It was a classic Crime Scene Investigation or CSI cold case. Here are the details:
Missing person: A machine and a World War icon called Spitfire
Crime scene: Battle-ridden airfield in the Southeast Asia
Date and time: It happened: 65 years ago, assuming it happened at all
Clues: Hunch by an aviation enthusiast
It is a 17-year quest for aviation devotee David Cundall who claims that the Birmingham-manufactured Spitfires are entombed in Burma’s soil. Cundall said that during World War II as many as 124 Spitfires were buried in Burma. This account was based on the testimonies of the 8 surviving war veterans that claimed to witness the burial of the planes. The UK National Archives lend support in its existing documents that surplus machines and equipments would sometimes be buried than sent back home.
Cundall was told in 1996 that the Mark XIV Spitfires, which were rare, were buried in crates instead of being shipped back to the UK. David Cundall raised a lot of supporters that even the UK Prime Minister David Cameron spoke about it to the Burmese government when he went for a visit last year.
In January 2013 an assembled team of archeologists, geophysicists and historians set out to decipher the mystery behind the Spitfires. The project was funded by a gaming mogul, Wargaming. Saying that they chose to support Cundall’s Spitfire project because they found the story fascinating and would want to be involved in the archeological investigation regardless if they find the Spitfires or not. They left UK with 17 years worth of research and the passionate prodding of a 63-year old aviation enthusiast.
On the team’s arrival in Burma, they started digging for the planes in an airport called RAF Mingaladon which was under the British occupation during World War II. They put their digging equipment into the earth for over a month. Instead of uncovering the planes, the team discovered proof which would suggest that it would have been highly improbable to have buried them.
The weather conditions, the lack of equipment and shortage of labour would make the feat almost impossible. More evidence would also dispute Cundall’s claims that there were 124 aircraft buried. Documents show that there were only 37 Spitfires that flew Burma’s airspace between 1945 and 1946.
Mingaladon was not the only airfield that the team tried digging for the planes. They explored two more sites but turned up nothing. The team were confident and committed to their search but mid-January came and there was not a shred of evidence that would indicate about the buried Spitfires.
The digging went on for 3 more weeks until everyone came to the conclusion that the iconic aircraft are a product of legend and nothing more. Mr. David Cundall believes otherwise. He said that just because they did not find the Spitfires, does not mean it is not there. He has already spent tens and thousands of dollars in his search for the elusive Spitfires. He promised he would not end his search if it’s the last thing he would do.