Rare Spitfires buried during WWII to be dug up

Rare Spitfires which were buried in Burma on the orders of British troops are to be dug up.

Crates of the fighter planes were brought in during the closing stages of World War Two but never used by the time Japan surrendered in 1945.

Pilot looks out the cockpit of a Spitfire
Pilot looks out the cockpit of a Spitfire Credit: Reuters

The US Army was put in charge of burying the planes after British forces decided it was the best way to dispose of them.

As many as 140 are thought to exist and British aviation enthusiast David J. Cundall believes he has found the site of some of them.

The operation to retrieve them is due to begin at the end of the month.

Spitfire seen at RAF Thruxton
Spitfire seen at RAF Thruxton Credit: Reuters

Around 1,000 war veterans have been interviewed to find out where the aircraft were buried. A previous search in 1999 was unsuccessful because the technology to locate them wasn't sophisticated enough.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire MkIIa 'Enniskillen', in the colours of 72 Squadron
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire MkIIa 'Enniskillen', in the colours of 72 Squadron Credit: Press Association

The plans, under a two-year contract, are to recover 60 planes in the first phase:

  • 36 planes in Mingaladon, near Yangon's current air base and international airport
  • 18 in Myitkyina in Kachin state in the north
  • 6 in Meikthila in central Myanmar.
  • Others are to be recovered in a second phase

The Myanmar government will get one plane for display at a museum, as well as half of the remaining total.

Spitfires in working shape are rare. In 2009, a restored but airworthy Spitfire was sold at auction for £1,739,500.