The extraordinary plans to dig up the lost squadron were revealed this weekend as David Cameron visits the country.
Now, David Cundall, 62, of Sandtoft, near Scunthorpe, has spoken about his quest to recover the Spitfires and get them airborne.
Mr Cundall has spent £130,000 of his own money, visited Burma 12 times, persuaded the country’s notoriously secretive regime to trust him, and all the time sought testimony from a dwindling band of Far East veterans in order to locate the Spitfires.
Yet his treasure hunt was sparked by little more than a throwaway remark from a group of US veterans, made 15 years ago to his friend and fellow aviation archaeologist Jim Pearce.
Mr Cundall said: “The veterans had served in a construction battalion. They told Jim: ‘We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires.’
Mr Cundall realised that the Spitfires would have been buried in their transport crates. Before burial, the aeroplanes would have been waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred, to protect them against decay. There seemed to be a chance that somewhere in Burma, there lay Spitfires that could be restored to flying condition.
... finally, he found the Spitfires, at a location that is being kept a closely guarded secret. Mr Cundall said: “We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates. They seemed to be in good condition.”
Mr Cundall explained that in August 1945 the Mark XIV aeroplanes, which used Rolls-Royce Griffon engines instead of the Merlins of earlier models, were put in crates and transported from the factory in Castle Bromwich, in the West Midlands, to Burma.
Once they arrived at the RAF base, however, the Spitfires were deemed surplus to requirements. The war was in its final months and fighting was by now increasingly focused on ‘island-hopping’ to clear the Japanese of their remaining strongholds in the Pacific. Land-based Spitfires, as opposed to carrier-based Seafires, did not have the required range.
The order was given to bury 12 Spitfires while they were still in their transport crates. Then two weeks later, the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The Japanese surrendered on September 2 1945.
The packing crates were protected by beams of teak. In addition to the 20 airplanes found, there are strong rumors of another 60 in several other burial spots. Considering that there are only about 35 air-worthy Spitfires in the word today, this is a treasure trove beyond fantasy. And the story gets better.
Spitfires buried in Burma during war to be returned to UK
Twenty iconic Spitfire aircraft buried in Burma during the Second World War are to be repatriated to Britain after an intervention by David Cameron. The Prime Minister secured a historic deal that will see the fighter aircraft dug up and shipped back to the UK almost 67 years after they were hidden more than 40-feet below ground amid fears of a Japanese occupation.
The gesture came as Mr Cameron became the first Western leader to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy campaigner held under house arrest for 22 years by the military regime, and invited her to visit London in her first trip abroad for 24 years.
[ Mr. Cundall relates more of his treasure hunt story: ] He eventually met one eyewitness who drew maps and an outline of where the aircraft were buried and took him out to the scene.
“Unfortunately, he got his north, south, east and west muddled up and we were searching at the wrong end of the runway,” he said. “We also realised that we were not searching deep enough as they had filled in all of these bomb craters which were 20-feet to start with. “I hired another machine in the UK that went down to 40-feet and after going back surveying the land many times, I eventually found them. “I have been in touch with British officials in Burma and in London and was told that David Cameron would negotiate on my behalf to make the recovery happen.”
Mr Cundall said sanctions preventing the removal of military tools from Burma were due to be lifted at midnight last night (FRI). A team from the UK is already in place and is expecting to begin the excavation, estimated to cost around £500,000, imminently. It is being funded by the Chichester-based Boultbee Flight Acadamy.
Mr Cundall said the government had promised him it would be making no claim on the aircraft, of which 21,000 were originally produced, and that he would be entitled to a share in them.
“It’s been a financial nightmare but hopefully I’ll get my money back,” he said. “I’m hoping the discovery will generate some jobs. They will need to be stripped down and re-riveted but it must be done. My dream is to have a flying squadron at air shows.”
Beyond fantastic. But why stop with one squadron Mr. Cundall? Why not make it two or three?
Broken Wings is a documentary film project currently in production in Melbourne, Australia. It follows the incredible legend that possibly as many as twelve brand new Spitfires still in their original packing crates are buried somewhere in southern Queensland. This documentary will explore the story from a range of perspectives and set out to discover whether in fact the aircraft do exist… and with a bit of luck, find them.
35 Spits flying now, another 20, and then another 60, and then another 12 or more? Can you imagine a flight of 150 Spitfires over London in the 21st Century? The English would lose their marbles and simply melt on the spot. So would I.
h/t to Peiper, who is too busy dealing with his life situation to post today. Get well soon Mrs. D!
More links that tell pretty much the same story, although some versions say these are Mk II airplanes. I find that hard to believe, as the Mk II was long out of production by 1945. Other sources say as many as 70 Spitfires are currently in flying condition.
The Griffon engine had 36% more displacement than the Merlin engine, and at 2035hp was considerably more powerful while only physically a bit larger and heavier. This allowed the MkIX Spitfires to be faster than average, flying at well over 400mph (439mph depending on gearing), but at the cost of flight range and slightly less agile handling.
And the foaming at the mouth leftists still go on about GWB not finding WMD (although they did find chemical suits, clean trailers, etc) - in less than 10 years. Inquiring minds would like to know - if the stuff was transported to Syria - aren’t people really in a bit of danger - since that place now is a powder keg about to explode?
60 years - wow.