Back in October, 2014 members of the Deelen Air Base Museum near Arnhem in the Netherlands discovered the substantial remains of a Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe jet fighter. They discovered the battered parts of the aircraft purely by accident while excavating a filled-in WWII bomb crater at the airfield. They chose to dig in the area since bomb craters were often convenient dumping areas to fill with rubbish during the frantic days of WWII. What was rubbish 70 years ago though can be treasure today, but even so it was a great surprise when the distinctive, if somewhat battered and corroded nose of the Me-262 emerged from the soil, complete with its four gun ports. The easily recognizeable windshield, with its heavily armored glass also appeared, as well as two MK-108 30mm nose-mounted cannon. …. and then the wing sections started to appear!
The team initially dug by hand, but after a whole day of effort, they still couldn’t get the wing section with its undercarriage to budge, so they returned the next day with more substantial earthmoving equipment. Once they got going, it was clear why the wing wouldn’t budge, as the main spar ran deep into the earth. The other wing lay beneath it at the bottom of the hole. The museum also recovered many loose parts, including sections of a Junkers Jumo 004 jet engine.
Because only two cannon were found in the wreck, the museum believed initially that the aircraft may have been an Me-262A-2a Sturmvogel (Storm Bird) fighter-bomber variants, as this version only had two cannon mounted, with two empty gun ports faired over. This thought is in keeping with the remains found so far, however, if you read on… that is probably not the case.
The museum has tried to determine which aircraft they discovered. From Dutch records, it appears that only nine Me-262s were downed over the country during the war: six in Brabant, one in Friesland, one in Vorden (with parts salvaged by ARGA) and one in Elden. The wreck is likely the one which crashed near Elden, as it is the only one lost near enough to the airfield at Deelen, where the remains were uncovered. According to Luftwaffe records, this aircraft was Wk.Nr.130126, coded 9K+AL with I./KG 51 at the time a German 75mm Flak battery mistakenly shot it down. The resultant crash took the life of pilot Uffz. Herbert Schauder. However, the serial number 130126 (Werk Nummer in German parlance) recorded by the German record keepers at the time has to be a typographical mistake, as that number was never assigned to an Me-262.
However, one of the skin shards that the museum recovered from the burial hole bears the number 130026, which is so close to 130126 that it really cannot be a coincidence. 130026 has to be the Werk Nummer of the wreck. WarbirdsNews has done a little digging, and using the remarkable database on Stormbirds.com, this Werk Nummer corresponds to an Me-262A-1a produced at the Messerschmitt factory in Leipheim. The database also seems to reveal that 130026 is the very first production Me-262 ever built! This makes the aircraft incredibly important in the lineage of the entire type, and in jet fighter design in general! The convergence between the records, and the aircraft number found on the wreck seem to prove pretty positively that this is indeed the aircraft shot down at Elden. Due to the secret nature of the type, it is only natural that the wreck would not have been left at the crash site, but brought back to the then Luftwaffe-controlled airfield at Deelen and buried out of sight on secure soil. This is indeed a historic aircraft and it deserves to receive proper preservation and study which hopefully it is now receiving. There are photos HERE showing some of the conservation efforts already underway.
Watch the video of the recovery