Last Saturday, there was an article in The Telegraph about Spitfires (apparently Mark XIVs) buried in Burma (now Myanmar) that could turn out to be in near mint condition as they were buried inside their crates. Apparently, David Cundall, a 62 year old farmer from Scunthorpe, North Lincs, had spent 15 years and made over 12 trips to Burma at a cost of £130,000 in order to eventually locate them at a former RAF base there using radar imaging technology.
With Burma now opening up to the outside world, Prime Minister Cameron secured a deal on his recent trip there that will allow for the aircraft to be dug up and returned to the UK. In fact, a UK team is expecting to begin the excavation soon which will cost around £500,000 and is being funded by the Chichester-based Boultbee Flight Acadamy.
Originally, the Spitfires had been shipped to Burma and then transported by rail to the RAF base during the war but advances in technology along with the emergence of better combat aircraft jets meant that they were never used and were simply abandoned before the end of the war. According to Cundall:
“They were just buried there in transport crates. They were waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred. They will be in near perfect condition.”
On the other hand, they have yet to dig up aircraft and I do have to wonder just what kind of condition they will be in given Burma’s no doubt hot, humid and wet climate.
Meanwhile, Paul Bertorelli recently wrote about the find on AVWeb and pointed out that recent auctions and for-sale offerings have valued the Merlin versions between $2 and $3 million while documented combat history makes one even more valuable. Of course, there will likely be a cost to restore the aircraft plus they will need to get them out of Burma.
Nevertheless and if all goes well, Cundall hopes to not only get his money back but to be able to put together a flying Spitfire squadron for air shows – a sight that would be worth seeing and no doubt worth all of his troubles.