Dozens of Spitfire planes to be excavated in Burma

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    Dozens of Spitfire fighter planes that were buried by British troops in Burma as the second world war drew to a close are to be excavated after an agreement to dig up the historic aircraft was signed by the Burmese government and an aviation enthusiast from Lincolnshire.


    After 16 years of searching and lobbying, David Cundall, 62, has signed a deal to recover the lost RAF planes, which are believed to have been packed in crates and hidden by British forces on the orders of Earl Mountbatten shortly before the United States bombed the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

    During his visit to Burma in April, David Cameron reached an agreement with President Thein Sein about the recovery of the missing aircraft. The British embassy in Rangoon said the newly signed deal was a chance to work with the new Burmese government “in uncovering, restoring, displaying these fighter planes”.

    Excavation work is expected to begin by the end of this month. The number of Mark 14 Spitfires awaiting discovery remains unclear, but Htoo Htoo Zaw, managing director of Cundall’s Burmese partner, the Shwe Taung Paw company, said he estimated there were at least 60. Previous estimates have varied between 20 and 36. Even that number would represent a large increase in the global Spitfire population: while 21,000 were built, only 35 remain in a good enough condition to fly.

    “This will be the largest number of Spitfires in the world,” Htoo Htoo told the Associated Press. “We want to let people see those historic fighters, and the excavation of these fighter planes will further strengthen relations between Myanmar [Burma] and Britain.”

    A local newspaper, Myanmar Ahlin, reported that the excavation agreement was signed by Cundall on behalf of his British company DJC, Tin Naing Tun, the Burmese director general of civil aviation, and Htoo Htoo.

    For Cundall, it is a triumphant end to years of hunting for the fighters. He says he has spent £160,000 trying to locate the lost treasure, vying with potential rivals for the deal.

    In April, he claimed he had secured financial backing for the planes’ excavation from an anonymous investor, and in August told the Birmingham Post he wanted to see the aircraft return to the UK. “Spitfires are beautiful aeroplanes and should not be rotting away in a foreign land,” he was quoted as saying. “They saved our neck in the Battle of Britain and they should be preserved.”

    A Downing Street spokesperson said: “We are pleased to hear that contracts have been awarded, which mean that the digging up of the Spitfires in Burma can begin. We’ve always said that we want to see these Spitfires back home in Britain – perhaps one day even flying over the skies of Britain – and today’s news brings us another step closer to that.”


    Tecnical details of a MK.XIV
    Supermarine Spitfire XIV: Second Griffon-engined production variant, combining 2,035 hp two-stage, two-speed Griffon 65 with features of Mk VIII airframe. Development (Supermarine Types 369 and 373) based on six Supermarine Spitfire VIIIs fitted with various Griffon 60-series engines, flown during 1943. Initial (Supermarine Type 379) production configuration, Supermarine Spitfire F Mk XIV, featured full-span wing with ‘C’-type armament of two 20-mm cannon and four 0.303-in (7.7-mm) machine guns; retractable tailwheel; enlarged fin-and-rudder; extra leading-edge fuel tank and structural improvements. The Supermarine Spitfire F Mk XIVE had ‘E’-wing armament of two 20-mm cannon (outer bays) and two 0.50-in (12.7 mm) machine guns (inner bays); later aircraft, without change of designation, used cut-down rear fuselage with 360-deg vision canopy, requiring further enlargement of rudder chord and height. Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIV and Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVE were fighter-reconnaissance versions with oblique F.24 camera and extra fuel tank in rear fuselage; all had 360-deg vision canopy. Production of all four Mk XIV variants totalled 957, by Supermarine. Deliveries began October 1943 and service use January 1944, with No 610 Sqn. F and FR variants operational in Europe up to end of war, some in fighter-bomber role with underwing rockets and/or bombs. Introduction into Far East theatre too late for wartime use.



    That’s a pleasing story.

    When (when, not if) Gordy gets rich, I’ll make a bid for one, and if successful I’ll slide it in your direction and suggest that you project manage the whole restoration process. Positive thinking to the fore. Tally ho.


    I would love to project manage and work on the restoration od something like this


    awesome. I love the Spitfires, beautiful planes considering their purpose


    If Radar gets one he might need this:



    I have looked at that Haynes manual and toyed with the idea of buying it…there is another one fo rthe Avro Lancaster too I think.

    Ironically enough the factory where I currently work produced thousands of Spitfires in the war. The Ford Transit plant in Southampton, that is to close soon was another production centre for the Spitfire including most of those used in the Battle of Britain. 

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