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Rare British WW2-airplane found in Norwegian fjord

University students have made a sensational discovery deep down at 180 meters in the Trondheim fjord in Norway. During an underwater search a British aircraft used in the fight against Tirpitz during WW2 appeared on the ocean floor.


Only 600 meters from the shore students at NTNU found a British bomber from World War 2.

Foto: NTNU/Montasje

– We have found the wreckage of a Halifax bomber from World War 2. The plane was most likely on a bombing raid against the Tirpitz in 1942, but was shot down in the attempt, says Professor Martin Ludvigsen, at the Marine Technology Centre at NTNU in Trondheim.

The aircraft was found off the shore of Vikhammer, on the outskirts of Trondheim. The great depth of the find has made the search challenging.


Students used the mini submarine with a camera to get down to the wreck.

Foto: NTNU AUR-Lab

– We were out with six students conducting a course . They were from the marine technology center and NTNU. Students had been tasked to plan and carry out the operation, says Ludvigsen.

Planned search

Before the operation the studenty used historical sources, and various technical equipment in the planning of the search.

– The were loud cheers on board when we discovered the plane. Nine out of ten operations are unsuccessful, so it was great that we found it.

Years of searching comes to an end

Tirpitz was a German battleship that was in Norway during WW2. The ship was hiding from British bombers in Fættenfjorden, which is a narrow channel of Åsenfjorden . Later, it sailed to Alta, and in 1944 it was sunk near Tromsø.

Slagskipet Tirpitz

Saturday January 17, 1942, a resistance group in Bergen stated that «Tirpitz» was in Fættenfjorden, a branch of Åsenfjorden.

Foto: Wikimedia Commons

The Halifax plane was used by British pilots, and it has been known for a long time that several planes were shot down over Trondheim fjord in their attempt to bomb the Tirpitz.

– This has been known in the community of underwater surveillance and many have searched for the aircraft over the years, said Ludvigsen .
In spite of lying on the bottom of the fjord for more than 70 years, the plane is fairly intact.

– It has a wingspan of 30 meters, and it is a four- engine aircraft. The body is quite damaged by the sea water, but the aircraft itself is complete. The wings are on and the engine is where it should be. The plane is standing nose down on the bottom, says Ludvigsen.

Halifax bombefly

Halifax bomber was used by the British to sink the battleship Tirpitz.

Foto: Wikimedia commons

Detailed investigations have now been done to document as much as possible.

– We will give the documentation to the Aviation Museum in Bodø. They have been notified and are very positive and happy about the discovery, says Ludvigsen.

– This is huge, and a lot of fun. It’s a reward for all the hard work.

– Spectacular discovery

Historian Lars- Erik Vaale is an expert on WW2, and finds the discovery exciting.

Lars-Erik Vaale

Lars-Erik Vaale.

Foto: Privat

– This is a very spectacular discovery. About 20 years ago they found another battle plane in Kragerø, which lead to a lot of intrest.

This discovery may also turn out to be of historical significance.

– The aircraft is like a time capsule on the ocean floor. There may be documents bringing new information about how this military operation was supposed to be conducted and its role in the war strategy of the allies. Only 15 years ago a scuba diver outside of Narvik found documents in two sunken ships in the harbor with important information about the “Weserübung Operation”. The information about the German attack on Norway April 9 1940 was unknown until then.

The aircraft is also an important part of the long relationship the United Kingdom has had with Norway.

The sinking of Tirpitz in the autumn 1944 helped reverse the relative strength in the North Atlantic in favour of the Allies, and was thus a major contributing factor to the fall of the Third Reich in the spring of 1945.

This contributed to take Norway out of the war whitch they had drawn us into during winter of 1940. The Halifax plane is thus a symbol of how the Norwegians' chilly attitude towars the British warmed again, and Britain ended up being our most important ally in the fight against Nazism.

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