The Lost Spitfires Of Burma

Once in a while its nice to write about something positive, for as we all know, there are few opportunities for this today. While the world and its people are getting crazier by the minute it was refreshing to find a news story that piques the imagination and does not involve disaster, corruption, hunger or death. I refer to an amazing tale and one man’s quest to unearth buried Spitfires in the jungles of Burma.

David Cundall

There are few of these iconic aircraft flying these days so long after the end of the Second World War, but if luck is with David Cundall this may change. He is a farmer and aviation enthusiast who for sixteen years has been researching the events of the time, and in particular the area around Mingaladon in Burma where it is said that 36 of these aircraft were buried in the jungle sometime during 1945. He is sure that two other sites contain as many as another 24 aircraft.

Boxing A Spitfire – Burma 1945

They had arrived at an airfield in the region in crates and were never unpacked or assembled, and for some reason orders were handed down to bury them as they were, maybe to prevent them falling into Japanese hands although this is doubtful. The real reason may never be known but for Mr, Cundall there is evidence enough that they exist. He has over the past few years assembled a team that have been combing the jungle and interviewing anyone who might have had knowledge of the event, and with some success. He met with a local Burmese man who remembered how, as a 15-year-old, he and his father had transported timber used when the Spitfires were buried.

1940 – Attacking The Bomber Stream

To date, electro-magnetic surveys have uncovered  two areas of interest to the team, and it is expected that work to excavate them will begin in January. His greatest wish is to take them back to England and restore them to flying condition. He said he would love to see a squadron of Spitfires flying over London again, and that is a dream held by many, myself included. Being an aviator for 45 years, he said he would love the opportunity to fly one himself, and who can blame him.

Spitfire Prototype – 5 March 1936

The Supermarine Spitfire was the brainchild of R. J. Mitchell who was chief designer at the Supermarine Aviation Works which since 1928 had operated as a subsidiary of the Vickers Armstrong company. First test flown on March 6 1936 the Spitfire underwent several changes before entering into squadron service with 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford on the 4th August 1938. Throughout the duration of the war the aircraft served in Britain and on the Continent, the Middle East and the Far East, and many were crated and sent to the Russians for use on their front.

Heartbeat Of The Spitfire

The power plant of this superb aircraft was the Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 that was first developed in the early 1930’s and underwent successive changes until it was ready for the Spitfire. The Merlin was the most successful wartime engine in British aviation during the war years, being fitted not only to the Spitfire, but also the Avro Lancaster, the Handley Page Halifax, the De Havilland Mosquito and the Hawker Hurricane.

Heading For The Enemy

The successes of the Spitfire are unparalleled in aviation history, for although built as a fighter it also carried out the roles of photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and carrier-based aircraft. This aircraft also claimed many speed and altitude records in its time. The Spitfire will always be associated with Battle of Britain, and although the Hawker Hurricane did as much sterling work as the Spitfire during those treacherous  months, it is always the Spitfire that immediately springs to people’s minds when that time in British history is mentioned. This fine veteran of war flew its last flight for the RAF on 9th June 1957 and although many remained airborne around the world, now, 67 years after the war, they are very scarce, so I wish David Cundall lots of luck in his quest to unearth what might be a ‘new generation’ of this venerable war machine.

Roy.

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