Tuesday 21 October 2014

Search fails for jungle Spitfires

Published 15/02/2013 | 20:51

Undated handout photo issued by Wargaming of the dig team, as the funders of a hunt for dozens of Second World War Spitfires thought to have been buried in the Burmese jungle have conceded defeat. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 15, 2013. Last month, archaeologists spent nearly two weeks trying to unearth unused unassembled aircraft which they believed were packed into crates and buried by the RAF in 1945. But they failed to find any Spitfires at RAF Mingaladon, now Yangon International Airport. Some 36 planes were thought to be lying undiscovered in Mingaladon - one of three potential locations in the country - with as many as 124 buried in total. But Wargaming Ltd, who were funding the project, today said they believe no Spitfires were delivered in crates and buried at RAF Mingaladon during 1945 and 1946. See PA story HERITAGE Spitfire. Photo credit should read: Gavin Longhurst/Wargaming/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

A hunt for dozens of Second World War Spitfires thought to have been buried in the Burmese jungle has proved fruitless.

Last month, archaeologists spent nearly two weeks trying to unearth unused unassembled aircraft which they believed were packed into crates and buried by the RAF in 1945.

But they failed to find any Spitfires at RAF Mingaladon, now Yangon International Airport.

Some 36 planes were thought to be lying undiscovered in Mingaladon - one of three potential locations in the country - with as many as 124 buried in total.

But Wargaming Ltd, which was funding the project, said it now believed no Spitfires were delivered in crates and buried at RAF Mingaladon during 1945 and 1946.

The company said archival records showed that the RAF unit that handled shipments through Rangoon docks 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, it said.

Evidence also pointed to appalling weather conditions leaving a shortage of equipment, timber and labour at Mingaladon around the time meaning it would have been impossible for the RAF to bury aircraft 30ft deep in wooden crates even if it wanted to, according to Wargaming.

Tracy Spaight, Wargaming's director of special projects, said: "No-one would have been more delighted than our team had we found Spitfires. We knew the risks going in, as our team had spent many weeks in the archives and had not found any evidence to support the claim of buried Spitfires.

"However, the team's assessment was that even if there were no crated Spitfires, parts of Spitfires or other aircraft might well have been found, since Mingaladon was a major airfield occupied by three different air forces and hundreds of service people during World War Two.

"Had Spitfires been found we were equipped to recover them using the best available technical expertise. And we would have done the work to the same high ethical and archaeological standards which we brought to the rest of the project."

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