Bailing out of an ailing Spitfire only minutes after take-off from RAF Eglinton, Bud Wolfe escaped from his stricken aircraft moments before it smashed into a Donegal hillside.
Bud survived to fight for the Allies in World War II but his Spitfire was lost metres below the soft Donegal bog. Until now…
In a major new BBC One Northern Ireland series, the bog gives up its secrets. Dig WW2 With Dan Snow, locates the iconic plane that the American pilot escaped from 70 years before. Not only does the team unearth some amazingly preserved artefacts, one of the Spitfire’s Browning machine guns is restored and, incredibly, is fired for the first time since 1941 after decades buried in the ground.
In three one-hour programmes, the series reveals the vital role Northern Ireland played in the Second World War – its strategic location protecting essential supply convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic to the tanks built by Harland & Wolff that would breach enemy lines and the bravery of its soldiers.
Dan travels to key sites across Europe where Northern Ireland’s influence played a role in the outcome of the war.
Dan Snow said: “As a military historian World War II is a story I thought I knew but now I’ve come to Northern Ireland where I’m discovering all sorts of incredible stories - secrets, heroism, suffering and valor.
“This is the untold story of how Northern Ireland played a pivotal role in the war and how its people helped shape the outcome.”
Dan visits some of the 350 wartime sites in Northern Ireland – many of which go unnoticed or are buried now - but were central to the defence of the UK and Europe. From the Spitfires and the Flying boats that patrolled the skies, the team dives to the bottom of the Atlantic to reveal the surreal image of Sherman tanks littering the seabed and to the wreck of a U-boat that was one of the most successful in the German fleet.
The series, starting on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, May 14 at 9.00pm, gets expert insight from enthusiasts, archaeologists, historians and local men who fought and served in World War II.
The first programme visits a former Coastal Command base at Limavady and hears the story of a Northern Ireland pilot who would become the most successful U-boat hunter of all time. Dan also visits a mysterious building in Limavady – an anti-aircraft training dome.
And from the Donegal bog, Dan follows the journey of Bud Wolfe who after bailing out of his stricken machine ended up interned in a prisoner of war camp in neutral Republic of Ireland at the Curragh. Not that that stopped Bud!
Series producer John Hayes Fisher added: “What is extraordinary about Second World War history in Northern Ireland is how many sites still remain intact. With just a little digging, these historic places tell the story of the war in ways that history books never can, they bring history to life.”
That history puts Northern Ireland at the heart of the Second World War, in one of the most important strategically-based locations the Allied forces would hold. Whether as a launching spot for the Battle of the Atlantic, or a training ground in the days leading up to D-Day, this small part of the United Kingdom had a big part in the war.
“Northern Ireland played a vital role in the Allied victory in the Second World War,” added John Hayes-Fisher, “My hope is that this series gives Northern Ireland the recognition and place in history that it deserves.”