'There are no Spitfires': The dream has ended in the hunt for buried British planes

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Spitfire seen at RAF Thruxton
Spitfire seen at RAF Thruxton Photo: Reuters

"There are no Spitfires," a member of the team looking for Spitfires rumoured to be buried in Rangoon told me today.

Expert conflict archaeologists flew out to Burma for a ten day mission this month to find the Spitfires which were supposed to have been buried, in crates, at the end of the Second World War.

The site was identified by a veteran who says he saw large crates being buried just metres from what is now the the main runway of Rangoon international airport. The crew dug a huge hole where ground sonar had detected high concentrations of metal. Years of research and historical work had been done in advance of the trip to Burma. However, all that has been found is a piece of metal sheet used to build the airfield during the war.

Experts searching the field
Experts searching the field Credit: Gavin Longhurst

The project was then dramatically halted on Wednesday afternoon when government officials suddenly arrived at the site in blacked out cars accompanied by armed soldiers. Senior government figures had reacted to rumours in the local media that the team had been tunnelling under the main runway, the only international standard runway in the country.

The archeologists have been allowed back on the site today but are limited to using shovels only, officials have banned them from using the two mechanical diggers during the day.

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

For 62 year old Lincolnshire farmer David Cundall this is the end of a dream, for 17 years he has been convinced that as many as 124 Spitfires, surplus to requirements, were buried in Burma at the end of the war.

Before flying out to Rangoon, he said a successful find would be on the, "same level as the Tutankhamen find in Egypt".

In the end this was never a search for Spitfires, it was always a search for a dream. A dream that looks like it will never come true.