Posted on January 1, 2019
“It cost me a fortune in beer,” says Grahame Knott, “and I had to filter out a lot of chuff.”
A crucial part of his decade of research was spent in pubs along the south coast of England, looking for men who operated trawlers and scallop dredgers. These boats scrape nets along the seabed and occasionally turn up curious pieces of metal – which is what Knott was buying beer to hear about. By listening carefully, he could guess whether the objects were likely to have come from aircraft, and if so how old they were, though it was not always easy to know exactly where they had become snagged in the net. “We spotted a wheel sticking out of the sand, then a section of wing with rivets”
The Channel is littered with wrecks from the two world wars and the fishermen often assumed, incorrectly, that these were what Knott was looking for. But eventually, with the information he acquired, he was able to narrow down his initial 100 sq mile search zone to five target areas in a 30 sq mile patch of sea.
The culmination of this investigative work in snugs and public bars came in March this year, when Knott set out into the Channel to search for the 37-tonne, four-engine Hercules plane that USAF mechanic Paul Meyer had taken off in, singlehandedly and without permission, in 1969.