, 72, said.

“It was on October 27, 1940, that my father was brought down by enemy aircraft near Upavon.

“This was a particularly worrying time for my mother who was expecting me to be born in the March of the following year.”

The project to unearth the Salisbury Plain wreckage, called Tally Ho, is being carried out by Operation Nightingale - an initiative established by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and The Rifles.

It helps injured personnel return to their regiment or prepare for civilian life.

Among those taking part include volunteers from Tedworth House Recovery Centre, in Tidworth, which is run by military charity Help for Heroes.

Richard Osgood, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s senior historic adviser, said the project had been a “poignant and moving discovery”.

“Archaeology is all about people - whether they be prehistoric, Roman or Saxon,” he said.

“This site has yielded traces relating to the sacrifices of airmen from the 1940s and it has been a real privilege to re-tell the story of Paul Baillon.

“The Protection of Military Remains Act protects these sites and it is important that they are considered properly.

“This is avowedly the case in this instance and it is thanks to the hard work of the British service personnel and volunteers involved.”