Towards an Integrated Approach to Recording Military Aircraft Crash Sites


  • Peter Masters Cranfield University
  • Richard Osgood Defence Infrastructure Organization



Military, gradiometer, magnetometer, World War II, metal detecting, GPR, forensic


The forensic investigation of military aircraft crash sites has become in recent times part of mainstream traditional archaeology. Mostly amateur aircraft enthusiasts have undertaken the recovery of military aircraft crash sites without methodically recording the remains. The sites covered in this paper have been approached based on recording the in-situ remains methodically using traditional and scientific methods used in the field of archaeology from fieldwalking, metal detecting and geophysics. The strategy and methodology used in this investigation showed how effective and important it is to recover as much of the remains as possible to place it into a meaningful context in order to understand the reasoning for why these aircraft came to a devasting end by crashing into the ground at great speed. The excavations have involved Operation Nightingale—an MOD based recovery programme that specializes in archaeology. This paper will demonstrate the importance of using such an integrated approach to the recovery of military aircraft crash sites from the Second World War by referring to specific case studies.

Author Biographies

Peter Masters, Cranfield University

Peter Masters is a Research Fellow in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology, Cranfield Forensic Institute, Cranfield University. Peter’s area of research includes geophysics, forensics, landscape studies and conflict archaeology. Peter works in the commercial area of geophysics as well as undertaking research in Conflict Archaeology, especially on First World War battlefields. He has carried out extensive surveys in France and Belgium. He has worked with Operation Nightingale from its beginnings and continues to work alongside veterans including their current project at Bullecourt, France. His work also includes undertaking surveys for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Since 2013 Peter has been investigating Military Aircraft Crash Sites in the UK and is currently updating the guidelines for recording these crash sites.

Richard Osgood, Defence Infrastructure Organization

Richard Osgood the Senior Archaeologist for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), Ministry of Defence. Since 2004 he has led the heritage scrutiny of ALL applications to recover crashed airframes protected under the Military Remains Act. He has directed excavations on several aircraft crash site, with my excavation of Spitfire P9503 on Salisbury Plain now used by Historic England as a Best Practice guide. He is a Visiting Teacher at the Cranfield Forensics Institute, University of Cranfield, and an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University Department of Archaeology. He is a Fellow of both the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and a Full Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. He was awarded an MBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours list.


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How to Cite

Masters, Peter, and Richard Osgood. 2021. “Towards an Integrated Approach to Recording Military Aircraft Crash Sites”. Forensic Archaeology, Anthropology and Ecology 2 (1):19–38.