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OU on the BBC: History Detectives - A bomber and a bottle

Updated Tuesday 4th September 2007

A plane wrecked on a Scottish mountainside and a bottle buried in the fireplace in a Suffolk farmhouse raise questions for Claire and Jeevan as they investigate the mysteries of a bomber and a bottle.

A Lancaster bomber Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

The cases

In 1944 Angus McFadyen, then aged 16, watched a Lancaster bomber plough into a hillside by Loch Lomond. Local aviation enthusiasts have managed to recover a lot of the wreckage, but haven’t been able to determine the cause of the crash. 63 years after it happened, and using the expertise of one of the UK’s leading air accident investigators, Claire Barratt pieces together what took place and the staggering loss of life to overstretched and undertrained aircrew as the Second World War drew to its close.

In Suffolk a man has found a sealed bottle buried under his fireplace. He thinks it is a witch bottle and is so afraid of its contents he won’t have it opened. What is a witch bottle? And is this one? Jeevan reveals the tale of the Witch-finder General and the legacy of witchcraft and superstition he left behind.

Along the way the programme supplies some useful information about how to date and preserve paper and ink.

The clues

(some resources that the History Detectives used in the programme)

The Lancaster bomber


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB)

Library and Archives of Canada

101 Squadron


RAF Museum London

Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum

Aviation archaeology and World War II crash sites

Military aircraft crash Sites – Archaeological guidance on their significance and future management
English Heritage, 2002

British Aviation Archaeology Council (BAAC) – the BAAC is the official national body in the UK for aviation archaeologists and researchers of military crashes.

Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA)
A professional body for Archaeologists which promotes best practice in Archaeology. Their advice relates to Aviation Archeology.

The RAF Museum Department of Research and Information Services in Hendon is responsible for the Museum’s  Archive and Library Collection and is open to the public by appointment only: tel: 020 8205 2266

The Royal Air Force Personnel Management Agency is responsible for licensing aircraft excavations. Address:

Room 5
Building 248A
Personnel Management Agency
Gloucester GL3 1EZ

The Fleet Air Arm Museum holds a wide range of documents from official and private sources related to British Naval Aviation. You may research in person or by post.

The witch bottle


The Museum of Witchcraft houses the world's largest collection of witchcraft related artefacts and regalia.


The Discovery of Witches
Matthew Hopkins and David Ryan (Ed), Caliver Books

"Ritual Marks on Historic Timber", Weald and Downland Museum Magazine, Spring Ed, 22–28
Timothy Easton, 1999

"Ritual Marks on Historic Timber" Third Stone: Archaeology, Folklore and Myth 38. 11–17
Timothy Easton, 2000.


The Society of Architectural Historians
Architectural Historians to help date your house.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(Available in public libraries or online by subscription) for information about Matthew Hopkins, the Witch Finder General.

First broadcast: Friday 21 Sep 2007 on BBC TWO

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