THE Dutch government has been branded “disrespectful” over plans to use a DIGGER to salvage a WW2 plane which was shot down with seven RAF heroes on board.
The wreckage of the Short Stirling bomber BK716 – which disappeared after returning from a mission in 1943 – was found submerged in Markermeer lake in January.
Now military enthusiasts have hit out at moves to pluck the bomber from the waters with equipment they have likened to an “arcade machine grabber”.
However, the Dutch defence ministry insists it will be using a “precision digger” for the historic recovery of BK716 from the body of water, which is near Amsterdam.
The five-week operation to salvage the bomber, which was based at RAF Downham Market in Norfolk during the war, is due to start on August 31, reports the BBC.
Danny Keay, who has conducted multiple aircraft recoveries and helped return the bodies of more than a dozen airmen, criticised the decision to use a digger rather than draining water away from the site.
He said: “This is in effect like digging blindfolded in a cemetery, hoping to recover someone’s loved one that way.
“It is shocking. It is disrespectful. I understand the financial burden, but if they’re not doing it right they shouldn’t do it at all.”
However, those in charge of the salvage mission have defended their plans.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence in the Netherlands said: “We are definitely not talking about an arcade crane/grabber.
“We will be using a GPS-controlled precision digger, which is placed on a work vessel.
“We will be excavating the lake floor across an area of 75 by 75 metres (246ftx246ft), because the plane is scattered over that area.
“The excavated soil will be sieved. All parts larger than 8mm will be visually inspected.
“By using this method, a larger area can be covered than if a cofferdam were used.”
Sgt Leonard Shrubsall, from Kent, was one of the seven on board the plane when it was shot down while returning from a raid on Berlin.
His son Richard said earlier this month: “The plane was found submerged in this freshwater lake.
“At first, it was thought the aircraft was a BK710, but when it was looked into further it was the BK716, which was my father’s plane.
“The seven families of the crew have been informed and are led to believe their remains are still on the plane.”
A cigarette case from the wreckage bearing the initials JMC, for the plane’s wireless operator James Michael Campbell, confirmed its identity.
Four parachute locks, part of a flying jacket and glove were also found indicating it is highly likely the crew’s remains are still inside.
BK716 departed its base at 9:30am on March 29 1943 and was shot down near the Dutch village of Marken on its return flight that night by a German night fighter flown by Lt Werner Rapp.