Broken Wings

Broken Wings is dedicated to the exploration, discovery, documentation, conservation and presentation of recently discovered WWII heritage aircraft crash sites worldwide. 

Some of the components of this website include submerged aviation archaeology; in-situ preservation; partial or total recovery; exhibits; technical research and publications. Broken Wings is aimed at anyone whose desire it is to accurately record, preserve, or present their findings for the benefit of the aviation sites, their stories, the people involved, their relatives and for the future. It also serves as a resource that could lead to the study of crashed heritage aircrafts becoming recognised as a bonafide heritage or archaeological endeavour.

Broken Wings acknowledges that a single aircraft crashing in some remote part of the world is more than the sum parts of its scattered and twisted wreckage. Its journey from assembly to operations, to its final resting place, may well have involved and affected hundreds of people in apparently un-related and fragmented areas, not forgetting emotional attachments that can hold for a lifetime where tragedy occurs. It is our wish, in developing this site and making it readily available in an un-biased manner, that the contributions, discoveries, research and stories may help unite many of these disparate elements - search, research, discovery, documentation, preservation and presentation about the aircraft, the sites, the exhibitions, the reports and people.


To download the reports, please visit the original project website.

1. History & Archaeology of RAAF Cataline Flying Boat A24-1

Silvano Jung

This is the chronology and subsequent archaeological research of Australia's first delivered Catalina flying boat, carried out by Darwin-based Silvano Jung. This important body of work covers A24-1's passage of events from her manufacture, to the forlorn remains still visible today in the mangrove swamps of Darwin's East Arm. The wreck site of the Catalina flying boat known as as A24-1 was nominated in 1998 for the Northern Territory Heritage Register, under the Northern Territory Heritage Act 1991.

World War Two airplane crash site near a mangrove forest

Catalina A24-1 in the mid 1970s, beached amongst the Mangroves in Darwin's East Arm - prior to Cyclone Tracy
Image copyright WA Museum

2. Stabilisation of Aluminium Alloys From Aircraft Wrecks (Blohm & Voss BV222)

Christian Degrigny

Metal artefacts recovered from a marine or any other underwater site are usually highly damaged due to the corrosion processes taking place in the aqueous environment. When lifted and left to dry outdoor, these artefacts are exposed to the aggressive action of both the oxygen and the water of the atmosphere and new corrosion processes occur. This corrosion is activated by aggressive species contained in the materials such as chlorides from the environment. An electryolytic stabilisation treatment has been designed to extract these aggressive species.

The protocol defined has been first applied in the 90s on aircraft remains from Bisacarrosse Lake. Situated in the South-West of France, this lake saw considerable use between the two world wars for air traffic by seaplanes between France and South America. During WWII, the Germans used the base and due to the numerous attacks there, many wrecks, both French and German have been found - in particular a giant Luftwaffe Blohm & Voss BV222.

World War Two airplane that has been recovered from the ocean

Recovered plan wreck
Image copyright WA Museum

3a. Archaeology of 15 WWII Flying Boats in Roebuck Bay, Western Australia

Dr. Michael McCarthy

March 1942 saw a devastating aerial attack on the Western Australian coastal pearling town of Broome. In a little under an hour, 18 allied flying boats were sent to the bottom of Roebuck Bay. Little did the Japanese commander know that these aircrafts carried hundreds of women and children. After a decade of work and research, in 2001 the WA Maritime Museum carried out a non-disturbance assessment dive of the site.

3b. Legislative Protection

In 2003, the flying boat wreckage site became heritage listed by the Heritage Council of Western Australia for protection under the terms of the 1990 Heritage Act.

A diver photographing a submerged engine

Inspecting a wreck site
Image copyright WA Museum

4. Stabilization of a Submerged BMW 801 D2 Engine from a Focke-Wulf 190

Christian Degrigny

In June 1944, allied forces shot down a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulfe 190 fighter over France. The aircraft crashed in the Le Loiret River and remained there for 45 years, until it was recovered in August 1990 by the Club Subaquatique d'Orléans (France). It was then deposited in the Caen Memorial Museum for Peace. This presents a typical case of stabilization of an aircraft engine following a prolonged period underwater. Here we follow the story of the conservation of a BMW 801 D2 twin row radial enginge as carried out by the Valectra Laboratory, who developed a satisfactory treatment protocol in the process.

An engine covered in concretions

The BMW 801 before conservation
Image copyright WA Museum

5. Bertram & Klausmann's 'Atlantis' Seaplane Float

Dr Michael McCarthy

This is a precis of a story first presented by Scott Sledge, then of the WA Maritime Museum.

At midnight on 14/15 May 1932, German aviators Hans Bertram and Adolph Klausmann set of from Timor in an open cockpit Junker seaplane (model JU W-33) named Atlantis, in order to make the first night flight to Australia. Counting on breakfast at Darwin, they carried no food or water. They became disoriented during a violent storm over the Timor Sea and force-landed out of fuel on the desolate Kimberley coast the next day. The two aviators were eventually rescued after 52 days (40 without food). During this time they tried to sail out in a converted float from their aircraft to no avail.

The float is now on display at the RAAF Aviation Museum in Bull Creek, WA.

World War Two airplane in landing at a remote airstrip

Seaplane Float
Image copyright WA Museum

6. The Black Cats in the Rottnest Graveyard

Dr Michael McCarthy

In February 1997, the Department of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum was requested by the Catalina Club of Western Australia to advise on the feasibility of locating and raising at least one of the four Catalinas scuttles off Rottnest Island in WWII. The Royal Australian Navy also began searching for the wrecks. Though the flying boats had been sunk soon after the war as part of the Lend Lease agreements with America, the Club felt the aircraft could be restored as a memorial to the planes, their crew and their combined exploits.

World War Two airplane in mid-flight

A consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat, similar to the Black Cats of the Rottnest graveyard (the photo here depicts an amphibious version, with upgraded engines, deleted nose turret and a larger tail fin. Photo: Jon Davison.
Image copyright WA Museum

7. The Williamstowns' Vultee Vengeance

Peter Taylor

In July 1989, after a three-year search a Vultee Vengeance that crashed in the waters off Williamstown in Victoria in March 1946 was found, inspected and identified.

World War Two airplane in mid-flight

An Australian Vultee Vengeance dive bomber
Image copyright WA Museum

8. Submerged Aircraft Wrecks in NSW Waters

Tim Smith

Several of the aircraft wrecked or abandoned in NSW’s waters were built in Australia as part of a massive aircraft building program from 1939. The hastily assembled industry produced some 3,500 aircraft of nine types, under the direction of the Department of Aircraft Production. It was comprised of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, the Beaufort Division and the de Havilland Aircraft Company. The main production types included Beaufort bombers (and later Beaufighters), Wirraways, Wacket and Tiger Moth trainers, Boomerang’s, Mosquito bombers and Mustangs. Today, aircraft types thought to be represented in the underwater archaeological record in NSW include some of the most famous names of WWII – Spitfires, Fairy Battles, Vultee Vengeance dive bombers, Lockheed Hudson’s, Catalina’s, Beaufort and Beaufighters, a Wirraway, de Havilland Mosquito, Sikorsky Kingfisher, and a Glenn floatplane.

World War Two airplane in mid-flight

Bristol Beaufighter
Image copyright WA Museum