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Maharajah's Bomber restored to glory

April 20, 2007 19:31 IST

A rare First World War two-seat bomber, which was rotting in an elephant stable of a former maharajah's palace in Rajasthan has now been restored to its glory at the Imperial War Museum.

The de Havilland DH9 biplane is the only one in Britain and one of the six in the world, an official of the Museum said on Friday.

Its saviour, Guy Black, an aircraft restorer, told the Daily Telegraph 'it was a phenomenal find, like discovering gold'.

The chance discovery was made by a British backpacker who photographed a cannibalised DH9 in a new museum at the Palace of Bikaner in Rajasthan 12 years ago.

On his return to Britain, he circulated the photo and Black, who runs a specialist restoration company in Sussex, got to hear about the discovery.

Three years later Black visited the palace in India.

The aircraft, built in 1918 and the first British bomber to house bombs in its fuselage, had vanished.

Inquiries led him to the palace's former elephant stables.

There, among piles of elephant saddles, was the airframe of the DH9, engineless, its timbers partly eaten by termites and much of its fabric covering missing.

Along one wall, Black saw half a dozen DH9 wings and several tailfins.

"I could not believe my eyes. The DH9 was the most manufactured bomber of the First World War - they made more than 2,000 of them - but there wasn't a single one in a collection in Britain," he said.

Black had found the remains of three DH9s that were given by Britain to the Maharajah of Bikaner in the early 1920s to help him establish an air force under the post-war Imperial Gift Scheme.

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