IN 1945, a Spitfire piloted by Frenchman Lucien Montet clipped a tree on its approach to RAF Ouston near Stamfordam.

The Spitfire crashed and Montet, known by his nomme de guerre (or war name) Christian Martell, was killed.

Martell is featured prominently in an exhibition at North East Land, Sea and Air Museums near Sunderland, which tells the story of the RAF’s 607 Squadron.

Almost all of the Spitfire was recovered – save for the rear wheel, which the exhibition suggests may have been used by a local farmer to make a wheelbarrow.

In fact, it was actually discovered in a hedgerow by a teenager called Richard Robinson – known as Dick to his friends – who lived on a nearby farm.

Fast-forward more than 70 years, and the wheel is in the possession of the late Richard’s friend and Spitfire enthusiast, Peter Barron.

Peter explained: “Dick saw this plan coming in low to land. It clipped a tree and the pilot was killed.

“Dick saw this, and told me years later. He showed me the tail wheel which he found in the hedge row.

“Dick gave me the wheel in 2010, because I was learning to fly at the time and I got a trip in the back a Spitfire.

“I was friends with Paul Day, who was squadron leader of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and he took me up.”

By coincidence, Peter and his friend, fellow Spitfire enthusiast Ralph Lockey paid a visit to North East Land, Sea and Air Museums, where they came across the display about 607 Squadron.

In memory of Dick, who died last year, Peter has decided to donate the wheel to the museum.

Peter continued: “We saw the display and there was a photo of Martell in his plane. The sign said they had found the whole plan but the wheel.

“They thought it had been made into a wheelbarrow!”

“We’ve sent them a photo of the wheel and we’re waiting to hear back from Sunderland to see what they say.

“I want them to have a photo of Dick there – Dick was the man that found it.”