“I jokingly told him to go out and find the …”
Fourteen-year-old Daniel Kristiansen of Birkelse, Denmark, made a discovery most historians would lose their wits over. After receiving a homework assignment for his history class, Daniel and his father hoped to unearth pieces of metal behind their house — enough to create an interesting presentation in class.
Instead, what they found is an unforgettable and monumental discovery in any adult’s life, let alone the life of a teenage boy. In part, their story is a lesson on the power of suggestion, family ties, and curiosity.
Prior to the discovery, Daniel’s father, Klaus, gave him an order he didn’t know his son could or would actually fulfill. “When Daniel was recently given homework about World War II,” Klaus said, “I jokingly told him to go out and find the plane that is supposed to have crashed out in the field.”
Klaus remembered his grandfather said he witnessed a WWII plane crash in the field behind their home. But the family thought the wreckage had been cleaned up.
Using a standard metal detector, Daniel and Klaus first came across the metal debris of a plane wreck. So they used a trencher and continued digging.
They stopped to call authorities after eventually uncovering pieces of clothing and human skeletal remains. What began as a lighthearted endeavor now required the expertise of local officials, bomb experts, and German embassy representatives who arrived at the location.
“At first we were digging up a lot of dirt with metal fragments in it. Then we suddenly came across bones and pieces of clothes,” Kristiansen said. “It was like opening a book from yesterday.”
“We also found documents and papers in the pockets of some clothes,” Kristiansen said. Specifically, they discovered the wreckage of what appears to be a WWII German aircraft — the Messerschmidt Bf 109, as well as the skeletal remains of its pilot, and folded, paper documents.
Klaus’ initial hope for his son to have something valuable to present in class produced a humorous understatement. “Luckily my son has something to write about in his assignment now,” he said.
To be sure the 14-year-old could further benefit from this life-changing discovery, Daniel was allowed to witness a good portion of the professional excavation process. “He’s actually been given the day off school today so that he can watch the police and bomb disposal people working. It’s quite exciting for all of us,” Kristiansen said.
The remains of the plain and the pilot’s possessions are now at the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland. Torben Sarauw, curator and head of archaeology at the museum, thinks he and his team will be able to locate the name of the German pilot, given the documents found.
“It’s quite a special find,” Sarauw said, adding that this may be the first German aircraft to be discovered, at least in this way, in Denmark. Daniel and Klaus hope to learn more about the aircraft and the pilot himself as soon as more details on the investigation become available.