Making The Great Fen Spitfire Excavation film


When producer Louise Rackham asked me to pitch for the opportunity to film the excavation in 2015 it felt like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.

I put together a proposal that had me doing the work for next to nothing, using language that ranged from ‘gushing’ to ‘desperate’.

Louise was persuaded by my enthusiasm for the project, talked some sense into me over the budget and hired me. I wonder if she regrets that decision now?

The original plan was to simply film the week-long dig but I got a bit carried away and offered to add some off-site interviews. Then I bought some archive footage from the Imperial War Museum and the project started to really take off.

What became known as ‘part one’ was completed in time for a Great Fen event in April 2016 and the film was so well-received that we took the decision to carry on filming, making a ‘part two’ about the processing of the excavated aircraft parts and including interviews with the newly discovered relatives of the pilot killed in the crash.

Parts one and two came together into one film in the autumn of 2016 after the dedication of a memorial stone to the pilot, placed close to the crash site, but not before a shorter version of part one won ‘best documentary’ at the St Neots Film Festival.

As I write this the DVD of The Great Fen Spitfire Excavation is on sale via the Wildlife Trust BCN website for just £6.00. That’s an incredible deal. I was paid to make the film and create a DVD that is designed to generate income for the Wildlife Trust. I don’t get any money from disc sales; all that revenue goes towards the great work of the trust.

So click here (or on one of the many other ‘buy’ links around the site) and get yourself a DVD. The disc has a 43-minute feature version of the documentary, a 20-minute film of the memorial stone dedication ceremony and two superb photo galleries featuring shots by the official Great Fen photographers Mark Williams and Matt Lodge.

Enjoy the film and then come back here and read all about what it was like working on it. I’ll be posting some of the wonderful sequences that didn’t make it into the final edit. There’s already an alternative intro and over time I will be adding an alternative ending, interviews where I messed up the sound, and a clip of a lovely old man singing a song from his childhood (where I didn’t mess up the sound).

I want this to be a place for conversation, so these updates will be like blog posts, giving you the opportunity to comment. If you like the film, come back and tell us why. If you were on the dig and want to reminisce about it, we’d love to be back in touch. If you’re a Spitfire enthusiast or a keen film-maker, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to interest you.

Producer Louise has just read on Facebook that I’m doing all this. I think she might be worried…


About the author: martyn

Film-maker interested in opportunities to create documentaries and factual story-telling on film. Also writer and stills photographer.