'The Tutankhamun dig of aviation': Brits to begin digging up missing Spitfires buried in Burmese jungle
A Lincolnshire farmer who has spent 17 years investigating rumours that dozens of factory-fresh Spitfires could be lying buried under Burmese soil expects to find the aeroplanes “perfectly preserved”.
David Cundall, 62, who has four decades experience excavating military aircraft, set out on an expedition to excavate the first of three possible burial sites this morning.
He expects to find the planes packed up in sealed wooden crates, which he hopes will have protected them from corrosion. A 91-year-old British veteran of the Burma campaign, Stanley Coombe, who says he remembers seeing “double-decker bus-sized crates” being prepared for burial at the end of the war, is accompanying the 21-person expedition team.
The dig will begin at Mingaladon, near the current site of Burma’s main airport, where the team hope to find 36 Mark XIV Spitfires. Mr Cundall said he hopes the first crates could be unearthed within two or three weeks.
He said that archive records showed 124 Spitfires were “struck of charge” in Burma without seeing action at the end of the war and has collected eight eyewitness accounts of British and American forces burying Spitfires before leaving the country in 1945.
If the expedition is successful across all the three sites Mr Cundall has permission to excavate, it could “easily double” the number of existing complete Spitfires, Mr Cundall said.
Tracy Spaight, whose games company Wargaming is providing $500,000 of funding for the expedition, said that the last time a Spitfire sold at auction it fetched £1.7m, meaning that the team could potentially uncover a haul worth around £210m.
Mr Cundall’s ultimate hope is to restore the Spitfires to working condition – a task he says could create 700 jobs in the UK if all 124 thought to be buried are found.
Mr Cundall has visited the country 17 times in his quest to verify the rumours of buried planes. In 2004, he and a team from the University of Leeds used powerful metal detectors to scan possible sites and found heightened levels of electromagnetic activity that may have suggested a large amount of metal buried 25 to 30 feet deep.
Progress toward a full excavation was stalled during protracted negotiations with the military Junta that ruled Burma until 2011. However, sanctions blocking the movement of military materials were lifted in October, following an intervention by David Cameron, who raised the matter with the new president Thein Sein during a visit to Burma in April.
Under the terms of a contract signed with the Burmese government, Mr Cundall will be entitled to 30 per cent of anything he finds, his Burmese agent another 20 per cent and the Burmese government the remaining 50 per cent.
The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Chicago voter tells Obama 'don't touch my girlfriend' – Obama stays super smooth
Oscar Pistorius: The brutal prison life that awaits disgraced athlete
Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Ebola outbreak: Nowhere is safe until virus is contained in Africa, claims the top doctor who beat it in Nigera
Raphael Ravenscroft dead: 'Baker Street' musician who played the most famous saxophone solo for just £27, dies aged 60
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Worst Airports of 2014: Poll names Islamabad airport in Pakistan worst in the world
£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...