Searchers abandon hope of finding Spitfires ‘buried’ in Burma

A TEAM searching for Second World War Spitfires in Burma has given up hope of finding them, and believe they may never have been there at all.

The world-class team of geophysicists, historical researchers, and archaeologists has spent weeks in the country under intense scrutiny looking for as man as 140 of the historic fighters that were believed to have been buried in crates in pristine condition by the RAF after the war.

But despite extensive surveys, research, and excavations at key sites, the team has now accepted defeat – bringing an unfortunate end to 17 years of research by Scunthorpe farmer David Cundall, who inspired and accompanied the expedition.

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The project was funded by global video game company Wargaming.net, which said last night in a statement: “The Wargaming team now believes, based on clear documentary evidence, as well as the evidence from the fieldwork, that no Spitfires were delivered in crates and buried at RAF Mingaladon during 1945 and 1946.

“Most significantly, the archival records show that the RAF unit that handled shipments through Rangoon docks – 41 Embarkation Unit – only received 37 aircraft in total from three transport ships between 1945 and 1946. None of the crates contained Spitfires and most appear to have been re-exported in the Autumn of 1946.”

A spokesman said it was likely that any serviceable Spitfires left in theatre around the sites had been flown back out, while any parts left behind had been “turned into pots and pans”.

He declined to say how much the project had cost, and insisted it had still been a success as it had helped improve relations between the UK and Burma.

Permission to undertake the search was granted after talks between President Thein Sein and David Cameron following the Prime Minister’s visit to Burma last year, when he became the first Western leader to meet Burmese democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.

The spokesman said: “The beautiful thing that came out of it was the two governments found a line where they could communicate and said ‘We were together in the war as partners ...’, and I think that’s the genius because where else would that have happened?”

Wargaming CEO Victor Kisly said: “We chose to support the Spitfire project because we found the story fascinating. We wanted to be a part of this unique archaeological investigation of an enduring mystery – whether we found planes or not. And we are delighted our team has shown how good research can help tell a great story about not just the warplanes themselves, but the people who flew, maintained and care about them to this day.”