When I first started recovering relics, more than 20 years ago, I concentrated almost entirely on RAF and USAAF bases. My first love was always the aircraft of WW2 and to actually have my very own piece of P51, Spitfire, Lancaster, Mosquito etc. etc. seemed a forlorn dream. For the first five years I went relic hunting quite infrequently, and more often than not found 2 or 3 bits from WW2, and a bagful of cake tins, fag packets, beer cans and condom wrappers. On one notable occasion, I found half a beer can with a fag packet and condom wrapper stuffed inside! At least they had fun……
It was only after discovering the value of research that I really started to turn the corner. Identifying locations to search before going to a base, utilising old aerial photos, Google Earth and numerous other reference sources, pays big dividends. Almost overnight I had gone from 2 or 3 WW2 items and a bagful of modern crap, to 2 or 3 bits of modern crap, and a bagful of WW2 relics!
AS my experience grew, I learned to search specific areas for aircraft parts such as over the back of aircraft pens or close to the hangers. Even so, aircraft parts can turn up anywhere on an airbase!
One of the commonest things to find on RAF bases is a gasket that fits between the exhaust manifold and the engine block on a Merlin engine. These are easy to identify and you find them everywhere on RAF bases. Only slight problem is that they have a sheet of asbestos in between the brass sheets that form the gasket, so if they are damaged in anyway, it is simply too risky to take them home. I’ve found 100s of the flipping things, but only have a couple of ‘safe’ ones in my collection.
You really can find virtually any part of an aircraft on these bases. Getting a good knowledge of the coding system used by the RAF and USAAF helps a great deal, as each part carries a unique code. The prefix denotes the aircraft type (usually but not always!!), and the rest of the number the part itself. Manufacturer stamps and inspection stamps can tell you the aircraft manufacturer. There is a lot to learn, but once you get the hang of it, identification of aircraft parts becomes quite straightforward. However, I will say that many items will defy identification, even if they have got numbers stamped on them.
Here is a sample of a few of the aircraft parts I’ve recovered.
Oh, and please note, these are NOT from crash sites. I do not dig crash sites! Far too much red tape for my liking 🙂