After 70 years of being buried in the highlands of Donegal, machine guns that were attached to the remains of a World War II fighter plane are still in working order.
Along with a World War II Spitfire Mark II fighter plane, which was removed from an Irish bog earlier this year, were eight Browning .303 machine guns. Archeologists and an Irish army ordnance crew were stunned to find that six of the guns were like new and were rust-free because of a lack of oxygen in the peat bog, reports The Star.
The fighter, one of 20 Spitfires donated to the Royal Air Force by Canada's Weston family, was piloted by a 23-year-old American pilot named Roland “Bud” Wolfe, who bailed out in December 1941 just before the plane crashed. He was arrested by authorities in Ireland, which at that time was neutral.
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BBC History Magazine is airing a show on the fighter's retrieval this spring. The program will be aired in both Canada and Britain.
“It is a very interesting story overall because it was a British plane, flown by an American, donated by a Canadian, which crashed in Ireland. We are ticking all the boxes,” said Dan Snow, the host of the show.
The show reveals how Lt.-Col. Dave Sexton and his ordnance crew from Defence Forces Ireland restored the guns to firing form.
“We fully expected to find pieces of weapons, not fully intact weapons, so it was quite a surprise,” Sexton said, adding that the weapons were all locked and loaded when found.
“For its time it was amazing firepower. There were eight of these (machine guns) firing. When we actually tested the other day, we measured the rate of fire and it was coming at 930 to 940 rounds a minutes, which is high for a machine gun,” Sexton said.
The aircraft's remains began to emerge shortly after 10 a.m. on June 27, 2011. Part of the fuselage was recovered, along with six Browning .303 machine guns, two ammunition magazines, hydraulic controls, .303 rounds, a propeller, tires, landing gear, seatbelts, the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the pilot’s leather flying helmet, log book and cockpit controls.
“There is a touch of the magic about this,” Sexton said. “When you think about something in water for 70 years coming out in this condition ... it is amazing . . . in the end it was like a new weapon.”
The guns will be put on display in Derry with other artifacts from the downed fighter plane.