No 'lost Spitfires' buried in Burma

Dig near Rangoon International Airport proves fruitless but Lincolnshire farmer insists search will continue elsewhere in the country

After a 17-year campaign to uncover the truth, David Cundall was reluctant to accept the news. There is no lost squadron of Spitfires buried in Burma, it appears, after the hunt for the missing World War Two planes ended in disappointment.

A week of excavation work at Yangon (Rangoon) International Airport found no evidence for the claim that 124 Spitfires were buried in sites around Burma at the end of the war, archaeologists stated.

The conclusion came as a blow to Mr Cundall, a Lincolnshire farmer, who is convinced that unassembled Spitfires were packed into crates and buried by the RAF at sites in Burma on the orders of Lord Mountbatten at the end of the war in 1945.

Mr Cundall spent more than £130,000 working to track down the rare aircraft, collecting eyewitness accounts from American and British service personnel as well as local people to back up his conviction.

The Burmese Government gave Mr Cundall's team permission to dig for the planes at the airport, following a meeting between President Thein Sein and David Cameron. JCB excavators and tents lined the runway and the most sophisticated underground search equipment introduced.

Mr Cundall, 62, who believes the discovery would be as significant as Howard Carter finding Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, yesterday claimed that the archaeologists had been looking in the wrong place. He will continue his search in the north of the country after the dig party disbands.

Asked if he would apologise if he was proved wrong, he replied: “Of course I will. But I've tried and I believe it’s better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.”

Scientists had discovered large concentrations of metal under the ground around Rangoon's airport, lending support to the theory that up to 36 Mark XIV Spitfires planes were buried there.

Fergal Keane, the BBC News correspondent who observed the dig, said: “I understand they believe traces of metal alloy found in the ground could come from other sources. During the dig they uncovered pieces of the old metal runway.”

He added: “One possibility they have studied is that witnesses may have seen crates of other aircraft - used for observation work - being shipped through the airport during the period.”

A press conference scheduled by Wargaming Ltd, a Belarusian video games firm which funded the excavation, was cancelled on the grounds that there were no Spitfires to report.

The search however continues, with central city of Meiktila another site identified as a possible burial ground for the Spitfires.

Earlier this month, diggers discovered a crate in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina but muddy water stopped an immediate identification of its contents.

Just 20,000 of the single-seat Spitfires, which helped Britain beat back waves of German bombers during the war, were produced.

Mr Cundall launched his hunt in 1996 after hearing a group of US veterans remark that they once buried Spitfires in Burma. He planned to reassemble a Spitfire in Britain from the parts, which he believed had been buried in good condition.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments