Aircraftwrecks in Walchensee / Germany
This is an "old" project that was started basically back in the ´90s and had its peak (and publishing) around 2004. As we continuously kept working on it and might give it a real restart due to the new Sidescan Sonar we decided to put it online again.
2004: Aircraft wrecks in Walchensee
For the last five years we tried to find out how many aircrafts rest in these waters. As strange as this question may sound, it was not possible to find this out until today.
It is confirmed that the remains of a German ME 109 are in the lake. The plane rests in shallow water. Parts of it may have been recovered after the war - looting divers destroyed the rest.
A second aircraft in the lake is that of a British Lancaster, whose history is known in detail. The wreck rests deep in the mud in 36 meters depth far from shore. As the plane broke up when it crashed, the wreck was scattered over a huge area. The wreck is a war grave!
There might be another bomber in the lake: due to a diary that we found, an American B17 "Flying Fortress" crashed in the lake. The Wreck has not yet been found.
The third confirmed wreck is a relatively intact plane with two engines, resting in a depth of 127 meters. The history of the airplane, even the type, is totally unknown.
Eventually there is one more aircraft in the lake. During various dives planeparts have been found, that do not match any of the listed planes. Most likely those are parts of a small private aircraft the crashed in the lake in the 80s. It was recovered right after the incident.
Last but not least we want to mention the motor glider that rests in 140 meter on the bottom on the eastern part of the lake - even if it is of no interest for this project.
Project B17 "Flying Fortress"
Twin-engine unknown craft
Already in the 80s we heard about the ME109 in the lake. From a senior diver we got a rough position. During our sonar search 2000 we found the remains of the fighter in 18 meters depth. There is actually not much left. Parts of the plane must have been recovered in the past and divers in the 70s looted the remaining parts of the wreck. The poor remaining parts are covered with a thick layer of mud and silt. Due to the condition of the wreck and its extremely remote location we did not do any further dives since that.
Meanwhile we found out that right after the war a part of the plane was recovered together with the human remains of the pilot. This is a further reason why there is not much left to see. The identity of the aircraft and the pilot remain a mystery.
The Plane took off at 6:24 pm at the 2nd of October 1943 in Wickenby / England. It was an Avro Lancaster III - Building Number 222. It was part of the 12th Bombing squadron of the Royal Air Force, coded PHG2. Sgt. Butterfield and Sgt. Crapper-Bovey were in command of the plane. The raid was planed against Munich. After two successful missions against Pennemuende on the 17th of August and against Mannheim on the 23rd of September, it left England on its last mission together with more than 100 other planes.
After bombaimer Sgt. Labelle dropped the deadly freight over the city of Munich, the plane was attacked by Hauptman Rudolf Sigmund of the NJG 3 in 5600 meters altitude and heavily damaged. Sgt. Butterfield turned south and tried to escape over the mountains towards Italy and on to Africa.
But the Lancaster was too badly damaged and he only managed to get over the first of the mountains. There the pilot tried to land the burning plane on the calm surface of the Walchenssee. The manoeuvre was unsuccessful, the warbird broke into pieces when it hit the water and sunk fast. An older woman, who witnessed the plane crashing, when she was still a child, reported that the Lancaster hit the water with its left wingtip first, flipped over and sank immediately. After some weeks the body of one of the crew; Gunner Sgt. R.A. Waters is found on the shore. He was buried in the small village of Jachenau. After the war his body was transferred to the British war cemetery of Dürnbach.
The remaining Crew of:
Sgt. D.W.H. Butterfield RAF
Sgt. J.A. Young RAF
Sgt. D.H. Strong RAF
Sgt. D.R.L. Crapper-Bovey RAF
Sgt. J. Jackson RAF
Sgt. J.N.E.R. Labelle RCAF
Sgt. R.A. Waters RAF
As Lancaster 222 is: "missing in action", it was to believe that the remaining crew still rests in its watery grave.
As the story of the Lancaster is pretty much known, we started to look for its wreck in the mid nineties on several dives. Beside some small parts of metal l we had no success. Although we knew that another group had searched for the aircraft and precedingly even recovered an engine we could not get a position - like usual...in May 2000 we finally found a field of wreckage while using a sonar, after getting a tip from an eyewitness of the crash:
First dives to get some orientation. The first rough sketches were drawn and the position of the field of wreckage was marked in a map of the lake.
