'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.
- 1 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 2 Scarlett Johansson new band 'already hit with legal complaint' from another The Singles
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News after accusing Kay Burley of Islamaphobia
Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Family of man named as 'Jihadi John' described by neighbours as a 'normal Muslim family'
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we now know about man named as Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...
£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...