The Daily Post and the Daily Mail recently reported that the wreckage of a rare Lockheed P-38F Lightning which crashed during World War II and has been dubbed the “Maid of Harlech,” remains hidden under the sand of a Gwynedd beach near Harlech. The aircraft was found six years ago after being covered by sand for more than 65 years.
Pilot USAF Lt Robert Elliott was attempting to make an emergency landing at the RAF airfield at Llanbedr after his engines cut out on a training flight in September 1942. Fortunately, Lt Elliott was able to walk away from the beach unscathed; but a few weeks later, he was killed in North Africa.
A passer by rediscovered the downed aircraft in the spring of 2007 after high tides had washed away sand and experts from the USA visited the site to confirm there were no other examples of the aircraft in Europe as it was used extensively in the Pacific and over China-Burma-India by American pilots. However, bad weather and a lack of funding has left it where is crashed landed.
The Gwynedd Council’s maritime department has protected the site of the plane and refuse to reveal its exact location because there is still high-octane fuel in its tanks and they are afraid souvenir hunters will damage the aircraft.
Richard Gillespie from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been trying to raise funds to rescue the aircraft. However, he has told the media:
Recovery awaits a home for the aircraft, preferably a major UK museum – but none have been willing to take it on due to space and funding constraints.
He also noted that attempts to rescue a Dornier DO-17 German bomber from the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Kent (see our post about it here) for eventual display in the RAF Museum is a similar challenge, but that involves a bigger aircraft upside down in 50 feet of water.
Richard and his team are also preparing to journey to Gardner Island in the Pacific this month to find clues of missing American aviation legend Amelia Earhart. After that project, TIGAHR will turn their attention back to the “Maid of Harlech” and try to secure funding to pull the buried plane from the Welsh sands.