Found, salvaged and preserved! A Blenheim shot down in Crete by friendly fire on April 28, 1941


The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from mainland Greece towards Crete and Egypt is in full swing, during the last chaotic days of April 1941.

A repetition of the Dunkirk operation on a smaller scale sees thousands of allied soldiers fleeing the nazi advance in mainland Greece, following the capitulation of the Greek Army.

f8Boats of every size are struggling to get the troops from the shores of the Peloponnese and Attica, while the nazi Luftwaffe controls the skies over Greece and is constantly harassing the allies, sinking many ships.

The salvage operation in its final stages, the Blenheim is lifted out of the sea

One largely forgotten episode of this epic struggle is the story of a Bristol Blenheim Mk IV F (203 squadron, L9044), which covers the withdrawal of a convoy to Crete.

A British destroyer with trigger-happy and quite nervous anti aircraft personnel believes the twin engine light bomber is a German one.


They promptly set their sights on the Blenheim and shoot at it.

The evacuation route of BEF from Attica to Crete and Egypt. The dotted line depicts the flight path of the shot down Blenheim

Pilot Gordon Hall sees the starboard engine in flames and decides to try to reach the shores of Crete.
Minutes seem like ages and the crippled Blenheim is struggling to get to Crete. Losing altitude and flying with just one engine, it is obvious that there is not much life left in the aircraft.
Just 1.5 kilometres from the shore of Rethymno, Crete, Hall decided to ditch the aircraft, as smoothly as possible. Indeed, the Blenheim sits on the surface, giving enough time to its three crew members to safely evacuate the sinking aircraft.

A man from Crete, Markos Koumiotakis, sees the sinking aircraft and the three men trying not to drown, he ties a rope on his waist and plunges into the sea.

A keen swimmer, Koumiotakis finally reaches the crew and manages to save them, after over two hours at sea.
The Blenheim rests on the seabed, protected by a reef right next to it, largely forgotten for almost 50 years, until a diver finds it again by pure chance.

The instrument panel of the Ju52 salvaged in Leros, with the Blenheim in the background, at the Hellenic Air Force Museum, Tatoi Airport, Athens, Greece

The Hellenic Air Force decides to salvage it and following a technically complex operation, they manage to bring it to the surface 55 years after its last flight. Bullet-ridden, with personal effects of its crew still inside, the Blenheim awaits its preservation.

After a painstaking work by experts at the Museum, the Blenheim now sits in the hangar, telling its story to everyone who is interested to listen.

Pilot Hall, who survived WW2, had the privilege to sit once again at his seat and received part of the stricken aircraft as a gift from the Hellenic Air Force.

f11Blenheim pilot Gordon Hall at the Hellenic Air Force Museum, with his WW2 aircraft in the background

3 thoughts on Found, salvaged and preserved! A Blenheim shot down in Crete by friendly fire on April 28, 1941

  1. Hi Pierre, good article on the Blenheim. Now we must wait to see how the airframe resists corrosion after immersion in salt water. Do you know the preservation – conservation steps taken by the staff at the museum to stop corrosion in the airframe?? I would like to know what they did and how they did it. Cheers, Karl Kj. – Bomber Command Museum of Canada

  2. I’d love to be able to get an email for Victoria Short. My father Duncan Smith served on the HMS Whelp, he passed away 5 years ago in Sydney Australia without saying a great deal about his Naval experience. Mum was horrified once, stuttering, twirling in circles waving my school bag about, must have been1974 ish. What had I done, I’d never seen her this irate at anything and she was digging at my bag with her fingers, she was tearing a rising sun flag sticker off my bag, from a Wheet Bix cerial packet, flags of the World. That was as close to talking to Dad about the war as I got I suppose, I never thought a lovely Christian Woman would give all the insight into WW2 that I would ever need, though I never realised untill hearing Prince Philips account of POWs coming aboard Whelp, I stumbled on a video of that a few months ago, quite moving knowing my Dad was there, then, surreal. He was a bloody good Father, a top bloke, loved my Mum worked hard and loved Australia, the Sunshine, a fishing addicted butcher with a heart of gold and with the friends to prove it. Pitty no one could understand his accent. Thanks Pierre, if possible.

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