Fareham Innovation Centre has dedicated a meeting room to a Second World War aircraft

Second World War aircraft salvaged from the Solent after 76 years under water

December 12th 2019

Fareham Innovation Centre has dedicated a meeting room to a Second World War aircraft salvaged from the Solent after 76 years under water.
Less than a mile from where the aircraft was painstakingly retrieved from a depth of 15ft this summer in ferocious currents, the meeting room was officially called Barracuda.

The Barracuda, from June 1943, was discovered during a seabed survey for the Interconnexion France-Angleterre 2 (IFA2) project, a 240km subsea electricity cable being laid between northern France and Solent Airport, where the UK converter station is being built for operation from autumn 2020.

The Barracuda, from June 1943, was discovered during a seabed survey for the Interconnexion France-Angleterre 2 (IFA2) project, a 240km subsea electricity cable being laid between northern France and Solent Airport, where the UK converter station is being built for operation from autumn 2020.

Stephen Brownlie, Fareham Innovation Centre Director, said: “We’re proud to be hosting the naming ceremony, with Barracuda the sixth meeting room to be named after wartime aircraft in service above our skies here.”

Councillor Seán Woodward, Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, made the dedication with representatives of IFA2, which has an office at Fareham Innovation Centre.

A plaque in the newly-named Barracuda meeting room stated: “The Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, has long had an aspiration to rebuild and create an example of a Barracuda, using as much original material as possible, collected from Ministry of Defence-approved crash site recoveries.

“The discovery of a Barracuda crash site in the Solent during the National Grid IFA2 interconnecter project has resulted in a huge amount of material that can be utilised in the Barracuda rebuild project at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.”

It added that National Grid’s recognition and recovery of this significant source of parts has been vital to the progress of the rebuild.

Fareham Innovation Centre has strong aviation heritage links and is home to 40 pioneering companies, from start-ups to established businesses in aviation, marine, aerospace, engineering and advanced manufacturing.

Run by Oxford Innovation, the centre is owned by Fareham Borough Council.

With the Barracuda, there are five other meeting rooms named after military planes in recognition of the locality’s wartime role – Firefly, Seafox, Spitfire, Seafire and Seahawk.

Uniquely, there is also an original Spitfire’s Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine mounted under a glass coffee table in reception at Merlin House, Fareham Innovation Centre.

Before the dedication ceremony, nearly 100 local people attended a talk about the Barracuda salvage operation by David Morris, Curator of Aircraft, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum.
The talk was held at the centre’s Bridge conference suite, which overlooks the airport where the Barracuda had taken off before crashing moments later.

Stephen said: “The event was such a success that we are holding a further two on Tuesday (10th December) - members of the public can hear how the past, present and future meet through the incredible story of the Barracuda.”

Before the dedication, members of the public attended the talk on the Barracuda salvage operation by David Morris, Curator of Aircraft, Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum, at Fareham Innovation Centre’s conference suite The Bridge.

He spoke of how, to his astonishment, and that of fellow restoration experts, a 12V battery from the wreckage of the rare Fairey Barracuda wasn’t flat – there was an electrical charge.

The only one to survive relatively intact from 2,500 produced at four manufacturing sites across England during the height of the war, the Barracuda had been discovered during the seabed survey for the IFA2 project.

Many of the Barracudas, powered by the mighty Battle of Britain Merlin engine, operated from the airport, which was then naval station HMS Daedalus.

Part of the 810 Squadron RN Air Station, based at HMS Daedalus, the three-seat plane got into difficulty on a test flight.

The retrieved Barracuda has provided the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton with a rich harvest of undamaged and original components.

They include a Morse code key and observer canopy, helping with the meticulous reconstruction of what will be the only finished Barracuda in existence.

There are only six Barracuda crash sites on record; the others were badly mangled after hitting land.

“This is a long, difficult jigsaw puzzle, one without the picture lid on the box,” David told the audience.

“We are enthralled by what we are getting from the Barracuda salvaged from the Solent, with tubes from the wreck fitting straight into place in our partially rebuilt Barracuda in the museum.”

The plane crashed on its belly, which meant the two 12V batteries, which were in the rear of the plane and link together to make a 24-volt system, weren’t upside down, and their anti-siphon caps prevented water damage. David recounted: “We cleaned the batteries up and left them to dry in a corner of the hangar for a couple of weeks, having undone the caps, expecting to tip out sea water, but we smelt the rotten egg smell of battery acid, which we thought was interesting.

“A couple of weeks later I saw William Gibbs, our museum restoration engineer, heading to them with a voltmeter and I thought ‘you have got to be kidding’, but we check everything and look at everything and, true to form, one of the batteries registered 0.17 residual volts.”

Afterwards, David said: “The Barracuda had symbolically burst into life with that battery – it was a treasured moment and I suspect that a lot of motorists wish they had that kind of longevity battery in their car. One of our aims is to use the battery to power the original cockpit bulbs we also retrieved. That would be quite something.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of National Grid IFA2 in this ambitious rebuild project.”

Such was the ferocity of the tidal currents, the salvage dive team, James Fisher & Sons, used satellite technology to ensure the dive barge and pilings were in position with pinpoint accuracy to prevent damage to the Barracuda, with its fuselage and wing lifted by cradle.

Working with National Grid IFA2 on the project was Wessex Archaeology.

IFA2 is National Grid’s second electricity subsea interconnector to France and is a joint venture with French System Operator RTE.

It will provide an additional 1 GW of capacity, which is enough electricity to power a million homes and play a vital role in decarbonising the UK’s energy system.

How the Barracuda shaped the war

A British torpedo carrier and diver bomber, fabricated entirely from metal and still in infancy of design, the Barracuda was a replacement for the predecessor Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacore biplanes.

It was notable for its role in attacking the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway, inflicting 15 direct hits on the ship as part of aerial bombing campaigns over four years.

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