We did some research for the planes history, visiting several archives in Germany and Great Britain.
Even in winter the visibility was too bad to dive the site.
Again, due to bad visibility and weather we could not dive.
Finally in November we got perfect conditions
15.11.03 Dive to relocate the field.
29.11.03 Five teams dive and mark the wreckparts with balls. On the surface one gets a good idea of how the wrecksite looks like. The first pictures of the parts are made.
04.12.03 The wreckparts closest to shore are marked by compass bearings on the surface and marked in the map as "T1". From there all other parts are connected with line, bearings and distances measured and mapped. On the drawing board we get the first impression of the wrecksite.
06.12.03 We methodical start to take pictures from every part of the wreck - as slides and digital. More parts are found on the dive.
09.12.03 The new found parts are connected and measured.
10.12.03 We get into contact with a Canadian named Peter who restores a Lancaster and is willing to help us identifying the parts we found with the photos we send him.
11.12.03 While descending we find more and larger parts of the wreck. T8 is pictured in every little detail to be sent to Canada. A small handwheel from the automatic steering control is found and confirms the identity of #222 due to a Ref# on the wheel
16.12.03 The new parts get connected and measured - more pictures from certain details are made.
17.12.03 The team decides to have a memory plaque made and placed on the site to honour the fallen crew.
23.12.03 The teams meet at the lake to place the plaque. While searching for a spot to place it, we find the human remains of one of the crew.
07.02.04 During a dive to control the lines on the site another part of the landing gear is found and marked in the map as "T14".
14.02.04 Christian and Benni locate a new part of the wreck east of our mapfield and mark its position. They report damage on some of the wreckparts and another group of divers on the site.
15.02.04 Norbert, M., J. and Achim take the bearings and measurements to add the new part to our map as "T15" and connect it to the field. The new part becomes photographed, as well as the damage on the other parts. Furthermore the missing pictures of T12 and T13 are made.
BOING B17 "Flying Fortress":
Due to a diary written by a priest in Kochel, in September 1943 a "US-Bomber" crashed in the lake. The nine men of the crew came down with the parachutes and got imprisoned.
This is very interesting, due to the fact that there were rumours of a B17 in the lake for years. When we finally found the Lancaster, we stopped to believe in the B17 as we could not believe in two bombers sunk in the lake. Meanwhile, the diary combined with the report of an eyewitness who speaks of a "four-engine, silver plane" the B17 can be taken as confirmed. First search results will be published here soon.
For Your better Imagination we have added some pictures of a B17 model in 1:72
During some dives in 1995, while looking for the wreck of the Lancaster we found a couple of white metal parts that obviously were from a plane. Two of the parts carrying numbers were recovered and got examined by an expert for aircraft history. He states that the parts belong to a civil aircraft built later than 1960. This is based on the shape of one of the parts - which asks for modern manufacturing techniques - as well as the kind of rivets used on the parts. Diving in 2000 we found more parts. Unfortunately the field of wreckage mixed up with the wreckage field of the Lancaster.. We hoped to solve the mystery on some future dive.
Meanwhile we know that the parts belonged to an Aero Commander 680W. The two prop plane with the code D-IMON crashed into the lake at the 27th of December 1978 after the loss of its tail section. It was recovered right after the incident together with the pilot.
Unknown Aircraft / MESSERSCHMIT ME 110:
After hearing rumours about a third plane over and over again we finally met a local who was able to roughly point out a crashsite. In May 2001 we located a target in the area and confirmed it to be an aircraft in August, while using a Side-Scan-Sonar. The plane sits in 127 meters of water far from shore in the middle of the lake. On the 2nd of January 2002 we made a first attempt and dove the wreck. The logistics were a nightmare. Due to the excessive depth, bad visibility and ice cold water we kept bottomtime short. The dive proofed no results except the fact that there is a more or less intact two engine aircraft. We have not planed further dives yet, as the logistics do not meet the benefit at the moment. If we get a hand on a ROV we will use this technology to continue exploring this wreck.
2007 Update: After some research in various German archives and two more dives we tend to believe that the plane is a ME110 Nightfighter. To make the story even more interesting it might be the aircraft that shot down Lancaster 222. We will see.