A fishing boat has dragged up the remains of a Second World War American aircraft just off the Suffolk coastline.

Lowestoft trawlerman Alex Wightman was collecting his nets on September 9, when, to his amazement, he realised the big catch he hauled overboard was the remains of a P-47 Thunderbolt cockpit, which was stuck in his net.

The 16-year-old said: "Me and my skipper Jeffery Melton were out when the net tightened. It was weird because we felt something snagging the net.

"We could see the lump on the sonar and just wondered what it was because it was heavy.

"I couldn't believe it when we got the nets in the boat and found the remains.

"That part of the sea is about 19 metres deep, it makes me wonder what else could be down there as this is one of the main flight paths for Second World War aircraft.

"The lump on the sonar shows there must be even more down there."

When Mr Wightman and his skipper got the parts on the boat they couldn't believe the smell of petrol of the parts.

He said: "We could still smell the petrol when we got the parts on the boat from when the plane went missing some 78 years ago.

"Our first thought were to speak with historians and give our findings to a museum."

Having seen Mr Whitman's post on a Facebook group, local aviation historian Bob Collis and photographer and historian at the Port of Lowestoft Research Society, John Soanes, got in contact.

Upon inspecting the parts they realised it was from the cockpit of an American P-47 Thunderbolt which were flown from Halesworth airfield between 1942 and 1945.

The discovery is now on display at the museum at Halesworth Airfield, and Mr Wightman said he was happy that the parts have been returned to where they once flew from from.

According to museum records, three P-47s took off from Halesworth airfield on March 22, 1944, to join a group of bombers.

They collided off the Suffolk coast in dense cloud cover and crashed into the North Sea.

Museum records show that it was Donald Funcheon, Claude Mussey, and Dale Stream piloting the single-seat planes on that tragic day.

Mr Soanes said: "I noticed the images shown on the Lowestoft Fishing and Oil Facebook page and suggested to aviation historian Bob Collis that he should view them which he duly did, explaining to me that they could be from a Second World War Thunderbolt, but he would need to be seen to confirm.

"I phoned a fisherman contact to find a number for Alex Wightman, he contacted him and I was told that he would be returning to port during the day.

"I managed to track the Georgie Girl returning to port and was able to speak with Alex and Skipper Jeffrey Melton.

"They mentioned that contact had been made by someone from Halesworth about it but I was welcome to take the parts for careful cleaning by Bob.

"Being conscious of treading on the toes of the other party I explained this when I took the items and discussed it further with Bob who thought that he knew who it would be at Halesworth as there was a museum at Holton from where the Thunderbolts had flown."