A British farmer is heading to Myanmar to lead efforts to unearth more than 30 Spitfire fighter planes, 17 years after he first heard rumors they were buried under a World War II airfield.
Among the 21-strong team accompanying flying buff David Cundall yesterday was scheduled to be Stanley Coombe, now in his early 90s, who was stationed in Myanmar at the end of the war and saw crates of Spitfires being buried under Mingaladon airfield.
Why 36 planes, or more, were buried is a source of much speculation. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a former British colony and was briefly held by Japan during World War II.
After four years of brutal battles against the Japanese, the victorious British buried much of their inventory in 1945.
“I’ve met all the eyewitnesses and I believe they are telling me the truth. I think we will find perfectly preserved aircraft,” Cundall, who believes the aircraft are buried at a depth of 10m, said on Friday.
“Because there is no oxygen at this depth there will be no corrosion,” he said.
The propeller-driven, single-seat Spitfire is one of the most iconic aircraft in British history and played a decisive role in the Battle of Britain aerial war against German forces in 1940. Few functional Spitfires remain today.
The team’s chief archeologist, Andy Brockman, likened the project to a police mystery.
“We’ve got a crime scene, we’ve got a missing person and we’ve got various strands of evidence,” he said.
Cundall is expected to receive 30 percent of any Spitfires found and said he would bring the aircraft back to Britain. The rest are to go to his Myanmar agents and the government of Myanmar.
Firms including WarGaming.com, JCB and Jaguar Land Rover are sponsoring the trip.