Spitfire exhibition to be unveiled at workhouse

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A special exhibition showcasing artefacts from a WWII Spitfire recovered from an Inishowen bog is to be unveiled at Derry’s workhouse next week.

BBC presenter Dan Snow and a team of archaeologists led by Claudy aviation historian Jonny McNee unearthed a RAF plane at Moneydarragh near Gleneely during the making of a tv documentary earlier this year.

Although the fuselage was badly damaged, some items were recovered in fairly good condition including several Browning .303 machine guns, a Rolls Royce Merlin Engine and the helmet of the pilot Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe, a US native who joined the British war effort before the Americans entered the conflict.

Joining Mr McNee, his team and others who helped out on the dig will be two daughters of the pilot and 12 other members of the Wolfe family from the US.

Ahead of the exhibition launch, the group are scheduled to visit the secluded crash site - 70 years to the day since it hurtled into the soggy peat bogland on November 30, 1941.

The pilot’s daughters are also due to unveil a plaque at City of Derry airport to commemorate the American.

The exhibition of recovered memorabilia from the spitfire at the Workhouse Museum is to be launched on Thursday and will be marked with the screening of special film on the archaeological dig. The exhibition is being part funded through a donation from the world famous Weston family who own Brown Thomas in Dublin and Selfridges in London. The donation was made in light of the fact that Garfield Weston funded the building of the Inishowen spitfire - P8074 - way back in 1941.

Mr McNee explains: “Earlier in the year the RAF lost 18 aircraft and all the pilots and Garfield Weston, MP for Maclesfield, was so touched by the tragedy of it that he donated £100,000 (around £4m in today’s money) of his own money to help replace the aircraft.

With the money the RAF built eight spitfires and six hurricanes and as a result the planes had Garfield Weston painted on the side. Our spitfire was the first of the planes to have the name painted on - the other have Garfield Weston 1, 2, 3 4 and so on.”

Mr Weston’s only surviving son, Gaylen Weston was recently presented with the piece of fuselage bearing his fathers name when he funded a visit to Canada for Jonny McNee and some of his team.