Back in April 2012 there was a bit of excitement in the aviation world, especially amongst those who love old World War II aircraft. This was when the news was running that a collection of Spitfires had been buried in their shipping crates in Burma towards the end of World War II and that David Cundall, a 62 year old farmer from Scunthorpe in the UK, claimed to have found where they were.
Temora Aviation Museum’s Spitfire Mk VIII showing off its distinctive wing planform
There was much to’ing & fro’ing with even the British PM, David Cameron, getting in on the act and intervening to ensure the aircraft would be returned to Britain. There was all sorts of commentary & reports regarding political issues of access, Burma’s opening to democratic processes, dropping of sanctions against the country and the inevitable questions of who would get to sell the aircraft to salivating restorers/collectors and (most importantly) collect the profit.
An official recovery project was set up with the backing of Wargaming.net who provided about 1 million UK pounds (approximately AUS$1.5 million back then) and set up a “Project Spitfire” blog. Sadly, by the end of January 2013 the team had not found any evidence of buried Spitfires in the locations Cundall had nominated. With that, Wargaming wound the project up and the team returned to the UK with no other entries in the blog beyond a last project entry explaining where things were at and that a report on the other artifacts they did find would be released in the UK Spring. As yet I’ve not been able to find this report published online.
I find it very interesting that no evidence of the Spitfires was found as back in April 2012 Cundall was quoted as having sent a borehole camera down to look at the crates, which seemed to be in good condition. There were further reports of large crates being found (but water prevented good access?) and that they were “digging in the wrong place” ??? There were also reports of not being able to dig where they wanted in a location near the main runway at Yangon International Airport due to encountering buried power cables and restrictions put in place by officials.
Temora Aviation Museum’s Spitfire Mk XVI taxiing past
Given talk previously from Cundall of ground radar returns indicating large metal objects and having put a borehole camera around a crate, you’d think they’d have dug right away in the right location(s) and been able to tell us what they’d found. Apparently the Burmese officials prevented
this from happening.
While many may have throught that was the end of it, Cundall has kept pushing forward and in August 2013 there was a report of new scans providing evidence of man-made objects buried up to 11 metres deep near the Yangon airport runway. These new scans appeared to corroborate others made in January by the previous attempt backed by Wargaming.net.
Next we heard in December 2013 that Claridon Group had stepped forward to fund another dig to attempt recovery of the buried objects.
The latest word as of earlier in March this year (2014) was that the digging had resumed and permission had been obtained to break through concrete near the perimeter of the airport where scans had indicated something was buried.
Temora Aviation Museum’s Spitfire Mk VIII taxiing away
So, were there ever any Spitfires buried in Burma? Much of the paperwork that the Wargaming.net team examined seemed to indicate they weren’t. They also found that the weather conditions & man power at the time the aircraft were supposedly buried would have precluded anything like that from being achieved. Despite this, Cundall’s still chasing anecdotal stories and indications of unknown & likely man-made items buried at the airport.
I just hope that this latest expedition can drain the water to examine the crate found previously and also dig down to the deeper objects to examine them via more borehole cameras. We really do need more information about what the heck it is that’s buried at Yangon International airport, regardless of what it turns out to be :)